Saturday, April 11, 2009

App Review: Terminator

Terminator is a wonderful gnome-terminal supplement. By supplement I mean that most of the defaults for Terminator are taken from the gnome-terminal application. Terminal windows are very practical and utilitarian things. There is one that I have found that adds great usage to the practicality of the command line. I dare say, that the terminal that I use today is staggering compared to the terminal sessions used on ancient Unix systems of old.

But I digress, this article is about the Terminator application. This application strives to do one thing more than gnome-terminal, to be able to split the single tabbed session into multiple parts. Since this starts sounding like something incomprehensible, I decided to add screenshots of what it can do. I would like to disclaim that it can do a few more things above and beyond the features that I will list here, but the ones I point out are the ones I find to be most important to me and the ones that I use every day.

First, the splitting of the tab. This can be done horizontally or vertiacally as many times as you desire. Clearly, some of those choices will depend on screen dimentions and personal preference of the information that you are viewing in each session. Screenshot below shows a single tab (does support multiple tabs) split once vertically, and one of those split once horizontially displaying 3 terminal panes. These pane divisions are also adjustible in size using the mouse to drag the windows much like you would resize a windowed application.

Notice the comments diagrammed in the screenshot. I have annotated the points made previously.

Then there is the simultaneous writing in multiple panes. This can be confusing and only used after some practice. I would suggest to use it for making/editing the same text file on two machines/folders for the first time out. There could be some bad side-effects of this activity if not executed well. However, due to the nature of my work this is an amazing feature which only one other app currently offers. Here is a screenshot of this feature in action. I should point out that the user can select/deselect members of the "group" at any time, and can select as many panes that are members of the group, so this is not an all-or-nothing solution and is as flexible as the user himself can think to be. Again, for multiple machine configuration files, routers and switches or even just multiple folders with the same files within this is a an amazing feature.

I have to confess that with my recent discovery of the Command Line Fu website that this becomes the killer app for me. I can now tap the full power of the terminal without having to launch the same application multiple times or having unseen tabs going ignored. With Terminator open and using the "Focus under mouse without raising window" offers me a blinding speed with flick of mouse and keyboard to interact with my computer systems in a very powerful way.


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