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I keep hearing that iTerm2 is much better than Terminal. I downloaded iTerm2 today and played around with it, but I couldn't see what is so much better about iTerm2. iTerm2 seemed just like Terminal.
What is the difference between iTerm2 and Terminal? Why do you use iTerm2 and not Terminal? Basically, convince me that I should switch to iTerm2.

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honestly, terminal has gotten much better from Leopard>SL>Lion. iTerm used to be required, now it is just a bit nice. I actually switched back to Terminal in Lion now that ANSI colors are fully supported. No more SIMBL! –  lemonginger Sep 15 '11 at 22:23
Press Cmd+Shift+D and learn. –  Fake Name Sep 16 '11 at 10:19
@Fake Awesome! But Terminal does that already. –  daviesgeek Sep 16 '11 at 19:38
Make sure you label this as iTerm2 a different development altogether. –  Slomojo Sep 20 '11 at 2:41
@slomojo I should change the name to iTerm2? –  daviesgeek Sep 20 '11 at 3:36

7 Answers 7

up vote 29 down vote accepted

There are several features listed on their features page.

Some of the features I like are:

  • Split pane view
  • Hotkey window for instant terminal anywhere
  • Search will highlight all found words (like in Chrome and Safari)
  • Mouseless copy
  • Instant replay (can "rewind" your session in case you forgot to note/copy something)
  • Paste history
  • Growl support for notification when a process completes
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I don't see why any professional user would use iTerm2. All this can be accomplished using GNU Screen as well as using a decent text editor like Emacs or VIM. –  darksky Jul 23 '12 at 8:16
@Darksky You are right, just because someone uses Emacs or VIM that totally makes them a "professional" :) –  pal4life Jul 30 '14 at 16:01
As of Yosemite, the built-in Terminal now includes highlighting of search results. –  Bill Nov 4 '14 at 12:13
I'm a professional Software Engineer and I use iTerm2 together with emacs. darksky's comment is totally uninformed and unnecessary. I just donated to the iTerm2 team. It's an awesome tool and nothing comes even close not even guake on linux. –  Achmed Durangi Mar 24 at 8:53

@joel's answer is good, but Terminal.app gained some exclusive features in Lion:

  • support for Lion's restore feature
  • support for system services - this means I have a system shortcut for “new terminal in this folder” without strange hacks.
  • support for system services means great automator integration
  • document proxy in the window and generally better D&D support
  • right click on a string to search in man pages or open its man page in a cool floating window. Really handy!

See: http://www.macosxautomation.com/lion/terminal.html

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256 colors, Background Color Erase (BCE), customizable ANSI colors, Full Screen, status indicators in the tabs and Dock icons, including live terminal displays in minimized windows. Oh, and, a much improved visual bell :-) –  Chris Page Sep 17 '11 at 1:48

I just love iTerm because it does have the auto-complete for commands.thats just awesome.

From the feature list for iTerm2's on its website:

Just type the start of any word that has ever appeared in your window and then Cmd-; will pop open a window with suggestions. The word you're looking for is usually on top of the list!

enter image description here

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So does Terminal. –  daviesgeek Sep 20 '11 at 3:35
Although autocompletion is a feature of bash and other shells (zsh has particularly awesome autocomplete) and not the Terminal app itself. iTerm2 also has a special autocompletion mode too ... iterm2.com/#/section/features/autocomplete –  Slomojo Sep 20 '11 at 3:47
@slomojo yes,the ⌘-; is pretty much cool. –  Aji Sep 20 '11 at 5:33
I have to add that, personally, I think the zsh completion is about the best I've used inside a shell / terminal. (Especially when used with oh-my-zsh - by the way...take note.) –  Slomojo Sep 20 '11 at 8:55
@slomojo I see now. (the picture explains it) –  daviesgeek Sep 21 '11 at 21:37

Besides the features already listed, iTerm2 is constantly improving, while Terminal receives minor updates every few years. Feature requests have a much better chance of being honored in iTerm2. There are some cool things coming in the next release that are not yet documented, but have a look through the recent release notes to see them:


Also, I'd note that there's some confusion about split panes in a comment in the OP. Terminal's split panes give you two views of the same window, while iTerm2's give you unlimited independent terminals in one tab.

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As always, if something is important to you, please file a detailed enhancement request or bug report at bugreport.apple.com . That's the best way to ensure that your voice is heard. Talking about it online is hit-or-miss. Though, Lion Terminal does have a number of enhancements and fixes partly due to feedback seen online. –  Chris Page Sep 17 '11 at 1:46
@ChrisPage you might want to add that you need to be a registered Apple Developer to be able to log on to that website. –  Wim Deblauwe Jun 1 '12 at 8:30
@WimDeblauwe: Yes, you need a free developer account to create a bug report. Also note that you can use apple.com/feedback/macosx.html without any sort of account. Having a (free) developer account means you can track your bug report’s status. –  Chris Page Jun 4 '12 at 22:26

iTerm supports opening windows in full screen by default, and there is an option to use custom full screen windows that don't have the animations for changing spaces and don't disable ⌘H.

It also has an incremental search banner instead of a find dialog. And you can select text by searching for the start and pressing tab to extend the selection by single words.

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The feature I chose iTerm for is being able to cut or copy by just selecting text and paste by just using the middle button

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I understand those are standard X11/Xterm behaviors, but they are not standard for Mac OS X applications. Other than being used to it, why are those significantly more convenient than the usual Copy/Paste commands? Note: Terminal has partial support for Middle-Click, which invokes the Paste Selection command. –  Chris Page Sep 17 '11 at 1:43
because you don't use the keyboard using these , alos less actions to do the copy and also you can copy from a window that you do not have to click to get the focus –  Mark Sep 19 '11 at 17:27

If you're a keen user of VIM then mouse mode in iTerm2 works properly - you can position the cursor and select text using the mouse (it kind of works in Terminal but it's buggy). Plus when you're running VIM (or other console based apps that use the 'alternate' screen (t_ti, t_te)) then the scrolling works properly too.

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Amazing! I've always wanted that feature on! :) It seems that it doesn't work on Terminal, why is that? like, :set mouse=a doesnt do anything which I guess is the point, iTerm2 is better :) –  Charlie Parker Jun 12 '14 at 17:38

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