A terminal emulator is a program that emulates the functionalities of the traditional computer terminals. In simple words, unlike the classic terminal that performed functions using hardware, the terminal emulator executes the same tasks in software.
A terminal emulator enables a host computer to access a remote computer using a command-line or graphical interface.
Apart from accessing files on the other computer, the program also allows the host computer to run applications on the remote machine.
Moreover, the terminal emulator also enables file transfer between the host and the remote pc. Such communications between the two computers are made attainable using the cryptographic network protocol – Secure Shell (SSH).
The terminal in the graphical user interface is commonly known as ‘Terminal Window.’
Developers use terminal emulator clients to gain shell access to the computer. The text-mode interface provides programmers more control over all functions and expedites processes. Below we will discuss the best terminal emulators for Windows. There are many variants, and each of them has its pros and cons.
- 1 Top 15 Terminal Emulator for Windows
2 2. ZOC Terminal Emulator
- 2.1 3. ConEmu console emulator
- 2.2 4. Mintty console emulator for Cygwin
- 2.3 5. MobaXterm emulator for remote computing
- 2.4 6. Babun -a Cygwin Shell
- 2.5 7. PuTTY – Most popular terminal emulator
- 2.6 8. KiTTY
- 2.7 9. Xshell terminal emulator
- 2.8 10. ConsoleZ – an enhancement for Windows console
- 2.9 11. Console2 – best terminal emulators and command prompt for Windows
- 2.10 12 – z/Scope Terminal Emulator
- 2.11 13. Hyper – a cross-platform terminal emulator
- 2.12 14. FireCMD
- 2.13 15. Terminus – an open source windows terminal emulator
Top 15 Terminal Emulator for Windows
Windows operating system has always lacked an excellent command line interface, therefore, pushing programmers and system administrators to look for third-party alternatives that replicate Unix style consoles.
While it is possible to integrate ‘bash shell’ – a Unix shell, with Windows 10, developers still choose a more customizable emulator. Below we have listed the top 10 terminal emulators for Windows:
Cmder is one of the most popular portable terminal emulators available for Windows OS. The programs official website states that it was developed ‘out of pure frustration’ noting that there were no available alternatives in the market. The software package is written in C++ and Powershell.
The free and open source software is built on popular console emulator – ConEMu. Moreover, Cmder adds enhancements from Clink that offer bash-style completion. It also presents Unix capabilities to Windows by extending compatibility with PowerShell, MinTTY, myysgit and Cygwin.
- The portable version of the software allows programmers to run the emulator from a USB drive or Cloud without installing.
- Monokai color scheme – Cmder makes its appearance better than ConEmu by leveraging Monokai color scheme that allows customizable colors and transparency schemes.
- ConEmu coordinates perfectly with command line applications such as MinTTY, CMD and Powershell.
- Smoothly and efficiently works with the VS Code terminal.
- Cmder works slower than ConEmu.
- Specific commands have problems with non-Unicode characters.
- The portable version does not come with Unix commands; only the full version has that support.
2. ZOC Terminal Emulator
ZOC is one of the best terminal emulator and SSH client especially for programmers that want to access data on Unix machines from Windows. The software is not free but has impressive features for advanced users. It is a one-stop tool for developers as it integrates connectivity to text-based servers and remote machines.
One of its significant advantages is that it offers a tabbed interface, allowing developers to work on multiple terminal sessions simultaneously. The software package is fully customizable to match the personal style of developers.
ZOC Terminal’s bonus features include line graphics, and mouse support and keyboard remapping. Communicating with hosts using telnet and Secure Shell is easy.
- Supports dial-up connection – It can communicate to host and mainframes via modern dialing and direct serial connections.
- Automatic highlight feature – allows to search for text and highlight it.
- Easy navigation – Using a tabbed interface, developers can easily navigate to multiple sessions from the same window.
- The software package is robust and has impressive features, but the only drawback is that it isn’t free. ZOC Terminal comes with a tag of $79.99.
3. ConEmu console emulator
ConEmu is an open-source tabbed console emulator distinctively developed for Windows. The tool provides multiple windows and customizable Graphical User Interface (GUI) applications as a single window.
ConEmu is one of the oldest software when it comes to terminal emulators, but even so, the team behind it have continuously introduced new features over time. The software is popular among programmers as it provides deep customizations that include hotkeys, custom color palettes, and auto-hideable mode.
