I am trying to setup Arch Linux, and after getting the most basic stuff setup I installed and ran i3 with:

pacman -S i3 dmenu xorg xorg-xinit

It finally started, but I can't exit it. After pressing $mod+shift+E and confirming, it gives me the error:

i3-sensible-terminal could not find a terminal emulator. Please install one.

I also get this error from $mod+Enter. I'm confused because I can't exit back to the actual terminal in order to install a terminal emulator. Why does exiting i3 try to run a terminal emulator instead of closing dmenu/xorg and returning me to the actual(?) terminal? Can anyone provide some insight?

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    I understand this bit, but what's confusing me is how to get out of i3 into a shell so I can run the command to install a terminal emulator. And I'm also confused about why exiting i3 tries to run a terminal emulator instead of closing dmenu/xorg and returning me to the actual(?) terminal.
    – vestlen
    Dec 25, 2015 at 6:19
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    Ctrl-Alt-F{2..6} will get you to the console where you can install a terminal emulator.
    – jasonwryan
    Dec 25, 2015 at 6:22
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    @jasonwryan your comments would be a suitable answer. Dec 25, 2015 at 10:33
  • Do you have any terminal installed or i3-sensible-terminal simply not detecting it? Nov 25, 2018 at 4:18

3 Answers 3


The i3 environment isn't usable in the case described because there's no way to get to a shell. This is a graphical environment (X also known as X11) running in one of Linux's virtual consoles. To switch to a text environment and get a shell, use controlalt together with a function-key for the number of the virtual console that you want to switch to.

Most X environments with Linux run in virtual console 7, some may be in virtual console 1. So the quickest advice is to choose 2 through 6.

When you do this, you will get a login prompt. This is expected. You can be logged into the same machine several times. Once logged in, you can run pacman to add whatever packages are needed, such as xterm.

Further reading:


Do you have xterm installed?

xterm is the standard terminal emulator for the X Window System.

Install it with:

pacman -S xterm

As pointed out above, either install sensible terminal or xterm, if you choose to use xterm then you need to edit your i3config file accordingly.

When you've edited your config you need to refresh it by using Mod + shift + R for the changes to take effect. Then you should be all set.


Of course you need to be able to use a terminal in the first place, @Thomas Dickey gave really good info on how to do that.

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