Linux tip: Using multiple terminals with byobu

Credit: flickr/rolenzo

Move over screen, a better terminal multiplexer is here.

This excerpt is from the book, Ubuntu Unleashed: 2013 Edition by Matthew Helmke, published by Pearson/SAMS, Dec 2012, ISBN 0672336243; copyright 2013 by Pearson Education, Inc. For more info please visit

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Many Linux veterans have enjoyed and use the

command, which was designed to enable you to use one terminal to control several terminal sessions easily. Although
has been a welcome and useful tool, a better one has appeared called
; it is an enhanced version of
. Byobu is a Japanese term for decorative, multipanel, vertically folding screens that are often used as room dividers.

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Picture this scene: You connect to a server via Secure Shell (SSH) and are working at the remote shell. You need to open another shell window so you can have the two running side by side; perhaps you want the output from top in one window while typing in another. What do you do? Most people would open another SSH connection, but that is both wasteful and unnecessary. Like

is a terminal multiplexer, which is a fancy term for a program that enables you to run multiple terminals inside one terminal.

The best way to learn

is to try it yourself. So, open a console, type
, and then press Enter. Your display blinks momentarily and is then replaced with a new console with new information in a panel at the bottom. Now, do something with that terminal. Run
and leave it running for the time being. Press F2. Your prompt clears again, leaving you able to type. Run the

Pop quiz: What happened to the old terminal running

? It is still running, of course. You can press F3 to return to it. Press F4 to go back to your
terminal. While you are viewing other terminals, the commands in the other terminals carry on running as normal so you can multitask. Here are some of the basic commands in

  • F2—Create a new window

  • F3—Go to the previous window

  • F4—Go to the next window

  • F9—Open the Byobu menu for help and configuration

To close a terminal within

, simply log out of it normally using
or Ctrl+D. When you exit the last terminal session that is open in
, the program closes as well and drops you to the regular terminal session you used to start

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