mrxvt: Fast, light multitabbed terminal emulator

September 7th, 2008 edited by Tincho

Article submitted by Hugo Carrer.

As any other Debian user I love writing obscure commands on my terminal. I love too having so many open terminals that I have to come up with a special system to find the one where my favorite obscure command is running on.

To be able to enjoy this I need a very fast multitabbed terminal emulator: mrxvt.

Some of the things I like the most about mrxvt are for example,

  • It is very fast and light.
  • Fast pseudo-transparency.
  • Background with your favorite images.
  • Highly configurable keyboard shortcuts.
  • You can have the same command typed on every tab at the same time. This feature is disabled by default. you can enable it by editing /etc/mrxvt/mrxvtrc and uncommenting the ToggleBroadcast macro (around line 171). After that, Ctrl+Shift+d toggles input broadcasting to all tabs.
  • Automatic or “by-hand” tab labeling.
  • It is independent of your desktop (no KDE or GNOME needed).
  • Did I mention that is very fast and light?

After installing it would look something like this:

a just installed mrxvt

You can change this rather old fashioned look by copying the example config file from
And placing it in ~/.mrxvtrc

The file is full of comments helping you with the meaning of each option. Of course you can find all available options in the man page. Some useful shortcuts are Ctrl+Shift+t to open a new tab and Ctrl+Shift+m to show the menu.

So, after playing, trying and tweaking for a little while you can get a futuristic look for your terminals. Like this one of me sketching this article on an emacs session inside mrxvt (Note all those beautiful tabs up there)

mrxvt in action

Downsides? Well it depends on the kind of user,

  • No UTF-8 support.
  • It has no config menu.
  • You have to remember the shortcuts or read the config file every now and then.
  • And as with anything worth doing, to get things working the way you want to you’ll have to read through the man page and maybe scratch your head once or twice but it’ll work.

To sum up, it’s the perfect application to config during those boring rainy weekends and then show off to your friends at work.

mrxvt is available in Debian stable and in Ubuntu too.

Posted in Debian, Ubuntu |

10 Responses

  1. Andri M Says:

    I’d personally go with urxvt and GNU screen. You get Unicode, tabs and sessions that keep running after you exit your terminal.

  2. Pento Says:

    As I think it’s better to use VTE-based terminal emulators such as Terminal from XFCE. It has utf support, comfortable configuration and so on. Or GNU Screen.

  3. Al Says:

    The lack of UTF-8 support is a very bad thing…

  4. drowsy Says:

    urxvt -pe tabbed beats mrxvt hands down.

  5. TidusBlade Says:

    Nice review, but I’d rather stick to Yakuake, might not be as advanced or configurable as the others, but it’s awesome as a Terminal Emulator in my opinion.

  6. Andrew Sussex Says:

    I use the tabbed window manager, wmii from Everything is tabbed automatically. And you can arrange windows horizontally, vertically, stacked, divided, with multiple columns, multiple desktops, tagging, views…

    *Much* more sophisticated if you routinely use lots of windows - and especially for xterms. (I’m a programmer and it’s indispensable.) There’s no messing around manually resizing windows, either.

  7. ViT Says:

    may i get your config of mrxvt by screenshot?

  8. Oneida Says:

    A good site, good short contents of the good work. I have loved your site :,

  9. jazz Says:

    It’s a considerable upgrade coming from Eterm. I like the fact that I can put a pixmap (with geometry!) instead of having to make large-ish 1024×768 artwork all the time. UTF whiners: there’s other terminal-wannabees out there, with your initials on it. Turn off the features you don’t want; how spoiled can you get? In action:

  10. Asfand Yar Qazi Says:

    I’m thinking of making the switch to urxvt - however the lack of character shadows like mrxvt really bugs me - the text just doesn’t look as aesthetically pleasing any more.

    Hope the put that feature in soon.