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When I press ctrl+alt+F1 it goes to virtual terminal. What is this virtual terminal for?

When do you need to use it?

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Do you mean the difference between such a virtual terminal and a terminal window? – Georg Schölly Apr 2 '11 at 8:31
This question is prett well covered here:… ... and you would use it when you don't have (or need. or want) a Graphical User Interface.... it is a text based Command Line Interface (with no graphics at all) – Peter.O Apr 2 '11 at 9:08
The advantage of it is that it is 99% of the time accessible and usable, even if the system is short of freezing or the graphical interface has frozen or crashed hard. – Bobby Apr 2 '11 at 12:23
The thing is called unambiguously “virtual console (its driver was once named vt.c, hence “virtual terminal”, but the term is ambiguous). Any objection to editing “virtual terminal” out? – Incnis Mrsi Sep 6 '15 at 13:44
up vote 7 down vote accepted

Not all users need or run a graphical environment, and they will work from the virtual terminals.

Many (most) servers do not have a graphical environment as users are rarely logged in to the console. Servers most often require a command line from which the administrator can access the system to monitor or configure it. The virtual terminal provides this environment. Having more than one virtual terminal allows the administrator to switch to another terminal if necessary.

On a desktop with a broken Xserver (graphical environment) the virtual console provides a terminal session from which the Xserver can be reconfigured.

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Downvote due to use of “virtual console” to refer to terminal emulators. Linux’s VC/VT may be called “virtual terminal”, but PTYs may not be called “virtual consoles”. – Incnis Mrsi Sep 8 '15 at 18:48
Incnis with all due respect, I think you are being pedantic. – neuronet May 31 at 13:38

A Virtual Terminal is a full-screen terminal which doesn't run inside an X window (unlike the terminal window on your graphical desktop). Virtual terminals are found on all GNU/Linux systems, even on systems which don't have a desktop environment or graphical system installed.

Virtual terminals can be accessed on an Ubuntu system by pressing Ctrl+Alt+F1 till F6. To come back to the graphical session, press Ctrl+Alt+F7.

You can get more in-depth info about virtual terminals on its Wikipedia article.

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The main-frame computers to which old text terminals were connected to were not considered to be "servers". They were just part of the computer system just like a monitor doesn't connect to a server PC. Virtual terminals are not real text-terminals but are emulated text-terminals. It's important to include the word "text" since they are not GUI terminals (sometimes called thin Clients).

Virtual terminals are nice since one can set up each one to have a different color display by putting the "setterm" program in say the /etc/rc-local file that runs at boottime. Then one may use one virtual terminal to run a script that does something that fails; Use another terminal to change the configuration that might fix the problem; Use still another terminal to look up documentation regarding the problem; use another terminal to go on the Internet with a text browser to help solve the problem, etc., etc. Since each screen has a different color background, seeing the right color assures one that they are where they want to be when switching from one terminal to another. But alas, there are not enough colors; only 8. There is a terminal type "linux-16color" but how to use it? setterm doesn't support it.

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