TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mac in the Shell: Leopard Terminal.app: Create Your Workspace

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 11
Column Tag: Mac in the Shell

Leopard Terminal.app: Create Your Workspace

Have all the comforts of ~

by Edward Marczak

Introduction

Of all the new features that Leopard brings, one might not think that there could be excitement about Terminal.app. One would be wrong. Along with many others, Terminal.app is my primary interface to the system. Yes, I use applications like Word and Mail.app, of course, but the bulk of the time, I'm looking at a green blinking cursor on a semi-transparent black background. I know I don't have to extol the virtues of shell-mastery any more - you've read that enough in this column. However, OS X 10.5, "Leopard," updates Terminal.app in some nice ways. Let's look at the changes, and then ways to customize your workspace so you're making your environment work for you, not against you.

In the Beginning was the Command Line

Perhaps the easiest thing to point out is that Terminal.app has a new icon. It's amazing how jazzed we can all get over an application's icon, but that's just part of the Mac way, I suppose.


Figure 1 - New Terminal.app icon

It works nicely with the other interface changes in Leopard: a little flatter, but much more stylized.

If you've performed a clean install - which, by the way, I'm a huge advocate of for major releases - and you're not using previous preference files, launch Terminal.app from the Utilities folder and you'll see a default terminal.


Figure 2 - a console window in its default state.

Well, OK...a little bland, perhaps. Nor will 80x25 cut it in most cases. So, let's start with the easy stuff. Stretch that window out and position it on-screen where it best suits you. I like virtual pagers, like Spaces and VirtueDesktops, so, I highly recommend that Terminal gets its own screen. You may also want multiple terminals open at once, and I'll touch on that a bit more later, but suffice it to say, I basically never have less than 9 VTs open at once on my local machine.

Also easy: if you're familiar with Terminal.app already, you won't be lost. Some of the prefs take a minute to absorb, and some items have simply been renamed (gone is "Connect to Server..." replaced with "New Remote Connection...").

A cry for sanity in our silent night of madness

One Mac In The Shell column that has generated a good deal of feedback had screen as its topic. One of Terminal.app's new features happens to be tabs, and most people would think that would do away with screen. Not a chance.

If you're in love with tabs, you probably have been using iTerm or Terminator to satiate your needs. Basically, tabbed terminals have existed for OS X, so, this is catch up for Terminal.app. It's a nice addition nonetheless.

Now, I was the first one that thought I'd just ignore tabs in Terminal.app. I already use screen, right? Turns out, I find them both useful. (If you need a refresher on screen, check out my original article which now appears on-line at http://www.mactech.com/articles/mactech/Vol.21/21.09/Screen/index.html).

Creating a new tab is as simple as Apple-t, which gives you a new tab in the current window with the default scheme. Or, mouse about to the Shell menu, choose "New Tab", and choose the scheme you'd like. Thankfully, we can change tabs with the same key commands available for tabs in Safari - Apple-Shift-} and Apple-Shift-{. (This goes for tabs in iChat, now, too). So, if your muscle memory is built up like mine, this is a nice addition.

Once any window - tabbed or not - is created, pull up the window inspector using Apple-I, or Shell->Show Inspector to change the properties of an existing window (more detail on Inspector later). See Figure 3 for a look at the Inspector itself, with its settings tab open.

I have screen give me 7 VTs at terminal start, and now, one terminal window gives me a two tabs. Why stick with screen? First, screen is less resource hungry than Terminal.app's tabs. Allocating a new bash shell under screen just pops up my memory usage by 800k or so. Each Terminal.app tab takes up about 1.5MB. Why the heck am I concerned about this in the age of multi-Gigabyte machines? Well, perhaps, that's just what I do. Plus, despite the 4GB of RAM that my machine has, it still gets strained while running other apps, virtualization and yes, Warcraft (I can quit anytime. Really). So, that memory counts!

Also, when shelling into a remote machine, I typically still have screen at my disposal, and can just fire up a remote screen session. It seems a bit wasteful to open up many local tabs and ssh each one of those to the same remote host. Finally, screen is just wired into my fingers, so, I stick with it for that and its other nice tricks (and I get to take my .screenrc file to my new home directory and have everything work as expected - what could be better?).


