Because this is the symbol learner drivers use in the UK.

Getting Started

This page is an introduction and tutorial that will get you familiar with Terminator’s features. Additional functional areas are explored in other pages, but at the end of this page you’ll be getting a good idea of the power of Terminator.

When you first start Terminator you will get a default, minimal window, looking something like the following:


There may be some cosmetic differences, but it should look fairly similar. It may in fact look a little too minimal to some of you, but this is a deliberate policy. Keep the focus on the terminal, not on a cluttered interface. This is why we don’t waste space on a traditional menu bar and toolbar. Even the terminal scrollbar and titlebar (the red strip) can be turned off, although you do lose ease-of-access to some of Terminators more powerful features if you do.

Many functions are triggered with keyboard shortcuts. But mousers aren’t completely abandoned. Lets look again at the basic interface, but with the two primary menus showing:



You will never see a window that looks like this, as it is impossible to have both menus up at the same time.

  1. The Context Menu - This is the main menu reached with right-click over a terminal, and will let you access all the settings, profiles, shortcuts and configurations. It is however kept brief to avoid the mega-menus that sometimes grow unchecked.

  2. The Grouping Menu - This is reached with a click on the trio of coloured boxes in the titlebar. Later, when we cover Grouping and broadcasting to multiple terminals we will cover this properly. For now it is enough to know where it is and how to trigger it.


    By default titlebars are shown. If the titlebar has been hidden The Grouping Menu functions will be added as a sub-menu to The Context Menu.

The Context Menu

The context menu is split into five parts. The first part is the standard Copy and Paste for text that has been highlighted with the mouse. There are shortcuts too:

Action Default Shortcut
Copy Shift+Ctrl+C
Paste Shift+Ctrl+V

The second section is where the fun starts. Split Horizontally and Split Vertically are used to divide the current space for the current terminal half. Your original terminal takes the top/left half, and a new terminal is started and placed in the right/bottom half. You can repeat this as often as you wish, sub-dividing down until the terminals are completely impractical. Here’s a window that is split Horizontally, Vertically, and Horizontally again:



People sometimes raise the ambiguity of the terminology used, and disagree as to which way round Horizontal and Vertical are used. It has been the way it is for a very long time. Changing it now will just confuse existing users, so I won’t be changing it. Besides, I happen to agree with the way round it is. So deal with it. 😎

Between the terminals you can see a space that is a splitter grab handle. You can grab these and drag them, and the terminals will resize. In this way Terminator acts a lot like a tiling window manger. It lets you arrange many terminals in a single view, allowing adjustments as your needs change.

The last item in this part of the menu is to Open tab. This will give you a tab like most other terminal programs. Unlike most other terminals, in Terminator you can also split the terminals in each tab as often as you like.


The same effects could have been achieved with shortcuts, and is the case for most actions.

The third part of the menu will Close the current terminal. It’s on its own to prevent accidents.

The entries in the fourth part allow you to temporarily focus on one terminal. Zoom terminal will zoom into the current terminal hiding all other terminals and tabs, and increasing the the size of the font. This can be handy to eliminate distractions, give yourself a bit more space for the current task, or even when giving presentations or training. Maximise terminal is almost identical, except that it does not increase the size of the terminal font.

When you are zoomed or maximised it is not possible to split terminals, or create new tabs, so the entries for those actions disappear from the menu. So too do the zoom and maximise options, and in their place is a Restore all terminals entry. This will take you back to your windows original layout, and restore the font size if necessary.


An outstanding issue is that sometimes the font size selected when zooming in can be a bit extreme. You can use Terminal zooming to increase and decrease the font size if this happens. This will not affect the restored font size.

The fifth part of the menu has three items. Show scrollbar will toggle the scrollbar on a per terminal basis. There is also a way to define this in the Profiles. Preferences lets you configure and tune Terminator to better suit your needs and is further described here. Lastly, Encodings will allow you to select a different encoding to the default of UTF-8.

There are actually additional optional items that can be added to the menu that will only be shown if you enable those Plugins that add menu items.

Changing the current layout

I’ve already used the term layout a few times in this page already. I should define what exactly is meant by a layout.

A layout describes the collection of windows in the current process, the tabs, and how the windows and tabs are divided up into terminals. It also includes the positions, dimensions, as well as other aspects related to how Terminator looks.

Besides the items in the The Context Menu there are three main methods to adjust the layout.

Using the splitters

So, by now you’ve probably made a few splits and used the mouse to drag them about, and you now have something resembling the following, minus the highlights:


Terminator lets us rebalance the terminals, equally dividing the available space between the siblings.

The different highlighting shows the siblings. The key thing to understand is that the blue splitters are considered siblings, which are children of the green parent. The green is itself a child of the red parent. By double-clicking the splitter, the space will be divided evenly between the siblings. So, double-clicking any of the blue splitters will give:


If instead we double-click on the green splitter, we get:


But there’s more! We can use two modifier keys to rebalance more collections of siblings. Shift+double-click the splitter and all children, grandchildren, and so on, will be rebalanced. Super+double-click and all parents, grandparents, and so, on, will be re-balanced. You guessed it! Shift+Super+double-click and all visible terminals will be rebalanced. It will not affect terminals in other windows or tabs.

Shift+double-click on green:


Super+double-click on green:


Shift+Super+double-click on green:



Notice in the last two shots that you can shrink a terminal to a point where it is unusable or even completely hidden. We don’t place an arbitrary minimum size. Some people want the ability to move the splitter all the way.

Dragging and dropping a terminal

There are two ways to drag a terminal from one location to another with in the window. The simplest is to use the titlebar at the top of each terminal. Simply click-drag, and you will be able to hover over the other terminals and drop the dragged terminal to move it:


Here you can see a preview of the dragged terminal - scaled if large - and shading to show which area it will cover, which can be the top, bottom, left or right of an existing terminal.

