I'm looking for a terminal program I can use with a minimal fluxbox environment I am setting up.

Ideally, I am looking for a terminal program that supports tabs and true transparency.

So far it seems that the only terminal programs that come close to meeting those requirements come from Gnome or KDE or XFCE. I would rather not use a terminal program from one of these windowing environments as I don't want all the other libraries.

Are there any independent x terminal programs, not from a major windowing environment that support true transparency and tabs?

  • 1
    I don't think I could survive on anything less capable than Terminal, libraries or not. Apr 2, 2012 at 0:29
  • 3
    All the times I have tried it, I never have found transparency in terminals to be anything except distracting eye-candy at the expense of usability. Having random background noise bleed through the text makes it harder to read, even if you apply a generous gaussian blur to the background layer. If you really desire light-weight or minimalist, I'd recommend dropping this "feature" from your shopping list.
    – jw013
    Apr 2, 2012 at 23:33

4 Answers 4


I love rxvt-unicode. It does all of those things, but not by default. It has many compile time options, one of which is embedded perl to extend it with extra functionality, such as tabs. It has a client-server architecture as well. One master instance run run several terminal sessions in different windows. I don't actually use the tabbed windows, I prefer to use window manager features to get the same effect.

The get the transparency you should actually be running a compositing window manager. Apps shouldn't have to deal with it. But urxvt can, if you need to. It uses X properties. To get transparency set this:

urxvt.background:   rgba:0000/0000/0000/dddd

As the name implies it is also a unicode terminal (can display UTF-8 directly), so you can also see symbols and international letters in the same terminal

  • 2
    I <3 urxvt. I've found using tmux or screen is better than the 'built-in' tabs for it, though.
    – Rob
    Apr 2, 2012 at 17:56

I like terminator. It's very lightweight, and comes with lots of features that make it a unique terminal program. My favorites include horizontal scrolling (as opposed to the default wrapping behavior in most terminals), smart autoscroll, built-in finding capabilities, but the end-all feature (for me) is the window-splitting capabilities. If you're familiar with splitting windows in emacs, it's very similar.

Here's an excerpt from the site and some of the better features:

Terminator is a cross-platform GPL terminal emulator with advanced features not yet found elsewhere.

Terminator will run on any modern OS with Java 6 or later. It replaces xterm, rxvt, xwsh and friends on X11 systems, GNOME Terminal, KDE's Konsole, Apple's Terminal.app, and PuTTY on MS Windows.


  • Automatic Logging

  • Drap & Drop for text and URLs

  • GPL License

  • Unlimited Scrollback

  • Multiple Tabs


I suppose I wasn't necessarily referring to memory usage/startup time/what have you when I said lightweight, but I definitely see how that might be implied. There's no doubt that using the JVM adds weight to an application in these terms. Given that, I still say it's a relatively lightweight terminal, especially considering it's running with Java 6+.

I admit my faux pas, however, and offer the following results to make up for it. :) I tried to do two things: give the terminal a load (printing ~7000 lines from /etc) and test its startup time. The latter wasn't possible in a couple of the programs I tested (unless someone knows a trick I don't). The others were tested using time and are simply told to exit. For example, time rxvt-unicode -e 'exit'.

                 ls $(find /etc)   startup time
rxvt-unicode     real 0m0.100s     real 0m0.045s
gnome-terminal   real 0m0.368s     real 0m0.215s
terminator       real 0m0.366s     real 0m0.490s
xfterm4          real 0m0.365s     real 0m0.021s
xterm            real 0m0.090s    
xvt              real 0m0.163s     real 0m0.007s
guake            real 0m0.496s    
aterm            real 0m0.092s     real 0m0.025s

Each result is the average of three trials. You can see, the JVM really bogs terminator down in terms of startup time (expected), but I was surprised to see it perform on par with the likes of xfterm4 and gnome-terminal for the first test.

Please feel free to expand on this.

  • 7
    Somehow saying "very lightweight" and requiring Java 6 just doesn't fit in my mind. ;-)
    – Keith
    Apr 2, 2012 at 6:10
  • @Keith While I do agree on that, you'd be surprised how lightweight terminator really is. I didn't suspect it was java-based when I first ran it.
    – WhyNotHugo
    Apr 2, 2012 at 18:54

Terminal (xfce4's terminal) doesn't really depend on XFCE. I don't use any DE, but find Terminal excelent and really lightweight. Its dependency list is as short as can get for the features you're asking.


Take a look at ROXTerm, too.

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