Monday, December 15, 2008

Linux: The "Terminator" reviewed

Terminator is a cross-platform GPL terminal emulator with advanced features not yet found elsewhere. (or so they claim).

I use terminals a LOT. Whenever something doesn't work the way I want it to, the first thing I do is open a terminal. My main computer is my Mac laptop, and I have a Ubuntu desktop. My preferred tool choice for networking between the two is ssh / scp. That's how much I use terminals.

I came across Terminator from the home page of CrunchBang Linux. Given my terminal usage, and hopes for finding something better, I decided to take The Terminator out for a spin. The web site made it sound the best thing since sliced bread, so I installed "Revision 1478 (2847)" on mac.

Used it for about 15 minutes, and here is what I think:
  • Wow! neat font. I like it. The color combination is also very pleasing. Colors holds up nicely while displaying output (eg. alias ll="ls -lhF --color")
  • Aw shucks! this thing doesn't remember its window size from when I last closed it. Found a setting to set an initial window size, but that's just not the same.
  • Terminator doesn't have a way to manage ssh connections. It won't remember my ssh connections, and per connection settings. I like to set different color combinations for different category of machines. (eg. prod machines are red). This will also be a problem on my (office) windows machine, where my ".ssh" directory is not in my $HOME. Putty manages this well.
  • Visual bell is annoying, but there is a way to turn it off. Good riddance.
  • No integration of "bell" with system audio.
  • Key combos for switching between tabs is easy to remember. Good to have key combos for organizing tabs.
Verdict: In addition to being multi-platform, the font/color combination seems to be the only thing working in favor of The Terminator. I didn't really see any feature(s) that would make my life easier or I couldn't find on Mac's Terminal or Gnome's Terminal or Putty.

I don't see myself replacing any of my existing Terminal apps with Terminator anytime soon. Its good to see the effort / progress being made. Perhaps in a few versions, things will get better.

I would like to start using Terminator, mostly because of the eye-candy, but having a remote / SSH connection manager would be a must. Something that remembers my settings on a per connection basis. A utility to import connections settings from Putty would be awesome.


  1. All of those other terminal programs have tabs?

    I've been using Terminator on Windows for a few months now and I think it is terrific.

  2. My two most frequently used programs:
    Mac's terminal supports tabs.
    Gnome terminal supports tabs.

    Putty (less frequently used), does NOT support tabs. But, at work, I prefer to have SSH connections to different computers open in different windows - putty is efficient enough to manage different windows. Every so often, when I do need tabs, I use "screen". Works great.