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 www.informit.com/title/0672336243

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Many Linux veterans have enjoyed and use the

screen
command, which was designed to enable you to use one terminal to control several terminal sessions easily. Although
screen
has been a welcome and useful tool, a better one has appeared called
byobu
; it is an enhanced version of
screen
. 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

screen
,
byobu
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

byobu
is to try it yourself. So, open a console, type
byobu
, 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
top
and leave it running for the time being. Press F2. Your prompt clears again, leaving you able to type. Run the
uptime
command.

Pop quiz: What happened to the old terminal running

top
? It is still running, of course. You can press F3 to return to it. Press F4 to go back to your
uptime
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
byobu
:

  • 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

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

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