The above action results in the following:


The other way to drag a terminal can be done from within the terminal with Ctrl+right-click-drag. With this method once you start the drag, you must release the Ctrl key before releasing the right-mouse-button. If you do not the drag will cancel.

You can drag between tabs by initiating a drag and hovering over the tab. Terminator will switch to the tab under the cursor, you can then drag to the desired position, and the terminal can be dropped.

You can also drag between Terminator windows provided the windows are part of the same process. By default all windows will be part of the same process. Windows will not be part of the same process if you deliberately turn off the DBus interface with the Preferences or the Command line options when starting Terminator up. Layouts are also currently isolated at a process level for technical reasons. - Needs to be double checked and confirmed.Since the work that got layouts working over DBus, this may now be wrong.

Using the keyboard

Of course, with Terminator being a terminal application, it makes sense to keep your hands on the keyboard as much as possible. So there are many shortcuts that you can tailor to your own preference. Here are the ones that will affect the layout:

Action Options Default Shortcut
New instance [2]   Super+I
New window   Shift+Ctrl+I
New Tab   Shift+Ctrl+T
Split terminal Horizontally, Vertically Shift+Ctrl+O/E
Hide window [3]   Shift+Ctrl+Alt+A
Close window   Shift+Ctrl+Q
Close terminal   Shift+Ctrl+W
Toggle fullscreen   F11
Resize terminal Up, Down, Left, Right Shift+Ctrl+<Arrow>
Rotate terminals (Anti-)Clockwise (Shift+)Super+R
Move Tab Left, Right Shift+Ctrl+PgUp/PgDn
Zoom terminal   Shift+Ctrl+Z
Maximise terminal   Shift+Ctrl+X
[2]This is a separate process. As such, drag and drop will not work to or from this new window, or subsequent windows launched using the Shift+Ctrl+I while the focus is in the new instance.
[3]Hide window will currently only work on the first window of the first terminator instance that you start. That is because at present it binds the shortcut globally (it has to, or it cannot unhide) and this can only be done once. This may change in future.

Resetting the terminal

There are two shortcuts available for fixing the terminal if it starts to misbehave.

Action Default Shortcut
Reset Shift+Ctrl+R
Reset + Clear Shift+Ctrl+G

The scrollbar and scrollback buffer

As already mentioned, there is a Context Menu item to toggle the scrollbar. There is also a shortcut listed here.

In addition there are shortcuts for moving up and down in the scrollback buffer with more flexibility:

Action Options Default Shortcut
Toggle scrollbar   Shift+Ctrl+S
Page [VS] Up, Down Shift+PgUp/PgDn
X Lines [VS] [XL] Up, Down wheelup/wheeldown
Page [TS] Up, Down  
Half page [TS] Up, Down  
Line [TS] [MS] Up, Down  
[VS](1, 2) VTE Shortcuts: Default actions from VTE that are not configurable.
[XL]X Lines: Where X may vary depending on distribution. On mine it is 4.
[TS](1, 2, 3) Terminator Shortcuts: Additional movement options from Terminator that are configurable.
[MS]Masked Shortcuts: VTE provides default shortcuts for line up/down, on Shift+Ctrl+Arrow Up/Dn, but they are masked by shortcuts for resizing terminals. You can disable or reassign the resizing shortcuts to regain access to the VTE default.

Search the buffer

It is possible to search the buffer, although at this time there is a limitation that the found string is not highlighted.

Action Default Shortcut
Begin search Super+Ctrl+F

Resulting in a search bar at the bottom of the focused terminal:


This has buttons for moving back and forward through the results, as well as an option to wrap the search around.


At this time there is no highlighting of the search string. This is a historical limitation due to the manner in which the implmentation was originally done, way back when. I intend to remove the old code, replacing with the built-in libvte search function in the 2.1 release. This will then highlight searched text.

Zooming the terminal

It is possible to zoom into and out of a terminal. There are also some modifiers to zoom more than just the current terminal.

Action Default Shortcut
Target in [4] Ctrl++/wheelup
Target out Ctrl+-/wheeldown
Target reset Ctrl+0
+Receivers in Shift+Ctrl+wheelup
+Receivers out Shift+Ctrl+wheeldown
+Receivers reset N/A (TBD, plus in/out)
All in Super+Ctrl+wheelup
All out Super+Ctrl+wheeldown
All reset N/A (TBD, plus in/out)
[4]Target terminal is the current terminal when using the keyboard shortcuts, or the terminal under the mouse when using the wheelup/wheeldown.

Setting Titles

If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent time clicking among the half a dozen different terminals in the taskbar, trying to find the right one. Or maybe for you it is with tabs.

In Terminator you can rename three things:

Edit Mouse Default Shortcut
Window title N/A Ctrl+Alt+W
Tab title double-click tab Ctrl+Alt+A
Terminal title double-click titlebar Ctrl+Alt+X

Additionally all three can be saved/loaded from a layout, or the window title can be set using a command line option.

Insert terminal number

These shortcuts let you enumerate your terminals. It is handy if you need to login to a number of sequentially numbered machines. With multiple terminals the ordering may seem strange, but this is due to the nature of the splitting and the order in which the splits were performed.

Action Default Shortcut
Insert terminal number Super+1
Insert zero padded terminal number Super+0

These actions can also be done from The Grouping Menu.

Next/Prev profile

It is possible to cycle back and forth through the available profiles that are defined in the Profiles tab of the Preferences Window, changing the behaviour and appearance of the current terminal.

Action Default Shortcut
Next profile  
Previous profile  

In both cases there is currently no default shortcut set. I’m not convinced they would be used often enough to warrant assigning them. For those that find it useful, the feature is there to be configured.