Terminal is a great application for the occasional user of the Mac’s command line; it’s clean, fast, and always there. But many system administrators, developers, and others who work with the command line daily find that Terminal isn’t really what they’re used to, mainly because it’s missing features commonly found in Linux terminal emulators, like tabbed session windows and advanced profile support. IT pros looking for these timesaving features on the Mac, then, have come to rely on iTerm, the open source (GPL) terminal emulator that has recently received several much-anticipated updates
In fact, there was some concern about the state of the iTerm project as updates were slow in coming over the last couple of years. Still technically in beta, iTerm has had its share of bugs and stability issues. The thought that these might not be fixed concerned many loyal users, some of whom are able to use the Mac to do their work only because of iTerm. However, the days of sporadic releases appear to be over. In the last two months alone, iTerm’s hardworking developers released three updates (the latest being version 0.9.3), each with significant feature additions, bug fixes, and UI improvements.
For example, one common complaint of iTerm has been its text redraw speed, especially when compared to Terminal. The new releases address this, providing a “Display Refreshing Rate” slider that allows fine tuning of redraw speed against CPU usage. With this set at its default speed (in the middle), iTerm appears just as fast as Terminal at paging through a document in
vi, for example, and consumes roughly the same amount of CPU. With this setting cranked up, iTerm zooms through the pages, and handily beats Terminal. And even at the “fastest” setting, the CPU hit has not been much of a problem for me, rarely surpassing 30% on my Core Duo MacBook Pro (iTerm is Universal Binary).
Other recent enhancements to iTerm include terminfo support, an Execute field in the toolbar, macro support in profile connection strings, and Growl support. Check the version history for full details, but it looks like iTerm is back, and it’s better than ever.