I am currently using rxvt-unicode as a terminal emulator. Since I also like the configurability of terminal emulators from GNOME and KDE, I wonder whether there is some kind of replacement for rxvt-unicode with more features but not as many dependencies as the GNOME or KDE terminals.

Specifically, I am interested in the following:

  • Tabs
  • Font size changes on the fly (via CTRL++ or something similar)
  • UTF-8 support (OK, urxvt already has this, obviously)
  • Possibility to open a new tab/new window at the current directory
  • 3
    Have you considered GNU screen instead of tabs? Its default config doesn't have a tab bar, but it can... hardstatus alwayslastline hardstatus string '%{=b kG}[ %{G}%H %{-b}| %l %{+b g}][%= %{= kw}%?%-Lw%?%{y}[%{-b Yk}%n*%f%t%?(%u)%?%{= ky}]%{w}%?%+Lw%?%?%= %{+b g}][%{-b c} %D, %M %d %{+b W}%c %{g}]'
    – derobert
    Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 18:34

7 Answers 7


No, but: rxvt-unicode has tab support.

Add this to your .Xdefaults/.Xresources:

urxvt.perl-ext-common: default,tabbed

I also like to disable the 'selection' perl extension so that it is possible to triple-click-and-drag to select multiple complete lines (as in xterm). Then your .Xdefaults would look like this:

urxvt.perl-ext-common: default,tabbed,-selection
  • I was aware of this feature. But is there also a possibility to display the current directory in the new tab? I'll definitely check this out, though. Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 8:24
  • I took a quick look at the Perl extensions for urxvt (I was not aware of those before). I should be able to change it to my needs. Thanks to all who answered! Commented Aug 20, 2010 at 8:32
  • For extra tab features, check out tabbedex, github.com/stepb/urxvt-tabbedex. Not sure about automatically displaying the cwd in the tab but I know there is the option to modify tab names. Either way, it offers a lot of extra functionality to tabs, just read the comments at the top of the file. Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 20:16

Requiring tabs is going to kill you for size. For a lightweight terminal that has "tabs", I would recommend eterm with escreen. Escreen is an interface layer which allows Eterm to support multiple subshell sessions within a single window by interoperating with GNU screen. Thus, on the surface, it works similarly to the "tabbed" sessions you're used to.

If this doesn't work, you could check out the Fluxbox window manager. Fluxbox allows you to group any windows together into a tabbed interface, and you can even switch tabs with CTRL+TAB. In that case, you could use any lightweight terminal that suits your needs, whether it supports tabs or not: aterm, eterm, xterm, etc.


If you want something really lightweight there is st from suckless.org. It does not do tabbing, but as suggested in the comments, tmux or screen would do. Otherwise you could use tabbed again from the same people. Tabbed is a generic container, able to create tabs for a given app.


Have you tried the xfce terminal emulator? It meets all of your requirements except for the font zoom.


Use RXVT in daemon mode, and use the tabbed extension for urxvt. Execute urxvtd when you start your session, and spawn new windows with urxvtc. Each window takes only around 1-10M additional memory.


Right now urxvt has better performance than any gtk3 terminal I know if used in daemon mode. Though sometimes urxvtc may fail to create new windows after some unclear limit.

tabbed from suckless.org is much better than perl-ext to add tabs to urxvt. Although designed for suckless st, which has both pros and cons comparing to urxvt. E.g. urxvt is faster in daemon mode, but urxvtc may fail to create windows after some unclear margin (depending on total size of all windows). In this caase st is more reliable. As for perl-tabs extension - it's not only slower, but may mess terminal history.

Current vanilla tabbed version may be buggy (I did not check its progress for long time). I tried to fix it a bit, yet adding change, which allowes to implement working directory derivation by new tabs from current via trick with shell startup code: https://github.com/nick87720z/tabbed .

In my experience urxvtd + tabbed combo is fastest ever solution I could find.


LilyTerm meets all the criteria.

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