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Alt+Tab lets me only switch between windows belonging to different applications.

I often use about four terminal bound applications at the same time (e.g. IPython, VIM, fish for system and fish for git).

Even using the mouse, clicking the terminal icon on the launcher being offered takes time to decide which is which. But I don't know so far any way to switch in this case using my keyboard only.

How to handle multiple terminals (and instances of same application in general) efficiently using the keyboard?

With respect to the terminal special case - is there a terminal application allowing sperate terminals in tabs?

And the Oscar goes to ...


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You can try Tiling window manager, such as i3wm. In i3 it is able to chnage window focus with $mod+hijk. – House Zet Feb 20 '14 at 8:02
Define "efficiently"? – Braiam Feb 20 '14 at 13:05
@Braiam: "efficiently" as in "Ubuntu reads my mind in speed of light, switches to the terminal I want to use and serves me coffee in case my awakeness level fell below 70%" – Raffael Feb 20 '14 at 13:25
Instead of separate terminal windows, I'd learn tmux and create multiple windows and panes in a single terminal. It's fast, and customizable and scriptable to your hearts content. – Philip Feb 20 '14 at 20:02
@Philip: Aye, aye, Sir ... installed tmux and it's great! – Raffael Feb 21 '14 at 8:40

10 Answers 10

up vote 34 down vote accepted

In linux almost every terminal support tab, for example in Ubuntu with default terminal you can press:

  1. Ctrl + Shift + T or click File / Open Tab

  2. and you can switch between them using Alt + $ {tab_number} (*eg. Alt + 1)

also you might want to take a look at terminator

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Perhaps better to talk about Ubuntu alone because xterm doesn't do tabs. And that counts a lot. – progo Feb 20 '14 at 11:50
I know, that's why I've said - almost every terminal :) – Rodislav Feb 20 '14 at 12:47
@progo It's not specific to Ubuntu, it's supported at least in gnome-terminal, konsole and several other widely-used terminals. AFAIK, gnome-terminal is default terminal in Ubuntu. – Ruslan Feb 20 '14 at 13:24
not in xfce... does not work for Xubuntu... – Dee Feb 20 '14 at 16:26
This does not answer the question. Tabs are useful, of course, but many uses cases for multiple windows (for example, iteratively running and editing code) requires being able to see the contents of both terminals at once. – Patrick Sanan Aug 13 '14 at 15:06

You can use Alt+tilde (tilde = Grave) to switch between windows of the current application. Note that tilde is always the key above tab, it is a tilde in an US english keyboard, but it can be anything in other languages.

If you press the Windows key for a while unity will show you all it's keyboard shortcuts in an overlay:

enter image description here

Finally, near all terminal applications support tabs. The default one in Ubuntu does.

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This is the most intuitive answer, I think. I use this all the time. – don.joey Feb 20 '14 at 13:08
The key above tab is tilde on (presumably) US English keyboards, it certainly is.;t with an en-GB keyboard layout. – Chris H Feb 20 '14 at 13:27
+1 for being awesome – razzak Nov 17 '14 at 10:41
This is not working for me at all. I'm using Ubuntu 14.04 installed on a MacBook Air, if that helps. Alt-Tab works, Alt-Tilde does not. – datakid Apr 19 '15 at 8:25

Not the answer you are looking for, but I think it's worth considering:
Instead of multiple tabs, you can use screen and byobu: enter image description here

screen lets you manage multiple terminals in the same window. In the previous image you can see I have 3 terminals (0 tcpdump, 1 top and 2 Node.js). You can switch between them with Ctrl+a+{index of the terminal} for example (there are a lot of commands).
byobu is a wrapper for screen, it adds some color, more commands and a help menu. But you can use screen alone, without byobu.
Here there is a tutorial on how to install and use screen and byobu:

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+1 for screen, screen rocks – chaos Feb 25 '14 at 20:31
If I may, I'll also add, that byobu works in tty consoles as well as in graphical environment. So useful, much indicators, wow ! – Serg Oct 30 '14 at 15:57

In KDE it is Alt+`: System Settings → Workspace Appearance and Behavior → Window Behavior :

enter image description here

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I suggest you to try out Guake, which can be installed from the software center

sudo apt-get install guake

Here's a screenshot

enter image description here

I personally switch tabs by using ctrl + page up and ctrl + page down, which is also the default as far as I remember.

Also I've bound Guake to the menu button, which I always considered useless. Now I can toggle the terminal with a single button and feel like I have super powers.

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Have you Tried to open multiple terminals using:

Ctrl + Shift + T

Then switching among them using:

Ctrl + PageUP


Ctrl + PageDown

I usually use this scenario at least for me

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That is multiple tabs of one window , actually – Serg Oct 29 '14 at 8:59
@Xieerqi Yes I know and it is the same as the accepted answer but I don't know why I didn't get an upvote at least – kamil Oct 30 '14 at 14:58
Well, like I said - this answer is just related to one window, and user wanted switching between multiple windows so it makes some sense why your answer is ignored. I use this method all the time, though, so IMHO it's alright,too. – Serg Oct 30 '14 at 15:55

Alt+` i.e. Alt+Tildeallows you to switch between the windows of the same application.

Or you can organize those windows in different workspaces and use the keyboard shortcuts to go to the proper workspace; I have four workspaces and use Ctrl+Alt+, Ctrl+Alt+, Ctrl+Alt+, Ctrl+Alt+ to switch between them. This could comparatively prove to be a faster way to go to the right application window when you have quite a few to handle.You can specify the number of workspace to be used in your system.

To swap the windows between the workspaces I use Shift+Ctrl+Alt+, Shift+Ctrl+Alt+, Shift+Ctrl+Alt+, Shift+Ctrl+Alt+.

These are some terminal emulators that allow multiple tab feature:


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Raffael asked:

is there a terminal application allowing seperate terminals in tabs?

I really like konsole for that.

Keyboard Shortcuts (which also can be changed!)

New Tab

  • STRG + Shift + T

Change Tab

  • Shift + Left / Right

Move Tab

  • STRG + Change Tab

Close Tab

  • Type 'exit' as often as you need or STRG + Shift + W

You can also split view (vertically or horizontally)

  • STRG + ( or ) (means for me STRG + Shift + 8 or 9)

and close split view

  • STRG + Shift + S

And try it together with Gnome Extension Putwindows

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Simply hold Alt (after releasing Tab and choosing CLI window(s)) a bit longer and you will get opportunity to choose between multiple CLI windows...

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Switch between open instances of one program:

Alt + ~ or Super + ~

Switch between open tabs of one program instance:

Ctrl + Tab

Switch between programs:

Alt + Tab or Super + Tab

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