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Installing and Using Terminator, the Terminal Multiplexer – CloudSavvy IT



Terminator, the Terminal Multiplexer

Welcome to Terminator, an interesting name for the world’s most advanced and fully featured terminal multiplexer. A terminal multiplexer allows you to perform one-to-many terminal sessions in an organized manner from one or more windows. Read all about it.

What̵
7;s Terminator?

Terminator is a graphical Linux software program that works seamlessly under Python 3 that allows system administrators and other users to use multiple terminal (shell) windows at the same time. Even with the terminal client software that came with your operating system, you can do this, but Terminator has a special GUI format unlike other one-at-the-time or tab-based terminal client software.

to install Terminator

to install Terminator on your Debian / Apt based Linux distribution (such as Ubuntu and Mint), do:

sudo apt install terminator

to install htop and iotop on your RedHat / Yum based Linux distribution (such as RedHat and Fedora), do:

sudo yum install terminator

First impression

When you open Terminator for the first time, it feels like any other terminal client software, although it has an interesting red-colored header bar, much in keeping with the red Terminator logo.

The main terminator terminal

However, that dynamic changes immediately once you right-click on the black background and view the menu displayed:

The right-click context menu in Terminator

(This image was taken by taking a picture of the screen, as the Terminator’s built-in right-click menu does not allow recording with a screen capture tool.)

Split horizontally and Split vertically two options are available to divide our Terminal window into 2 or more windows! Take another look at the header image of this article and you can see how we can split and split again. You can have as many windows as you want, as long as you are comfortable with smaller and smaller windows, depending on the number of window splits you add.

For example, to create four equal square windows, you can first right click in the black space of the terminal and select Split horizontally. With the horizontal divider now visible in the center of the window, right-click in the black space of the top section. Then select Split vertically. You now have three windows. Repeat the same for the bottom half of the screen by right-clicking in the black space below the horizontal dividing line. Next click Split vertically again, and you now have four windows!

In the same menu we also see a Preferences button and clicking on it takes you to the configuration window. Go ahead and click on the Preferences button.

Almost borderless windows and endless scrolling back

Do you like the paper-thin dividers in the header image for this article? Then have them installed on your workstation in the same way. To do this, disable the scroll bars first (don’t worry, you can still scroll up and down by simply scrolling up and down with your mouse wheel). To do this, click Profiles> Scroll> set ‘Scrollbar is:’ to ‘Disabled’

Disable the terminator scroll bar

You’ll also want to set the following options while on this screen and tab:

Set scroll options in Terminator

Make sure that ‘Scroll on output’ is not checked. Check ‘Scroll on keystroke’ and ‘Infinite scrolling’. The first option ensures that if you scroll up / down and new output is generated at the end of your terminal output, the screen will not constantly jump back while you are scrolling. Note that if you are at the end of the terminal output, the output will still scroll normally. The second option allows you to press a key to scroll.

The last option allows infinite scrolling back. I would highly recommend this unless you have an older or slower machine you’re working on. It’s great to be able to scroll all the way back to the beginning of your session!

To return to our near-borderless Windows settings, go to the Global tab and set the Appearance options as follows:

Set the size of the terminator terminal separator

Make sure ‘Extra styling (theme dependent)’ is checked and set ‘Terminal separator size’ to 1.

Now let’s save our configuration as default. This requires a small solution. Go to the Layouts tab> press the ‘Add’ button> double click on ‘New layout’ and rename it to ‘standard’. There will now be two ‘standard’ layouts in the list. This is good. Hit Close and close the terminator completely (in Ubuntu usually by clicking the ‘X’ at the top right of the screen). You will receive a message like this:

Connect multiple warning terminals in terminator

Just press ‘Close Terminals’ and restart Terminator. You should now have paper dividers and be able to scroll back indefinitely!

4 Terminal windows in one Terminator window

Automatically type Select or All Windows

It is easy to configure Terminator to replicate keystrokes sent to a terminal window to all windows at the same time, and to enable and disable this key copy feature at will. To do this, click the small drop-down button in the top left of a terminal window (in Terminator):

The drop-down list in the top left corner of the terminator for keyboard group configuration

Then click on ‘Broadcast all’. Type something and notice how it replicates to all windows at the same time!

You can also click ‘New group…’ and define a name for a new group, or type the name of an existing group if you have previously created one. This allows you to send keystrokes only to a specific set of terminals, configured to be in the same group. The group name is any name you can think of.

Terminator crashes?

Should you ever encounter a situation where Terminator crashes, such as after an update, or after changing many configuration options, either right on startup or a few seconds after, there is usually an easy way to fix it. However, you will lose your configuration settings, although they are often reset quickly. To do this, simply open a terminal prompt (using the default terminal client on your operating system desktop) and type:

mv ~/.config/terminator ~/.config/terminator.PREV

Then reopen Terminator and it should work fine, although you are back in a single window that needs to be split again, configuration options re-enabled etc. And don’t forget to save your new configuration as ‘default’ as previously described !

Enjoy Terminator!

Terminator takes less than 30 minutes to set up, and often only about five to ten. As we’ve seen, using Terminator has great advantages: automatic typing, better screen real estate management, and infinite scrolling back just to name a few. To enjoy!


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