Both gnome terminal and terminator (which I am using on my laptop these days) can be customised to look very pretty. By using full screen and keeping desktop clutter down to a minimum it's possible to get a good-sized area to work in, even on my little EeePC.

However, there is one element that I don't seem to be able to control. Gnome's tabs are massively oversized and ugly at best. They don't fit into the theme at all which looks silly, but for me the biggest problem is the screen real estate that is wasted. On a small laptop screen in particular, it's a real problem.

Is there a way to change these tabs? I realize it's possible to put them up the side of the window, but then they take up even more space!

If this isn't possible with theme-ing or gnome configuration, are there any terminal programs like terminator that can handle the tabs themselves? (Ideally in a more elegant fashion!)

alt text

  • 2
    Actually, the tabs fit in perfectly with the Gtk theme you use, because it's the theme that paints them like that. It's possible to override a theme for 1 application though (see Gtk theming manuals/how-tos for how to do that). My guess is that the close buttons make the tabs rather high.
    – JanC
    Dec 12, 2010 at 23:20
  • Problem is well described here old.nabble.com/… Nov 15, 2011 at 22:42
  • adamnfish, +1 for the question but I suggest unmarking the Screen suggestion as the correct answer. GNU Screen rocks but that does not mean that Terminal tabs should be ugly Nov 15, 2011 at 22:42

4 Answers 4


As pointed out by JanC, terminator uses the default gtk theme on your system. It is true that the problem can be solved by putting close_button_on_tab = False in your ~/.config/terminator/config Also, you could change the gtk theme. Or, you could define a special gtk setting specially for terminator. To do that, add the following lines to your gtkrc file:

style "notebook" = "default"
    xthickness = 0
    ythickness = 0

widget_class "terminator*.GtkNotebook"       style "notebook"
class "terminator*.GtkNotebook"              style "notebook"

Observe that you are modifying the standard Gtk widget called "GtkNotebook". This is whats responsible for tabs. If you want this to work in every application (not just terminator) then use instead:

widget_class "*GtkNotebook"       style "notebook"
class "*GtkNotebook"              style "notebook"

This will then affect all applications. To change the color of the text in the tab, use:

style "notebook_maybelabel" = "default"
   fg[NORMAL]        = "#0000AA"
   text[NORMAL]        = "#0000AA"

widget_class "terminator*.GtkNotebook*"       style "notebook_maybelabel"
class "terminator*.GtkNotebook*"              style "notebook_maybelabel"

I am not a Gtk expert, and this advice may contain errors.


check out urxvt. One of the main reasons I moved to it was the great way it handles tabs.

Add this to your .Xdefaults

 URxvt.perl-ext-common:  default,tabbed,matcher

It is possibe through GTK CSS config file. Create the ~/.config/gtk-3.0/gtk.css then you'll able to add some CSS selector and it's attributes. There are some good examples: Remove ugly fat bazel from gnome-terminal with multiple-tabs


Try screen.

Create different "tabs" with Ctrl-a c and switch between them with Ctrl-a Ctrl-a (to toggle to the window displayed previously) or directly with Ctrl-a <number of tab> (to switch to window number "number of tab").

Ctrl-a " presents a list of all windows for selection.

For more information take a look at man screen.

  • 2
    Or even byobu, which is just like screen, but presented in Technicolor® ;-) Dec 12, 2010 at 21:53
  • Yeah, I'm aware I could use screen instead but I'm typically using emacs and I'd rather not lose ctrl + a, for instance. I may end up going down this route by customising screen but it is nice having the tab controls be consistent with the rest of the OS so if there's a way to reduce the padding on the gnome tabs I'd prefer that!
    – adamnfish
    Dec 12, 2010 at 22:41
  • 1
    @adamnfish: you can configure the screen prefix shortcut to something else.
    – JanC
    Dec 12, 2010 at 23:17
  • 5
    -1 Sometimes I need to use screen, sometimes I need to used tabs. I would like both of them to look nice. Nov 15, 2011 at 22:39
  • 3
    I'd recommend tmux over screen: better (imo) windows ('tabs') and 'panes' (vertical and horizontal screen splitting. (I run emacs inside of a tmux session exclusively.)
    – jon
    Feb 7, 2012 at 22:54

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