posted by Robbie Shade on 27 Jan 2011

iterm2 is an actively developed fork of the neglected iterm - a popular replacement for the built-in OSX It addresses some of and the original iterm’s shortcomings and introduces some new features which are pretty attractive. Download it here:

Fullscreen mode

Firstly it has a fullscreen mode activated with ⌘-<enter> (Cmd-Enter). This is great for distraction free coding - running a screen (or tmux) session in a fullscreen terminal works well. ⌘-<tab> to another application and iterm2 continues to run in fullscreen in the background, giving the effect of a permanent shell as a wallpaper.

Split panes

The shortcuts ⌘-d and ⌘-D split the current window in half - vertically or horizontally. You now have two shells side by side (or above each other) and these can be recursively subdivided if you wish. The dividers can be dragged to resize the split panes so you aren’t limited to 50-50 splits. To move between them you can use the mouse, or ⌥⌘-<arrow keys> (alt/option + cmd + arrow keys). Enable “Dim inactive split panes” to visually highlight which is the currently active pane.

Global shortcut to toggle appearance

You can assign a key combination to toggle the visibility of iterm2. I use <ctrl>-⌘-s. This is, I guess, equivalent to using the OSX hide command (⌘-h) followed by ⌘-<tab>ing back (or clicking the dock icon). However having a terminal appear instantly with a global shortcut is super useful and something I’ve come to rely on, especially coming from a Linux background.

Focus follows mouse

If you spawn multiple iterm2 windows (standard shortcut ⌘-n) then the “Focus follows mouse” option helps to alleviate some of the pain associated with OSX’s window management (there is a long discussion of why having system wide focus-follows-mouse is not possible over here). Focus-follows-mouse also works with split panes.


Like, iterm2 has tab support - ⌘-t to open a new tab, ⌘-w to close a tab, and the super-handy shortcut ⌘-1,2,3,... to switch to respective tabs. This is exactly the same behaviour as modern tabbed browsers and so shouldn’t pose much of a learning curve.


⌘-<enter> - toggle fullscreen
⌘-t - new tab
⌘-w - close tab
⌘-1 - switch to tab 1
⌘-2 - switch to tab 2
⌘-3 - switch to tab 3
⌘-d - split pane vertically
⌘-D - split pane horizontally
⌥⌘-<arrow keys> - move between split panes

In action

With split panes both vertically and horizontally, and the “Dim inactive panes” option enabled. “Tango Dark” colorscheme.