Moreover, ConEmu is compatible with many of the shells such as PowerShell, PuTTY and Cmder. The software is not the best for new users as it lacks several features such as remote connections.
- It is free, open-source and actively developed.
- It integrates with Explorer.
- Fully compatible with PuTTY, Cygwin, CMD and PowerShell.
- Multiple tab support – Users can have many shells and numerous instances of the same shell open simultaneously.
- Easy to customize most of the settings such as shortcuts, fonts, background image, and colors.
- The tool supports dynamic window resizing.
- It offers multiple tabs for consoles, viewers, panels, and editors.
- GUI applications can run on a ConEmu tab.
- ConEmu comes with in-built screenshot feature.
- The tool doesn’t include shell features such as tab completion and remote connections.
- Poor scrolling support – Scrolling navigates to blank space instead of text content.
- Unattractive default look.
4. Mintty console emulator for Cygwin
Mintty is an open-source console emulator for Cygwin – Unix-like functionality for Windows. As Cygwin natively runs on Windows OS, mintty does not need a display server. The software tool is perfect for programmers that predominantly use Cygwin for Windows shell. In fact, since 2011 mintty is Cygwin’s default terminal.
It offers a flexible user interface and is more attached to the Unix standards. The software is written in C language and gets its name ‘mintty’ for the projects minimalist approach. One of its key perks is that it provides a drag-and-drop feature, and supports copy and paste. But its main advantages over its counterparts is the xterm compatibility.
- Drag and Drop feature – mintty offers the drag and drop feature that saves time and eases the job for programmers.
- Xterm compatibility – mintty is compatible with a standard terminal emulator for the X Window System – Xterm.
- Smooth scrolling – As opposed to ConEmu which scrolls blank space, mouse scrolling on mintty software scrolls the content.
- Cygwin and MSYS support – As it is the native Windows program around Cygwin, it allows deep customizations such as resizable windows, background color, transparency, and font.
- It supports UTF-8 that enables encoding of all characters.
- No support for WSL.
- Typical windows applications perform poorly.
- No multiple tab support.
5. MobaXterm emulator for remote computing
MobaXterm is one of the best all-in-one application for remote computing. It is an ultimate toolbox – where it provides several network tools and an unmatchable amount of functions in a single window.
MobaXterm has two editions – Home and Professional. The home editions are free, and the professional comes with a whopping price of $69 per user. The professional version offers an unlimited number of sessions, tunnels, and macros. Moreover, it allows for more customization than the basic edition.
The software package is suitable for administrators, programmers, webmasters and everyone else who want to handle their remote tasks in merely and productively.
One of its major perks is that it integrates the number of server clients including SSH, RDP, telnet, SFTP, VNC, and rlogin. Additionally, it provides a set of Unix commands such as bash, grep, rsync and many more.
MobaXterm offers an intuitive user interface to ensure efficient access to remote servers via multiple networks.
- Automatic SFTP – Users are not required to play around with multiple apps as it is an all-in-one network application. For example, when a user connects to a remote server using SSH, the SFPT browser will automatically open so that users can edit remote files.
- It offers a password vault.
- Built-in remote file editor – users can easily edit remote files through SSH and SFTP.
- Integrates with WSL – It harmonizes perfectly with Windows Subsystem for Linux which is a compatible layer for running Linux binary files natively on Windows 10.
- It integrates with PuTTY in Windows.
- The software is not free and comes with an expensive price tag. It is worth for those that hope to use it professionally.
- Tabbed-mode limitation – if a user splits the screen then they have to navigate to a single screen before switching tabs.
6. Babun -a Cygwin Shell
Babu is a shell that is built on Cygwin – Unix-style environment on Windows. The software is entirely free and is often touted as “a Windows shall you will love!.” It brings zsh, oh-my-zsh – a community-driven framework for organizing Zsh configuration, to Windows.
The pre-configured Cygwin on Babun comes with many add-ons and needs only little to no setup. Moreover, it has a plugin-oriented architecture. Babun is perfect for developers that want to use more shell provisions as It comes with a package manager known as ‘pact.’
- It comes with Linux-like powerful package manager – Pact.
- Suitable for beginners and advanced users – As Babun comes with bash and zsh it offers the user the liberty to choose the shell they want to run.
- Cygwin compatibility – Programmers can execute Linux applications on Windows OS from the Linux-style interface.
