Terminal Multiplexer

9 Best Free and Open Source Linux Terminal Multiplexers

The nuts and bolts of Linux seem destined to be increasingly hidden away from the desktop user. The continuing development of popular desktop environments offering attractive interfaces and fancy features shows no sign of abatement. However intuitive and slick desktop environments become, there is little prospect that the faithful terminal will be consigned to the recycle bin in the near future. There is simply too much power at the hands of a terminal for many experienced Linux users.

Users that want to exploit the full power of the terminal may benefit from using a terminal multiplexer. This type of application can be considered to be a text version of a graphical window manager. It enables users to run multiple text programs simultaneously, as well as offering features that allow users to switch seamlessly between these programs in operation. Terminal multiplexers also allow multiple computers to make simultaneous connections.

To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 9 useful terminal multiplexers. Hopefully, there will be something here to help improve your productivity at the console. Combine one of these terminal multiplexers with a tiling window manager, and you’ve got a low resource desktop environment.

Here’s our recommendations. They are all free and open source goodness.

Ratings chart for free and open source terminal multiplexers

Let’s explore the 9 terminal multiplexers. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot, together with links to relevant resources.

Terminal Multiplexers
ZellijTerminal workspace with batteries included
tmuxTruly sublime terminal multiplexer which uses a client-server model
TmuxinatorCreate and manage complex tmux sessions easily
ByobuPowerful, text based window manager and shell multiplexer
3muxTerminal multiplexer inspired by i3
vtmTerminal multiplexer with window manager and session sharing
ScreenTerminal multiplexer with VT100/ANSI terminal emulation
mtmMicro terminal multiplexer
dvtmDynamic virtual terminal manager

Of course, a tiling window manager combined with a terminal multiplexer won’t be a solution for everyone. If you’re looking for a great desktop environment, check out our review of the Best Linux Desktop Environments.

Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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4 years ago

Just get byobu. (It runs tmux (or screen) under the hood, but adds user interface niceties to these two, and has been rock-solid for years.

Byobu is a “meta multiplexer”, that is, it still depends upon, and runs on top of either screen (the older system) or tmux (the newer one), but prefers tmux (which has more features). So byobu is running tmux (or screen) under the hood. But byobu adds functionality and lots of user-interface ease to tmux (or screen). With my distro (OpenSUSE) if I install byobu, tmux — a dependency — gets installed automatically, and I can simply then type ‘byobu’ at command line, and Ctrl-a d to ‘disconnect’ or Ctrl-a c to create a new ‘window’ or Ctrl-a n to go to next window. F9 gives help screen with other options. Easy-peasy.

Terry Boulder
Terry Boulder
4 years ago
Reply to  androclus

Saying ‘just get Byobu’ might reflect that this terminal meets your requirements. But it certainly doesn’t meet mine. This article is in need of an update IMO.

1 year ago

I’ve been using tmux for years and it still gets my thumbs up. Great software that just keeps on giving.