Without running any window manager, just logged in directly to the box in the first terminal session, how can I make F2, F3, F4, etc switch to other terminal "tabs"?

i.e. not using screen or tmux

I seem to remember old unix systems doing this from years ago, but is this still possible with a base arch linux system today?

  • It is possible as long as those TTY are started. The shortcut you're looking for is CTRL+ALT+F2, F3, F4, etc... – Marek Rost Jul 31 '16 at 16:44

What you describe is called a Virtual Terminal aka VT

Most distributions support switching to a different VT with Alt+F1 , Alt+F2, etc

A graphical environment (X-window) is just one of those VTs, often 6th or 7th.

To switch from an X-Window session to another VT you need to press Alt+Ctrl+F1, e t.c. (unless this is forbidden through novtswitch option)

I don't remember bare F1, F2, etc ever switching VTs, but you can make them behave like that. Enter following from a root text VT (X-window terminal emulater won't do):

keycode  59 = Console_1
keycode  60 = Console_2
keycode  69 = Console_10

Press Ctrl+D to finish input

To reapply those changes on reboot, save above to a file and refer to your distro documentation on keymaps, such as this page on ArchLinux wiki

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