• What is a terminal?
  • How do I open a terminal window?
  • How do I use the terminal?

5 Answers 5


What is it:

The terminal is an interface in which you can type and execute text based commands.

terminal screenshot

Why use it:

It can be much faster to complete some tasks using a Terminal than with graphical applications and menus. Another benefit is allowing access to many more commands and scripts.

A common terminal task of installing an application can be achieved within a single command, compared to navigating through the Software Centre or Synaptic Manager.

For example the following would install Deluge bittorrent client:

sudo apt-get install deluge

To save a detailed list of files in the current directory tree to a file called listing.txt:

find -type f > listing.txt

Sometimes you will also see the following notation:

$ whoami
$ ls
Downloads  Documents

This means that the command whoami is executed which gives calum as output. Following that command, ls is executed which outputs Downloads Documents.

A similar notation is:

# apt-get update

This means that the command should be run as root, that is, using sudo:

$ sudo apt-get update

Note that the # character is also used for comments.

# this command will give your username
# the next command will show the contents of the current directory

How do I open a terminal:

  • Open the Dash (Super Key) or Applications and type terminal

    enter image description here

  • Use the keyboard shortcut by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T.

  • For older or Ubuntu versions: (More Info)

    Applications → Accessories → Terminal

Alternative names for the terminal:

  • Console
  • Shell
  • Command line
  • Command prompt

(Although technically they mean different things)

Common commands & Further information

  • Another reason that people helping you will prefer to give you terminal-based commands over directing you through a GUI is simply because you type everything in directly. There's no searching for applications and/or menu items. Don't be put off by the sole text-interface. To this day, whenever I open a command-prompt in Windows, people instantly ask me if I'm hacking their computer or some other such nonsense. The terminal is your friend.
    – user175473
    Jul 16, 2013 at 19:13
  • 1
    Another advantage is that everything you do in the terminal can be scripted and automated.
    – kiri
    Oct 17, 2013 at 2:58
  • 3
    Lazy tip: You can use drag and drop to drop files and folders from the filemanager into the terminal, which will give you the complete path to apply a command to the file. It's the best of both worlds.
    – LiveWireBT
    Dec 5, 2014 at 18:22

A Terminal is your interface to the underlying operating system via a shell, usually bash. It is a command line.

Back in the day, a Terminal was a screen+keyboard that was connected to a server. Today, it is usally just a progam.

You can open it via the utilities part of the apllications menu, or press Alt+F2 and type gnome-terminal.


The terminal (also known as console) is an application in which you can execute commands directly. It looks like:

gnome-terminal screenshot

You can start the terminal from Applications -> Accessories -> Terminal.
If you're not using Gnome, but KDE (Kubuntu), you would find it under: Kickoff menu -> Applications -> System -> Konsole.

The Ubuntu wiki has an article about the terminal which includes information on starting the terminal in Xubuntu and Lubuntu, and a basic overview of commonly used commands. It's recommended for reading as it includes much examples as well.

  • 3
    "Shell" and "terminal" don't really mean the same thing. For example, in the screenshot above, the terminal is probably gnome-terminal. The shell is probably bash. Aug 11, 2012 at 22:16
  • 1
    Strictly speaking, those are indeed not the same. However, I mentioned it because the word "shell" is often used to refer to the place where you can enter commands. It happens to be that the terminal opens that shell, but a novice user may not directly relate it.
    – Lekensteyn
    Aug 12, 2012 at 9:30

A Terminal is a command interpreter. A Terminal is an entity that takes input from the user and deals with the computer rather than the user deal directly with the computer. If the user had to deal directly with the computer he would not get much done as the computer only understands strings of 1's and 0's


When a person drives a car, that person doesn't have to actually adjust every detail that goes along with making the engine run, or the electronic system controlling all of the engine timing and so on. The dashboard would also be considered part of the the Terminal since pertinent (Having logical precise relevance to the matter at hand) information relating to the user's involvement in operating the car is displayed there. In fact any part of the car that the user has control of during operation of the car would be considered part of the Terminal.

Terminal is a program that allows the user to use the computer without him having to deal directly with it. It is in a sense a protective shell that prevents the user and computer from coming into contact with one another.

How Do I Use It ? @ cas


Simply said, a Terminal is a CLI (Command Line Interface) to interact with programs in the computer.

In Ubuntu you can open a terminal:

  • by pressing Ctrl+Alt+T


  • by pressing the Super key, type "terminal" and then hit Enter.

You can use the terminal for various tasks, such as:

  • Installing, updating, and deleting software.
  • For power off, reboot, sleep...
  • Creating and removing files and folders.
  • Many more...

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