Figure 3 - Terminal tabs and the Inspector window floating over.

the color of television, tuned to a dead channel

Everyone has their own idea of what a perfect terminal screen should look like. Me? I like the 'classic' look of green (or even amber) on black. That's just the way it was. But I also have a 'classic' Commodore 64 looking terminal (blue on blue). While this may seem trivial at first, you're going to be staring at these screens a lot. Also, you're going to need to pick out text from the rest of the clutter on screen. So, find a color scheme that you like and a font that suits you. This has been made easier with the current incarnation of Terminal.app.


Figure 4 - Preferences and Color Picker

While slightly confusing at first, the new preferences really are simplified. Gone are the separate "Preferences" and "Window Settings" menu choices. Now, all 'preferences' are consolidated. Colors, fonts, window sizes and more can be found under the "Settings" group. You can easily define groups of styles that you like and save them for future use, and even export the settings for your or other's use.

One exceptionally nice touch is that if you have a saved terminal definition from, oh, you know, the Tiger days, just double-click it. Not only will you be looking at your familiar terminal, but Terminal.app 2 will import the setting, making it easily called up in the future. To this I say, thankyouverymuch!

Additionally, if you like to have multiple terminal windows open at the same time, the new Window Groups feature is a blessing. All you have to do is get your terminals arranged as you like them: color, fonts, size and position. Then, that can be saved as a Window Group. Simply use the "Save as Window Group..." menu item from the Window menu, or, add it with the "+" button in the Window Group section in Preferences.


Figure 5 - Saved Window Groups

Finally, you can choose a Window Group to appear when you launch Terminal.app. What a fantastic feature!

As far as all of the other Terminal.app accoutrements that you've gotten accustomed to, they're all still there. For anyone in love with Transparency, take note where the opacity slider has moved to. Interestingly, this lets you set opacity on any color element, including text and your highlight color. In other words, you can either end up with something very cool looking, or something that impossible to read!

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion

What else has changed? There is one topic I haven't covered before in this column that I've had some people ask me about recently. Back in the day, when we would be talking about physical terminals, the host system had to know the terminal's capabilities. The terminal that you were using possibly had a real, hardware limit on how many columns it could display, if it supported color or blinking text, graphic support, etc. Ultimately, each terminal's capabilities got catalogued and placed into the termcap database. Fast forward to a contemporary setup, and termcap has become terminfo. Same idea, different name. Figure 6 shows where in Preferences->Settings we declare which terminal type we're emulating (what we're pretending to be).


Figure 6 - Declaring our terminal type

Interestingly, if we're running screen - I use it as my shell - we get a terminal type of screen. There also happens to be a terminfo entry for screen, declaring the capabilities your terminal will have.

Ever notice how after looking at a man page, or say, after using vi, you get the contents of your terminal back. Just like you had never run man or vi? Other programs will do this for you, too. Some physical terminals had an alternate screen buffer that apps are directed to, and when they quit, the main buffer is swapped back in. The xterm-color terminal in OS X mimics that. So, you're poking around the filesystem using cd and ls nad find a text file that you need to edit. Your terminal window is littered with browsing history and the prompt is at the bottom of the window. You fire up vi, edit the file, save and quit. Lo and behold, you're back where you were before editing. The scrollback buffer shows no evidence of the vi session.

screen, coincidentally, has its own scrollback buffer that overrides terminal's. So, as items scroll past the top of the window, they seem gone. Using screen's scrollback (ctrl-[ by default), you can go back through terminal output. Personally, I like my two-finger scroll, despite the mish-mash you get in the process. Apparently, many others do, to, as the first question I get from people that I turn-on to screen is, "why can't I use the scroll bar anymore?"

This is an easy one with a nice fix - "nice" meaning that you can alter the behavior for you, not touch the system defaults, and furthermore carry the change around with you in your home directory. screen lets you override the terminfo entry for a given terminal. Simply place the following line in your .screenrc file:

termcapinfo xterm* ti@:te@

Bail out of screen if it's already running and fire it up again. Use top. Go ahead. Now quit top. All of that output stays plastered all over your terminal. Beautiful, beautiful output! That line simply tells any xterm running under screen that it no longer has the capability of an alternate buffer. It basically redefines the escape codes. If more of this type of skullduggery intrigues you, start with the term(5) man page.

