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Specifically, I'd like to change the transparency of an already open Terminal.app window. I know I can change the settings and then open a new window, but I can't figure out how to make an already existing window transparent.

And no, I'm not interested in switching to another terminal program, thanks.

EDIT: OS X 10.6.4 (Snow Leopard)

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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Which version of Mac OS X?

In Terminal.app, if you change the settings of any of the presets it will affect all open windows that use that setting. (I can confirm this for 10.4+)

So, if you click on the preset you used for the open Terminal window (most likely the one with Default in grey text below it) and go to the Window tab you can click on the Color picker under the Background header and change the Opacity.

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Chealion's answer works, and I'll be marking it as the accepted answer, but I figured out another way to do this also, cause I'm too impatient to wait for answers:

  1. Create a new set of settings with the desired level of opacity in Terminal -> Preferences
  2. Make the desired terminal window active and Show Inspector for it: Shell -> Show Inspector or Command+I
  3. Choose the Settings tab in the Inspector and select the new set of settings. Viola! That one window is now transparent, without affecting the others that were started with the same set of settings.

The reason I wanted to do this was so I could put this window on top of another window that had similar (but not identical) output and visually inspect to see the difference. Consider the following:

alt text

vs:

alt text

It is much easier to quickly glance at the screen and spot the difference between the two.

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That is an interesting use of transparency. Cool. I do wonder, though -- if these texts are things you have on disk, or if you can pipe them or save them to disk, you could use a variety of diff tools for the same thing. There's "diff" at the unix command line; there's FileMerge which installs with the Apple XCode tools; there's the cross-platform DiffMerge program; and many others. Maybe this would be a more general solution, especially when your data doesn't fit on one screen? –  khedron Jul 13 '10 at 23:47
    
No, they are on different remote systems, and transferring the files would be quite a pain (the output I'm comparing is a package list that is generated in a restricted shell). Getting the output onto a system so that I could diff it would require me to unlock support mode so I can login to an unrestricted shell, then collect the output of pkg_info to a file, transfer it to my system, then repeat for the other box. If I had hundreds of pages to diff, then it would be worth it, but with only 5-10 pages to compare, making transparency work is far more convenient. –  Jed Daniels Jul 14 '10 at 0:27
    
Neat use of transparency for sure. –  Chealion Jul 14 '10 at 1:40
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There is an app enhancer Afloat, which can change transparency of any cocoa window. Also it can convert any window to overlay, force it to float above others, pin it to desktop and some other stuff.

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As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Terminal allows separate opacity settings for active and inactive windows. So, you can customize a single settings profile to have the frontmost window be more transparent and background windows more opaque.

Terminal > Preferences > Settings > [profile] > Window > Background > Color

Opacity and blur settings are in the color palette that appears when you click on the color control. There is a checkbox to enable different settings for inactive/background windows.

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