- Not compatible with older Cygwin addons.
- Not actively developed or updated.
- Babun has no tab support.
7. PuTTY – Most popular terminal emulator
PuTTY is a free serial console, terminal emulator and the most popular SSH client. Written in C language and developed by Simon Tatham, PuTTY supports several network protocols such as Telnet, Secure copy protocol (SCP) rlogin, and SSH. It is one of the oldest terminal emulators that are still actively developed and updated.
Although initially developed for Windows OS, it is now ported to many operating systems. It does not support session tabs; several wrappers provide that function. Commonly, PuTTY is leveraged to connect routers and switches using SSH.
- Availability of Source Code – Programmers can tweak things as the entire source code is available.
- Trustworthy and reliable application- PuTTY has earned a name for its trust among developers
- Easy to setup and use.
- It supports a wide variety of protocols.
- Cross-platform compatibility.
- No tabbed interface.
- It does not save passwords.
- It is very tiresome to set up logging and tracing.
- Option for the global setting is missing; therefore, all settings for all connections have to be done individually.
The KiTTY program is an adaptation of PuTTY, as it is developed based on the same programming foundations of PuTTY. As such, it is easy for programmers to switch to KiTTY as it has the same UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) as PuTTY.
The application is solely programmed from Windows operating system. However, users can access Linux, and Unix machines. KiTTY is a better adaptation of PuTTY as it offers features that the famous terminal emulator PuTTY lacks.
- It is a cross-platform application.
- KiTTY offers several additional features such as – Automatic login script, SSH Handler, Session Filter, alternative command-line options, instant begin a duplicate session and WinSCP integration.
- Automatically reconnects used server upon restart.
- Multiple session launcher functionalities – the software tiles them side by side.
- Connect through Telnet and SSH
- Leverages Unicode for character compatibility.
- Stores login credentials.
- Some of its graphical features include – icon for each session, send to tray and transparency.
- Text editor and chat server integrated into the application.
- No centralized configuration – While KiTTY provides the function to open multiple sessions simultaneously, the settings of each session is stored separately. So if a programmer wants to change the settings familiar to all sessions, then they have executed it independently for each session.
9. Xshell terminal emulator
Xshell is a terminal emulator that mirrors the presence of virtual console. The software enables the computer to work as a terminal and make it easy for programmes to access data in a mainframe. Although it is designed for Windows, interacting with Linux servers is very easy. The program is marketed as the “Industry’s Most Powerful SSH Client“.
The software provides multiple drop-down tabs and therefore is a modular emulator. The user-friendly interface allows developers to manage various tasks efficiently. XShell is often known for its security and transparency as it leverages the MIT Kerberos authentication system.
As such, users should not worry about data loss. Moreover, the program has an automatic update feature that downloads and installs it when new updates are available. Xshell is an ideal choice of a terminal emulator for both beginners and experts.
- It supports multiple languages.
- Tabbed interface.
- It offers multiple session management, therefore, making it easy for developers to manage various sessions simultaneously.
- It has features such as channel monitoring and dynamic port forwarding.
- Automatic terminal locks feature and allow users to set a master password.
- It supports UTF-8 coding.
- Automates tasks using VBScript.
- Supports Python, JScript, and VBScript.
- Software reserves over 50 megabytes of drive space.
- Not cross-platform software.
- It is a paid software that comes with a price tag of $89/year.
- The free version allows opening only four tabs.
10. ConsoleZ – an enhancement for Windows console
ConsoleZ is an enhancement for Windows console that is not a shell akin to the above alternative terminal emulators. As such, it does not execute many of the shell features such as syntax coding and command history.
In simple terms, ConsoleZ is a better-looking front-end for the command. Moreover, there is no need to install as it will work along with the Windows command line. Users can view multiple consoles side by side by splitting the console horizontally or vertically.
While the inbuilt Windows console does not come with customization options, ConsolseZ acts as a perfect terminal emulator by making it more accessible and productive. Using ConsoleZ, programmers can modify the look by adding themes, tabs and many other visual tweaks to make the dull looking Windows Command Prompt more vibrant.
- Built-in search box eases the need to find commands.
- Multiple-tab handling features allow users to rename, close, clone and add new abs.
- Tab Grouping – Tabs can be grouped so that a common command can be executed on multiple sessions at the same time.
- Quake style console animation.
- Strict mono-space font rendering.