There's a frood who really knows where his towel is

Terminal 2 really brings some nice touches and conveniences to those of us who use a command shell as their primary interface to the system. Even if you don't use it as often as others, getting deep into the system as a developer or sysadmin means breaking out Terminal.app on more than a passing occasion. By this point, you should have a productive and attractive (to you) workspace that works with you.

Media of the month: I should probably be recommending something Leopardish. I can't just yet. But, I was in a book store (again) just the other day and realized how long it had been since I sat down and read fiction. Made up characters, made up places and made up tales. You need to be in touch with reality, but exercising creativity also ranks pretty high. If you've never ready anything by William Gibson, that's my recommendation. Find one that you like. If you've never read anything by Neil Gaiman, please, hurry to your local bookshop and pick up "American Gods" or "Neverwhere." And if you've never put eyes to paper that contains "The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy," then, run! Go now!

We're also getting close to Macworld. So close that if you haven't made your plans yet, you may be too late. Fire up your web browser, purchase tickets, your travel and hotel for this worthwhile event. Hope to see you there!


Ed Marczak is just this guy, you know? Find out why at http://www.radiotope.com

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Navicat Premium Essentials 12.1.25 - Pro...
Navicat Premium Essentials is a compact version of Navicat which provides basic and necessary features you will need to perform simple administration on a database. It supports the latest features... Read more
Sketch 58 - Design app for UX/UI for iOS...
Sketch is an innovative and fresh look at vector drawing. Its intentionally minimalist design is based upon a drawing space of unlimited size and layers, free of palettes, panels, menus, windows, and... Read more
ClipGrab 3.8.5 - Download videos from Yo...
ClipGrab is a free downloader and converter for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and many other online video sites. It converts downloaded videos to MPEG4, MP3 or other formats in just one easy step Version... Read more
Dash 4.6.6 - Instant search and offline...
Dash is an API documentation browser and code snippet manager. Dash helps you store snippets of code, as well as instantly search and browse documentation for almost any API you might use (for a full... Read more
FotoMagico 5.6.8 - Powerful slideshow cr...
FotoMagico lets you create professional slideshows from your photos and music with just a few, simple mouse clicks. It sports a very clean and intuitive yet powerful user interface. High image... Read more
Civilization VI 1.2.4 - Next iteration o...
Sid Meier’s Civilization VI is the next entry in the popular Civilization franchise. Originally created by legendary game designer Sid Meier, Civilization is a strategy game in which you attempt to... Read more
Skype 8.52.0.138 - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 13.2.6 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
BusyContacts 1.4.0 - Fast, efficient con...
BusyContacts is a contact manager for OS X that makes creating, finding, and managing contacts faster and more efficient. It brings to contact management the same power, flexibility, and sharing... Read more
Chromium 77.0.3865.75 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 77.0.3865.75: A list of changes is available... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Yoozoo Games launches Saint Seiya Awaken...
If you’re into your anime, you’ve probably seen or heard of Saint Seiya. Based on a shonen manga by Masami Kurumada, the series was massively popular in the 1980s – especially in its native Japan. Since then, it’s grown into a franchise of all... | Read more »
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special...
Five Nights at Freddy's AR: Special Delivery is a terrifying new nightmare from developer Illumix. Last week, FNAF fans were sent into a frenzy by a short teaser for what we now know to be Special Delivery. Those in the comments were quick to... | Read more »
Rush Rally 3's new live events are...
Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat... | Read more »
Why your free-to-play racer sucks
It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re... | Read more »
Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3
Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience... | Read more »
PSA: GRIS has some issues
You may or may not have seen that Devolver Digital just released GRIS on the App Store, but we wanted to do a quick public service announcement to say that you might not want to hop on buying it just yet. The puzzle platformer has come to small... | Read more »
