Difference Between XTerm and Terminal (With Table)

Terminal and XTerm are both terminal emulators commonly found in UNIX-based systems running the X Window System. Emulators allow users to access programs that were developed primarily to communicate with other types of terminals. Emulators reproduce the functionality of traditional computer terminals. Even though they are both emulators and have some similarities, they differ significantly in many ways. 

XTerm vs Terminal 

The main difference between XTerm and Terminal is that they have different process management. On the same display, multiple instances of XTerm can run simultaneously, meaning each window corresponds to a separate process. A single shell or function can access all of them independently. Alternatively, Terminal controls only one session, which means that a controlling terminal will run each session individually as its child process. 

Linux systems running X Windows System use XTerm as their default terminal emulator. The X11 environment and an XTerm window can be launched from the Terminal window by typing XTerm and hitting enter. GNOME, however, does not install XTerm by default. Unlike Terminal, XTerm can be used simultaneously by multiple users. 

Users can communicate with a computer through the Terminal, just as they can with a written word. Linux’s Terminal is like Windows’ Command Prompt. Users have access to the command-line interface through one of Linux’s most powerful features. The terminal emulator is installed by default with the Linux operating system. 

Comparison Table Between XTerm and Terminal 

 Parameters of Comparison   XTerm   Terminal  
 Support    It supports by default the Primary buffer It supports both Primary buffer and Clipboard buffer.  
 Access   It can be accessed by typing XTerm in the terminal window. It will show the X11 environment and an XTerm window.   It can be accessed by holding the CTRL + Alt + T keys at the same time. 
 Process Management   It allows multiple instances to run concurrently in the same display.   Only one session at a time. Each session will, however, run separately. 
 Emulation   Default terminal emulation for Linux systems running X Windows System.   Default terminal emulator for Linux and UNIX based systems. 
 Use    Several users can access it concurrently.   Not more than one user can use it at the same time.  

What is XTerm? 

Linux systems running X Windows System use XTerm as their default terminal emulator. The X11 environment and an XTerm window can be launched from the Terminal window by typing XTerm and hitting enter. Multiple instances of XTerm can run simultaneously, meaning each window corresponds to a separate process. A single shell or function can access all of them independently.  

GNOME, however, does not install XTerm by default. XTerm must be launched from another terminal emulator, such as Terminal, before you can install it. As well as creating your desktop launcher, you can open an XTerm window directly from your desktop. Unlike Terminal, XTerm can be concurrently used by multiple users.   

The default emulation only copies and pastes from the clipboard. The default configuration does not make use of it. In Xterm, the PRIMARY buffer is the only buffer supported by default, and it only receives input when the user highlights text with the mouse. The highlighted text is copied into the same window once the user presses the middle mouse button. 

What is Terminal? 

Users can communicate with a computer through the Terminal, just as they can with a written word. Linux’s Terminal is like Windows’ Command Prompt. Users have access to the command-line interface through one of Linux’s most powerful features. Additionally, it controls only one session, which means that a controlling terminal will run each session individually as its child process.  

As its name suggests, Terminal is the default terminal emulator of the Linux desktop environment. The Terminal is also the default terminal emulator for Ubuntu. There are various methods of accessing the Terminal in each desktop environment. The simplest way to access it is by holding the Ctrl + Alt +T keys concurrently in the same display.  

The default emulator supports both Primary and Clipboard buffer, and everything you copy or cut will be stored in the clipboard. It will further read it from the clipboard when the user pastes the text. No selections are automatically sent to the Terminal. When the text gets copied, it will initially be saved to a place called the ‘pasteboard’. 

Main Differences Between XTerm and Terminal 

  1. The XTerm primarily supports by default the Primary buffer. On the other hand, Terminal supports both Primary buffer and Clipboard buffer. 
  2. The former can be accessed by typing xterm in the terminal window. It will show the X11 environment and an XTerm window. On the other hand, the Terminal can easily be accessed by holding the CTRL + Alt + T keys at the same time. 
  3. Multiple instances of XTerm can run concurrently, meaning each window corresponds to a separate process. On the other hand, the latter controls only one session, which means that a controlling terminal will run each session individually as its child process. 
  4. Default terminal emulation for Linux systems running X Windows System is the XTerm. On the other hand, the Default terminal emulator for Linux and UNIX based systems is the Terminal. 
  5. XTerm allows several users can access it concurrently. On the other hand, not more than one user can use Terminal at the same time.  

Conclusion 

Terminal and XTerm are both terminal emulators commonly found in UNIX-based systems running the X Window System. Emulators allow users to access programs that were developed primarily to communicate with other types of terminals. Emulators reproduce the functionality of traditional computer terminals. Even though they are both emulators and have some similarities, they differ significantly in many ways. 

The default emulation of XTerm only copies and pastes from the clipboard. The default configuration does not make use of it. In it, the PRIMARY buffer is the only buffer supported by default, and it only receives input when the user highlights text with the mouse. Unlike Terminal, XTerm can be concurrently used by multiple users. 

As its name suggests, Terminal is the default terminal emulator of the Linux desktop environment. The Terminal is also the default terminal emulator for Ubuntu. There are various methods of accessing the Terminal in each desktop environment. Additionally, it controls only one session, which means that a controlling terminal will run each session individually as its child process. 

References 

  1. https://www.usenix.org/conference/atc12/technical-sessions/presentation/winstein 
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128204887000359 

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