Exploring Linux Terminals

I have been experimenting with Linux on a recently acquired Lenovo X1 Carbon and as part of the process I have been exploring and testing out various productivity tools, including terminal emulators.

The first thing I discovered in this process is that there’s a lot of terminals out there. And they’re all slightly different, and in my experience, almost none of them were able to do all of the tweaks I like.

Here is the list of terminals I have tested out (so far).

As you can see, that is a bunch of terminals. To keep things short, in my exploration and testing, the best 3 I found were as follows.

Alacritty – 3rd

It is fast, defaults are great, works perfectly with the tiling window managers. This one would would probably have been first on the list if it was able to provide a blinking cursor but as I found with many of the options there seemed to almost always be a gotcha.

A few high points for this terminal, written in Rust, it uses the GPU to offload rendering, cross platform, and maybe my favorite feature, the configuration file is yaml based. Docs are also good and the community is really taking off so I have a strong feeling this one will continue improving.

urxvt – 2nd

The biggest problem with this terminal for me is that it is painful to configure. There are no preferences configured out of the box, which to some is preferred, but also, digging through old blog posts and perl scripts is not how I like to spend my time.

This terminal is second on the list because it was the only other terminal that was able to do all of the small little tweaks and adjustments that suit my preferences. And it is fast and light weight, which are good things.

Here is the configuration I ended up with if interested.

Kitty – 1st

This terminal was a clear winner. It was able to do all of my custom tweaks and settings and because it has nice defaults I only needed to add about 10 lines of extra configuration.

This terminal has a lot of other stuff going for it. It is written in Rust, which makes it fast, it uses the GPU to offload rendering, which also makes it fast, easy to configure, and for the most part just works. Only gotcha I found was that I needed to explicitly turn on copy to selection in my configuration, but that was easy.

Here is the configuration I ended up with if interested.


I plan on keeping this list updated to some extent as I find more Terminals to try out. As you can see, there are many different options and seem to be more and more all the time.

Your experience may differ so obviously take these musings with a pinch of salt, and please do look through the various options and try things out to see if they will work for you. That said, I do think I have a specific enough use case that these recommendations should be helpful in guiding most users.

Here is the repo with all of my various configurations if you want to check something out. There were a few terminal configs that didn’t end up there just because they were too minimal or I didn’t like them.

Josh Reichardt

Josh is the creator of this blog, a system administrator and a contributor to other technology communities such as /r/sysadmin and Ops School. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.