Tools of the Trade: iTerm--Faster, with Safari-like tabs

by Rob Orsini

The other day, my PowerBook's drive croaked and I was given a loaner machine (one of Tim's old ones; keys worn down, no battery, etc.). Normally I use Panther at work but this loaner came with Tiger.

The first thing I noticed was how slow iTerm (version 0.8.2) runs under Tiger. This is pretty much a show-stopper in my world. I guess I should explain why. For me, the idea of going back to a terminal without tabs would be like using Firefox with a new window for each page!

I confirmed the slowness with other developers at work using it and Tiger. They all had various solutions, including just using a dozen windows instead. I started digging into the iTerm project to see if development was still active. I hadn't noticed much action since the release of 0.8.2. This was Monday, and the very next day I saw this on the iTerm project page (

New Look 9/12/2006

We are experimenting with a new tab control (PSMTabBarControl) that can mimic Safari-like tabs. Download the binary build from the latest CVS and check it out.

It certainly looks like these guys (Fabian and Ujwal) aren't bored with the project just yet. I grabbed the latest source from CVS to have a look. You should do the same and help them test it. Download the project source with this:

cvs -z3 co -P iTerm

or just grab the binary build from the latest CVS.

I'm running it now and the result is good: I appears the memory leaks are cleaned up and I can fly around vim and the shell like I own the place. Also, check out the new Safari-like tabs:

Fabian and Ujwal: Thanks so much for continued development of this great tool.


2006-09-13 21:48:08
Yo, that's hard to configure and really buggy. I'll pass. Opening new tabs you can't close them with the mouse, if you go full screen and create new tabs it's iffy as to wether or not it'll even draw them. It's a nice idea but I think the real solution is that get tabs, everything else sucks in comparison. Till then I"m just fine switching windows.
Rob Orsini
2006-09-13 22:18:25
@anonymous: It's the latest CVS build; you should expect some bugs. However, the more people who participate, the faster it becomes stable. That's the Open Source process.
2006-09-14 05:10:18
Are thhere something simular for Windows?
Alpha Chen
2006-09-14 07:12:00
Or you could run screen in a Terminal? Unless you want tabs of screens, which is what one of my friends likes to do.
Stephen Caudill
2006-09-14 07:47:09
Yay! Thanks for pointing to this, iTerm and TextMate make my every day a joy and having iTerm be a bit snappier means a bit more joy for me :)

2006-09-14 08:18:34
@Andreas: It looks like SecureCRT has tabs but it's not a free tool. If I was using Windows full-time, I'd probably spring for it. See its tabs here:

@Alpha Chen: I did play with screen a little in this way. I use screen a lot on my servers and I assumed using it locally as well would get messy. I'd love to be corrected about this. Here's some .screenrc goodies I was working with:

2006-09-14 08:40:59
I agree. Too hard to configure. Bad usability is unforgivable in such a basic tool. And somehow the fonts look "fuzzy" to me, even though I chose the same font I use in Terminal. Bad to for me.
Olaf Klein
2006-09-14 12:49:03
I have given up on iterm on my intel imac, because it crashes reproducible when resizing the window. After re-open (at crash-report window) the ssh-keychain is not working with that instance of iterm. I have to close it and open it from scratch.
It's a pitty, because i really like that tool.

Is there anyone with same problems or even with a solution?

Steve Mallett
2006-09-15 15:49:52
What's funny about this for me is that I used to use iTerm all the time when I didn't have a 19" LCD hooked up to my iBook. Now that I have my MacBook hooked up to the big real estate I never even thought of iTerm.
Rob Orsini
2006-09-16 08:36:10
Here's a snip from the latest changelog:

2006-9-15 fabian

* Fixed the close button not working bug.
* Fixed the wrong tab location after resizing bug.
* Added support for dragging a tab outside of a window to create a new window.
* Now allows tab size to be changed dynamically.

2006-9-14 fabian

* Partly fixed the window resize bug. Now the cursor will be at the location. But the frame size isn't entirely correct under all conditions yet.


Rob Orsini
2006-09-16 08:51:39
Please keep testing the latest builds and report issues you find, here: