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Beyond Terminal: 4 OS X Terminal Alternatives


Terminal is an invaluable tool that every Mac user should explore. In the past published a number of OS X Terminal tutorials to help improve your workflows and general productivity. Though for some Mac users Terminal isn't equipped enough for their needs and these people often seek other solutions which can achieve a similar result.

In this tutorial I'll cover some of the best Terminal replacements available and show how they can benefit you.


Cathode, of all the Terminal replacements shown here, is the only app accessible for download from the Mac App Store and the only priced option—costing £6.99. While this will deter those who would rather receive a free product, it's still encouraging that Cathode is accessible from a fully safe and reliable source. Cathode can be free to download, however, after short periods of time the colours will slowly fade.

The main ability users will receive when downloading Cathode is that the interface is fully customisable. Exploring Cathode's settings you will be able to to tweak the user interface, or UI. The app designers have been nostalgic and included, in the massive database, themes reminiscent of command line interfaces of yesteryear. Cathode is a superb application for those uninspired by Terminal's bland presentation.

Cathode is an app which is easy to customise and make your own
Cathode is an app which is easy to customise and make your own.

Cathode can be used as a text editor. Integration means you can drag and drop text into the application. The benefit is the app works perfectly as a non-distraction word editor for efficient writing.

Aside from Terminal Cathode can be used as a writer application
Aside from Terminal, Cathode can be used as a writer application.

It is clear that Cathode is not an app built for functionality, alternatively being designed as a creative tool. This is a fun application to use and there are many useful features.


iTerm2 is built purely for efficiency. If Terminal doesn't offer enough functionality then consider iTerm2.

iTerm2 allows you to set up hotkeys, using the Preferences Menu, to perform a number of functions. My favourite hotkey is one that swiftly shows/hides an item, whenever the app is in the background, giving you Terminal almost instantaneously.

iTerms hotkey shortcut to show the interface quickly is great
iTerm's hotkey shortcut to show the interface quickly is great.

Regular Terminal users often have many windows open at once to help manage different content, however you can become lost between frames. iTerm has effectively stopped this problem from future occurrences by integrating OS X's Exposé feature. By either using the shortcut Command-Option-E or navigating to Window > Expose All Tabs you're able to access a Mission Control type interface. By isolating the open iTerm windows, and giving you a helpful search function, you're able to quickly track text.

The Autocomplete tool is useful to fast workers or new adopters of Terminal. Autocomplete remembers everything you've typed in a window. Then, once you have begun typing a frequent command you can simply press Command-; and a drop down bar will appear showing everything you may mean. This is a helpful shortcut that removes an arduous task of typing out repetitive commands.

iTerms autocomplete tool speeds up the typing of repetitive commands
iTerm's autocomplete tool speeds up the typing of repetitive commands.

iTerm2 as you have seen above possesses distinct features which are designed for maximum speed and usability. With these utilities and many other helpful tools iTerm2 is perfect for those users who work with Terminal every single day and feel that it lags in efficiency.


Terminator is not just a clever name, it's a simple powerhouse for working with Terminal. Terminator is available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS X provided that Java 6 is installed.

Saving work is always important and with Terminator there is no need to worry about losing anything. Ccomplete logs are automatically saved so everything you type is backed up in a secure place. There is an option to turn these off, if you prefer.

Terminator has a simple interface with build it tools such as a search function
Terminator has a simple interface with build it tools such as a search function.

Similar to Cathode you are able to drag text files and URLs into Terminator without needing to go through the process of copying and pasting. A great utility for transferring text around quickly to different windows.

In conclusion, whilst Terminator is a great application with many tools, it is now an old project and other replacements such as iTerm2 are succeeding more in areas such as functionality. What Terminator does still offer is a free and simple Terminal replacement.


MacTerm is an application, under development, at beta-testing stage.

Search finding tools are a necessity when it comes to Terminal and Apple's built in tool is not the best, with MacTerm this problem is non-existent. Accessed by pressing the standard hotkey Command-F you're able to quickly search all windows and access past searches to find keywords.

MacTerm search function is one of the most efficient
MacTerm search function is one of the most efficient.

A must for any MacTerm user is the macro tool, a utility which was one of the sole reasons I decided to use this software. In the preferences window you can set up a macro to perform any task you require, to save time and effort later on. This creation process is easy and can be set up to complete upon a keyboard shortcut for ease. It's worth using MacTerm just for this feature.

MacTerms macro creation is the best tool to date Ive found on a Terminal app
MacTerm's macro creation is the best tool to date I've found on a Terminal app.

In conclusion, a fantastic lightweight application which is simply presented. The most appealing feature has to be the macro options, a tool I recommend to everyone.

Wrap Up

In this tutorial I've shown the most appealing features of the four best Terminal replacements available to Mac users. While each of the four above will suffice as Terminal emulator, individually, they all offer something different to the user. The decision on which to use is dictated by the amount and type of work you perform while using Terminal.

Do you still use Terminal? Or have you made the switch to another application? Let us know in the comments below, thanks!

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