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Someone Finally Asks Why Ubuntu Has 3 Terminal Apps…

ubuntu terminal apps xterm
I’ve often wondered why Ubuntu ships with several different terminal apps installed by default.

It’s a minor little quirk, granted, and something few people will notice. But a query that has, from time to time, confused me.

Naturally I presume there to be some differences between GNOME Terminal, Xterm and UXTerm. But those differences are, to my end-user eyes at least, not especially self-evident.

A discussion has kicked off on the Ubuntu desktop mailing list that suggests I am not alone in questioning the value of including quite so many terminals.

Canonical’s Brian Quigley explains: “Xterm takes up two menu items (xterm and uxterm) and doesn’t provide any more functionality then gnome-terminal. In an installed setup, those two menu items make gnome-shell have 3 pages instead of 2 in my testing.”

I only ever use GNOME Terminal, which is the default Ubuntu terminal emulator, or a GNOME Terminal alternative that I go out and install for myself.

The official reason for including Xterm is to ensure there is a backup terminal available should GNOME Terminal have any issues. But, even assuming it does, is xterm really that much of a benefit when a virtual console is but a combo press of Ctrl + Alt + F2 away?

We don’t get backup apps for anything else!

Another supposed reason for the inclusion Xterm is to provide a “complete X env[ironment]”.

But, as Quigley notes in his email, with Wayland very much on the horizon, mightn’t it make more sense to pull in any critical X environment packages explicitly, rather than relying on a terminal emulator to do so?

It makes little appreciable difference whether Ubuntu 17.10 ships with 3 separate terminal entries in its launcher or not. But if there’s no compelling use case for them to be there by default, just as there’s no longer a compelling use case for Brasero or Empathy to ship out-of-the-box, a little clean-up wouldn’t hurt.

After all, those who want them can easily install them from Ubuntu Software.

Do you use Xterm or UXterm instead of GNOME Terminal? How would their removal affect you?