Best Linux terminal emulators, a subjective look.

As Linux users, most of us spend a lot of time in our terminal emulator.  Some people actually make it a point to do as much at the command line as they can, taking CLI apps like MPV over a GUI media player.  It goes without saying that if this is the application that we spend the most time in, it is also the application that we need to have the closest relationship with.

This list sums up just a few of my favorite terminal emulators.  I have spent a lot of time with a lot of terminals and these are the ones that really stood out to me.  Also, note that not any one of these is really my favorite.  Like most applications, each one is a good fit for a different setup.

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RXVT-Unicode is my go-to terminal in most desktop setups.  Considering that I mainly use a tiling window manager when I am working in Linux, this incredibly minimal and lightweight terminal makes a perfect fit.


  • Incredibly lightweight.  Uses 5-8mb of RAM.
  • Simple text configuration.
  • Incredibly high performance.  Much faster than almost any other available terminal.


  • No 24-bit true color support.  This matters to me, I spend a lot of time ricing my desktop.
  • Ugly as hell by default.  If you are going to use rxvt it’s going to take some work to get it looking nice.


Terminator is a bit heavy as far as terminal emulators go, but it is about as full features as it gets.  It also has the ability to type in multiple terminals at once which makes it really easy to manage multiple boxes at once.  Overall this highly customizable, and easy to use terminal is probably the one that I use most.


  • Multiple terminal panes like a tiling WM, as well as being able to type into multiple panes at the same time.
  • Extendable with plugins.
  • Infinite scrollback available in options.
  • Configurable desktop notifications.
  • True and fake transparency.
  • Save and load complete terminal layouts including tabs and terminal placements.


  • Heavy and slow startup.  Terminator has a lot of dependencies and is very featured.  Naturally, this makes it not quite as suitable for older systems.

Gnome Terminal

This one gets a lot of flack for being not featured enough.  As far as I’m concerned it’s a fantastic terminal, and I use it in a lot of the desktops that I put together.  It’s not too heavy, but it’s not lacking any real significant features and still runs very fast.


  • Extremely Fast.
  • Well integrated with other Gnome applications.
  • Good keybinding configuration.
  • Notifications on command completion.  Useful for long running tasks like compilations.


  • Heavy.  Comes in at about 45 MB stock, but memory management is good so additional terminals are only about 16Mb.
  • Gnome library dependencies.  It’s a pretty big install if you are trying to run a slimmer system.


By popular demand on Facebook, I am adding the KDE terminal client Konsole.  I don’t have much experience with this terminal because I have never much used KDE, but the way it sounds it is a fantastic terminal with an excellent feature set.


  • KDE Notification Alerts.
  • Very well written and fast.
  • Excellent profile support.


  • KDE Library dependencies.
  • Heavy weight compared to other terminals.

To wrap things up…

To wrap things up, these are the terminals that I think are the best in their class.  I have used all of these extensively and I find them all to be fine options.  If you feel like I missed something feel free to drop a comment below, or stop into the forums and make a thread.

Daniel is a freelance web developer and IT consultant with a passion for security and privacy. Although he isn't much of a writer, he enjoys writing blog posts that help out others in the community.

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