Combo Quest (Games)
Combo Quest 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Combo Quest is an epic, time tap role-playing adventure. In this unique masterpiece, you are a knight on a heroic quest to retrieve... | Read more »
Hero Emblems (Games)
Hero Emblems 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** 25% OFF for a limited time to celebrate the release ** ** Note for iPhone 6 user: If it doesn't run fullscreen on your device... | Read more »
Puzzle Blitz (Games)
Puzzle Blitz 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Puzzle Blitz is a frantic puzzle solving race against the clock! Solve as many puzzles as you can, before time runs out! You have... | Read more »
Sky Patrol (Games)
Sky Patrol 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: 'Strategic Twist On The Classic Shooter Genre' - Indie Game Mag... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Preorder your Apple Watch Series 5 today at A...
Amazon has Apple Watch Series 5 GPS models available for preorder and on sale today for $15 off Apple’s MSRP. Shipping is free and starts on September 20th: – 40mm Apple Watch Series 5 GPS: $384.99 $... Read more
21″ iMacs on sale for $100 off Apple’s MSRP,...
B&H Photo has new 21″ Apple iMacs on sale for $100 off MSRP with models available starting at $999. These are the same iMacs offered by Apple in their retail and online stores. Overnight shipping... Read more
2018 4 and 6-Core Mac minis on sale today for...
Apple resellers are offering new 2018 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis for $100-$150 off MSRP for a limited time. B&H Photo has the new 2018 4-Core and 6-Core Mac minis on sale for up to $150 off... Read more
Save $150-$250 on 10.2″ WiFi + Cellular iPads...
Verizon is offering $150-$250 discounts on Apple’s new 10.2″ WiFi + Cellular iPad with service. Buy the iPad itself and save $150. Save $250 on the purchase of an iPad along with an iPhone. The fine... Read more
Apple continues to offer 13″ 2.3GHz Dual-Core...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 13″ 2.3GHz Dual-Core non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1019. An standard Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, outer cases are new... Read more
Apple restocks 2018 MacBook Airs, Certified R...
Apple has restocked Certified Refurbished 2018 13″ MacBook Airs starting at only $849. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a standard Apple one-year warranty, and is shipped free. The... Read more
Sunday Sale! 2019 27″ 5K 6-Core iMacs for $20...
B&H Photo has the new 2019 27″ 5K 6-Core iMacs on stock today and on sale for up to $250 off Apple’s MSRP. Overnight shipping is free to many locations in the US. These are the same iMacs sold by... Read more
Weekend Sale! 2019 13″ MacBook Airs for $200...
Amazon has new 2019 13″ MacBook Airs on sale for $200 off Apple’s MSRP, with prices starting at $899, each including free shipping. Be sure to select Amazon as the seller during checkout, rather than... Read more
2019 15″ MacBook Pros now on sale for $350-$4...
B&H Photo has Apple’s 2019 15″ 6-Core and 8-Core MacBook Pros on sale today for $350-$400 off MSRP, starting at $2049, with free overnight shipping available to many addresses in the US: – 2019... Read more
Buy one Apple Watch Series 5 at Verizon, get...
Buy one Apple Watch Series 5 at Verizon, and get a second Watch for 50% off. Plus save $10 on your first month of service. The fine print: “Buy Apple Watch, get another up to 50% off on us. Plus $10... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mobility Pro-Store 149 - Best Buy (U...
**731985BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobility Pro-Store 149 **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 000149-Towson-Store **Job Description:** At Best Read more
Student Employment (Blue *Apple* Cafe) Spri...
Student Employment (Blue Apple Cafe) Spring 2019 Penn State University Campus/Location: Penn State Brandywine Campus City: Media, PA Date Announced: 12/20/2018 Date Read more
Windows/ *Apple* Technical Support Engineer...
Windows/ Apple Technical Support Engineer McLean , VA , US Apply + Be you + Be Booz Allen + Be empowered + Learn More Job Description Location: McLean, VA, US Job Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**725617BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Job Category:** Store Associates **Location Number:** 001095-Chesterfield-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Read more
Geek Squad *Apple* Master Consultation Agen...
**732415BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Master Consultation Agent **Job Category:** Services/Installation/Repair **Location Number:** 000425-Hickory-Store **Job Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.