State of the terminal

It’s only been in the last couple of years that I’ve begun to dig deep into the inner workings of how terminal emulators, and the applications that run inside of them, really work. I’ve learned that there is a lot of innovation and creative problem solving happening in this space, even though the underlying technology is over half a century old.

I’ve also found that many people who use terminal based tools (including shells like Bash and editors like Vim) know very little about terminals themselves, or some of the modern features and capabilities they can support.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the problems that terminal based applications have historically had to deal with (and what the modern solutions are) as well as some features that modern terminal emulators support that you may not be aware of.

↫ Gregory Anders

I don’t use the terminal much – usually just to update my systems – but on occasion I’ve had to really sit down and explore them more than usual, especially now that my workstation runs OpenBSD, and the depth and breadth of features, options, and clever tricks they possess is amazing. Over the past half century they’ve accumulated a lot of features along the way, and even though its unlikely to ever be for me, I can somewhat begin to appreciate why some people just tile a bunch of terminals on their screens and do all their computing that way.

I grew up with MS-DOS and Windows 3.x and later, so I’m just too attached to my mouse and pretty icons to switch to a terminal lifestyle, but over the years I’ve seen some pretty amazing terminal applications, from Mastodon clients to complex mail applications and web browsers, and you can be sure none of them steal your data or show you ads.

Maybe the terminal people are right after all.


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