- Users can set the opacity of text background color.
- The application is small and portable.
- ConsoleZ is multilingual – supports Japanese, French, German, and Russian.
- It supports typographic ligatures.
- Users cannot open pre-created tabs. So programmers have to open everything manually each time they start the application.
11. Console2 – best terminal emulators and command prompt for Windows
Console2 is one of the best terminal emulators and famous command prompt alternative for Windows. The program requires installations and is filled with lots of features that the original Windows command prompt lacks.
Another additional feature is the Windows Powershell integrations, whereby users are not required to open a new window for Powershell exigencies. In addition to that, it also can run PuTTY and Cygwin. The program offers a lot of configuration options, suiting needs of every programmer. Pro
- The software is free and open source.
- Configurable hotkeys – The purpose of the hotkey is to trigger actions easily, and therefore Console2 allows programmers to configure hotkeys as per their requirements.
- Tabbed interface – Users can create tabs for separate instances, thus, permitting programmers to have both multiple shells and instances of that particular shell.
- Full-Screen mode is available.
- It integrates with Cygwin, PuTTY, Command Prompt and PowerShell.
- Users can configure color and fonts as per their choice.
- Dynamically resize the window.
- Inactive development team. The software was last updated in 2013.
- Many users face a glitch were stopping a running script closes the tab instead of showing the screen where users can input new command.
12 – z/Scope Terminal Emulator
z/Scope is one of the most robust and professional terminal emulators in the market. It is a modern multi-protocol, multi-host terminal emulation runs on almost all versions of the Windows operating system. The program uses a modern tabbed interface and provides access to multiple terminal-based applications simultaneously.
z/Scope also offers many tools to make it easy for users. The software has everything that a programmer needs to interact with hosts over SSL protocols. Its developers claim that the software significantly increases productivity by offering them a better emulation experience.
- It supports several host access such as IBM TN3270E / TN3270 emulation, SSH and FTP integrations.
- Full keyboard remapping.
- Tabbed interface for easy navigation.
- It has Windows and Web-based editions.
- The software is not free. But on a positive note, it comes at an affordable price of $46. Moreover, they provide a full year of support for free.
13. Hyper – a cross-platform terminal emulator
Hyper is another alternative terminal emulation that can be run on almost all versions of operating systems. Using Hyper, programmers can connect to multiple systems using SSH and dial-up modem.
Most commonly, developers use the software to establish a dial-up connection to other computers. Moreover, it is also leveraged to transfer data between networks such as host and remote servers.
- The software is fully customizable.
- Offers cross-platform and is made possible using Electron.
- The software is unstable.
- Electron uses a lot of resources.
- Development activity is very slow.
FireCMD is an advanced terminal emulator that facilitates users to run several tasks. One of its advantages is the user-friendly interface. Apart from its capabilities of functioning as a terminal emulator for Windows, it also has several in-built tools such as text editor, snapshot grabber, and Unix for Windows.
FireCMD will enable users to run 32 or 64-bit console programs. The program provides added functionality to change the font color, style, size, and even the background color. It supports the full-screen mode and dynamic resizing the window to meet every need of all developers.
Also, it also has the functionality of zoom in or zooms out and copy-paste actions. It supports a multi-tabbed environment that permits programmers to work on multiple sessions simultaneously. As such, users can run console applications such as Bash, Cygwin, CMD and PowerShell at the same time. It can also edit multiple text file concurrently.
- The software allows a free trial.
- Auto-completion of commands – It is one of the most user-friendly functions, i.e., it supports auto-completion complicated commands.
- HTML and CSS support.
- FireCMD comes with a price tag of $29.
15. Terminus – an open source windows terminal emulator
Terminus is an open source software that is designed to work on multiple operating systems including Windows. The software is polished and looks sophisticated at first glance.
Also, the program offers plenty of configurations options such as themes and fonts to match every need of developers. However, users will have to turn ligature support from setting manually.
- It is an open-source and cross-platform software.
- Fully customizable – it allows users to change color, window frame behavior, hotkeys, tab location, sie, and even cursor style.
- It integrates with CMD, PowerShell, and WSL.
- The software comes with several plugins.
- The software occupies over 80MB of drive space and uses a lot of resources.
- Programmers complain that some functions fail while running the software.
Above are the best 15 terminal emulators for Windows. There are hundreds of other products available in the market but the above mentioned are the best in business for now.