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Lately, I've been opening up several terminals at a time. Having to alt-tab between terminals is confusing. I need something that combines several terminals in just one window. What are good alternatives?

Edit: I don't like tabs. I want consoles in 2x2 grid arrangement in one window.

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Since screen did what you wanted, maybe you can update the question to be more focused, such as "How do I run multiple side-by-side shell sessions in a single terminal (screen)?" to help with people searching. –  jtimberman Aug 28 '09 at 15:05

7 Answers 7

up vote 22 down vote accepted

It sounds like you want to run screen in your terminal.

Screenshot of GNU screen with vertical and horizontal splits

To generate this screen shot, I opened a terminal and ran screen. To split the window, I used the keystroke "ctrl-a S" for a horizontal split and "ctrl-a |" for a vertical split. To start the additional shells, I ran screen three times in the active shell. To switch between windows, I used the keystroke "ctrl-a tab". To change the shell that was being displayed in the active window ("0 bash", "1 bash", etc.), I used the keystroke "ctrl-a n" ("next") or "ctrl-a p" ("previous"). To exit each screen process, I just exited the shell running in the screen process; doing so four times returned me to my ordinary terminal.

Summary of screen keystrokes:

ctrl-a S      split the window horizontally
ctrl-a |      split the window vertically
ctrl-a tab    switch to the next window
ctrl-a n      switch to the next process
ctrl-a p      switch to the previous process

(edit: jtimberman) If you have a version that supports it, you can do a vertical split of a screen with "ctl-|" (pipe), so you could do 2+ x 2+ screens per terminal. Ubuntu 9.04 has this capability, it was introduced ~version 4.00.03.

(edit: las3rjock) The screenshot has been updated to show screen with vertical as well as horizontal splits. Since the version of screen that comes with Mac OS X does not come with this feature, I built it from CVS according to directions I found on this blog. I assume you could do the same for Linux by skipping the patch steps.

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+1, haven't seen a split screen before. –  jtimberman Aug 28 '09 at 4:37
Can it have 4 terminals in a 2x2 grid arrangement? –  Randell Aug 28 '09 at 5:05
@Randell see my edit to this answer :-) –  jtimberman Aug 28 '09 at 5:57
@las3rjock, I'm not familiar with those keystrokes. How do you perform that? –  Randell Aug 28 '09 at 6:25
I can't seem to split the regions. –  Randell Aug 28 '09 at 6:33

I think you might be interested in Terminator :D


The goal of this project is to produce a useful tool for arranging terminals. It is inspired by programs such as gnome-multi-term, quadkonsole, etc. in that the main focus is arranging terminals in grids (tabs is the most common default method, which Terminator also supports).

Much of the behaviour of Terminator is based on GNOME Terminal, and we are adding more features from that as time goes by, but we also want to extend out in different directions with useful features for sysadmins and other users. If you have any suggestions, please file wishlist bugs! (see below for the address)


  • List item
  • Arrange terminals in a grid
  • Tabs
  • Drag and drop re-ordering of terminals
  • Lots of keyboard shortcuts
  • Config file to override gnome-terminal settings
  • Simultaneous typing to arbitrary groups of terminals

terminator screenshot

terminator screenshot

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Please look at my blog entry about tmux found here... That is way more powerful than screen, in short, the config file in the attached blog entry re-configures the tmux shortcut keystrokes to simulate screen, originally tmux uses the Ctrl+B combination in order to not to confuse screen utility. And the keys are reconfigured so... instead of Ctrl+B, Ctrl+A is used:

  • Ctrl+A for initiating a tmux attention keystroke, such as ? for list of keys,
  • Ctrl+A, Ctrl+A to flick between different windows,
  • Ctrl+A, 1 for first window, Ctrl+A, 2 for second window and so on
  • Ctrl+A, Tab to switch focus between split windows within one session
  • Ctrl+A, C to bring up a new bash shell

Read it and learn it... :)

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Konsole is the best, multitabs and some other cool stuff.

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Apparently Konsole has a split view which does what you want: kdemonkey.blogspot.com/2007/01/… Here is a screenshot: robertknight.me.uk/files/kde/konsole-split-view-1.png –  las3rjock Aug 28 '09 at 4:07
It is trivial to embed NxM konsole kparts in a single app. I've seen such an app, but can't recall the name. –  Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Aug 28 '09 at 6:24

I have used:

  • eterm - Enlightened Terminal Emulator
  • mrxvt - lightweight multi-tabbed X terminal emulator

Both are pretty nice.

Though I still prefer gnome-terminal with tabs :-).

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Can use Ctrl+Shift+T to open new tab, Ctrl+PageUp to go to previous tab, and Ctrl+PageDn to go to next tab. –  a_m0d Aug 28 '09 at 3:11
Yeah apparently the OP doesn't want to use tabs, so I removed the bulk of the gnome-terminal info. –  jtimberman Aug 28 '09 at 3:16
+1 for gnome-terminal with tabs –  a_m0d Aug 28 '09 at 3:42

If the current answers don't give you the flexibility or feeling that you want you may also want to have a look at tiling window managers. This ofc is a big change just for tiling terminals but if you are planning on doing the majority of things in tiled terminals a tiled WM may have benefits over the other solutions.

I'd personally recommend awesome

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you could use splitvt to split ANY terminal window in two - one above the other, not side-by-side.

However, while it is possible to split the terminal horizontally or vertically (or both) in some terminal emulators or in screen, you are limited to 2 or 3 or perhaps 4 side-by-side before they become too narrow (or short) to be of any use. IMO, tabbed terms combined with a program like xttitle to set the tab title is a lot less confusing and a lot more useful. YMMV.

other people have already mentioned screen as well as eterm and mrxvt and others, so i'll point out a feature of gnome-terminal that you might have missed.

you do realise that you don't have to alt-tab between terminals in gnome-terminal, don't you?

if you're using tabbed terminals, you can use Alt-1, Alt-2, Alt-3 etc to switch between the terminals.

BTW, i mostly use mrxvt as my terminal of choice - but gnome-terminal is installed by default on most linux systems so i've got used to how it works. i prefer mrxvt but GT is OK or good enough for light/casual use.

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