How about if you could have a multi-window terminal where, at will, you could press a key and it would be immediately copied to all (or a selection of) windows? How about if you could fit all terminal windows in one big window, without big and bulky borders loosing “precious” screen real estate? These, and more, are basic features of terminator, the handy Linux terminal utility.

Terminator

In this tutorial you will learn:

  • How to install Terminator, the popular multi-window shell/terminal client
  • How to make basic Terminator setup and configuration changes

Software requirements and conventions used

Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Linux Distribution-independent
Software Bash command line, Linux based system
Other Any utility which is not included in the Bash shell by default can be installed using sudo apt-get install utility-name (or yum install for RedHat based systems)
Conventions # - requires linux-commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ - requires linux-commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Installing Terminator

To install Terminator on Ubuntu, Mint or any other Debian/APT based operating system, type:

$ sudo apt install terminator

To install Terminator on Fedora, RedHat or any other RedHat/YUM based operating system, type:

$ sudo yum install terminator

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Once it is installed, you can start it directly from the command line by simply typing terminator, or from within your desktop/GUI by going to Activities (or similar on other operating systems) and typing terminator followed by enter or by clicking the matching icon.

Creating Multiple Windows

Splitting your screen into two horizontal or two vertical terminals is very straightforward. Simply right-click anywhere in the main terminator shell window (the black area), and select ‘Split Horizontally’ or ‘Split Vertically’. Regrettably we cannot provide a screenshot of this as the dialog menu displayed cannot be captured, though the procedure is exceedingly simple.

To create a four-window setup as in the screenshot above, simply re-divide the either horizontal or vertical windows again. Thus, you will want, in total, to take these steps: ‘Split Horizontally’ > click in the top window > ‘Split Vertically’ > click in the bottom window > ‘Split Vertically’, or the reverse, which will create 4 equal windows. You can further split windows for less important / one-glance information-only windows etc. as works best for you.

Auto-Type in All Windows

With Terminator, you can simply auto-type in all open windows at the same time. You can also define a set of groups, like for example the top two windows versus the two bottom windows in the previous example. To start replicating text automatically, simply click the following icon at the top left of each terminal window:

Terminator

Then, select the ‘Broadcast all’ option in the dropdown menu to enable auto replication of all text to all Windows. Try it and be surprised :)

You may also have noticed that the default it set to ‘Broadcast group’ instead of ‘Broadcast none’. This is because by default each terminal window is in it’s own group. To create/define groups, select (in this same dropdown menu) ‘New group’ and type a name for the new group. A default will be provided.

Once you defined a group, you can simply select that group from the same icon and subsequent dropdown menu - it will now be listed as option here (for all windows, once a new group is defined). As you can see, it would be easy to create two groups, one for the top two windows and one for the bottom two windows, by first creating a group for the top left terminal, then clicking this group name from the dropdown on the top right window, and the same procedure for the bottom two windows.

Changing Terminator Configuration

Terminator has many configuration options. You can set paper-thin dividing lines, change colors, auto-start certain commands (which is handy if you want to automatically connect to a specific remote server, save widow configurations, and more!

To open the preferences window, simply right-click the terminal workspace again, and click ‘Preferences’. You will be presented with the following screen:

Terminator

Have fun exploring the many options available. I especially recommend saving your window configuration once you have it perfect, as well creating a little script which will start your terminal in the way you prefer, and setting that as the startup script in the preferences.

Conclusion

In this article, we explored Terminator, the great multi-window terminal program which will allow you to work more professionally with multiple terminal windows at the same time. We saw how we can split windows, create auto-typing groups to broadcast our keystrokes to or how to broadcast keystrokes to all windows. We also had a peek at what further configurations options are available.

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