Best Terminal Alternatives for Your Mac

Discover the best Mac terminal alternatives for various user needs, from developers to sysadmins, featuring iTerm2, Hyper, Termius, and more.

By Abhishek Chandel
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Best Terminal Alternatives for Your Mac

Best Terminal Alternatives for Your Mac

For experienced users, the terminal is a powerful tool that provides direct access to their Mac's Unix command line. However, for many casual Mac users, the stark black-and-white text interface can be intimidating. Thankfully, there are several excellent terminal alternatives that make interacting with the command line much more user-friendly. In this post, we'll explore 6 of the best choices available.

1. iTerm2 - A Fully Loaded Terminal

iTerm2 is likely the most popular replacement for the default Mac terminal. As an open source app, it's completely free and loaded with useful features including:

  • Split panes - Arrange your sessions visually and work on multiple things at once.

  • Powerful search - Search through buffer contents, find paste history, or jump to a specific session.

  • Loads of appearance options - Change font, size, color scheme, transparency, and more.

  • And many other features for renaming tabs, notifications, autocomplete, and integrations with various Unix tools.

For developers or advanced terminal users, iTerm2 gives you all the customization you could need. It's perfect for coders and others who live on the command line.

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2. Hyper - A Terminal for Web Devs

Hyper is an elegant terminal built with web technologies like JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It uses a plugin architecture so anyone can write and share plugins to extend what the app can do. Some useful plugins include:

  • Syntax highlighting for code and markup.

  • Integration with source control like Git.

  • Custom themes and styles.

  • And tools for Markdown previews, password management, and more.

For web developers, Hyper provides a familiar environment with the customization of a local text editor like VS Code. It looks and feels a bit like working in the browser dev tools.

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3. Termius - Manage Remote Servers with Ease

Termius focuses on SSH and telnet management of remote servers and devices. It provides a clean graphical interface for organizing and connecting to remote machines. Some standout features include:

  • End-to-end encryption of traffic and data at rest.

  • Agent forwarding for secure tunnels between multiple machines.

  • Identity management for handling multiple digital identities.

  • Syncing between desktop and mobile apps.

For sysadmins or anyone who manages a fleet of remote servers, Termius makes it incredibly simple to keep machines organized and accessible from your Mac.

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4. Kitty - A Fast GPU-Based Terminal

Kitty highlights raw performance and speed in an accessible terminal. It utilizes GPU rendering to accelerate everything from text drawing to window management. Other performance features include:

  • Low latency key inputs.

  • Async I/O for background tasks.

  • Sandboxed tabs and sessions.

Despite the focus on speed, Kitty still supports the standard features like tabs, splits, scrolling, and mouse interactions. The result is a super-snappy terminal that should work well on any modern macOS machine.

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5. Alacritty - Terminal Performance Above All Else

Alacritty is another GPU-accelerated terminal focused solely on blazing-fast performance. It takes a minimalist approach, stripping away unneeded features to offer an incredibly responsive terminal optimized for speed.

Some of the performance optimizations in Alacritty include:

  • Hardware-accelerated rendering with OpenGL for incredibly fast screen drawing.

  • Extremely low latency input polling for snappy terminal response to keys.

  • Minimal CPU and memory usage overhead thanks to the GPU processing power.

Alacritty works great for any user who prioritizes speed above all else. Developers and coders who want quick command-line responses will appreciate Alacritty. The accelerated rendering also handles tasks like Vim or typing quickly without slowdowns.

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6. ShellFish - Make Bash Beautiful

ShellFish takes a different approach by enhancing the existing bash and zsh shells rather than replacing the terminal. It adds advanced autocomplete and syntax highlighting that makes working in these traditional shells much more pleasant:

  • Color-coded commands stand out from arguments.

  • Contextual autocomplete helps fill in arguments and flags.

  • Fish-style suggestions pop up as you type.

  • Errors display in red to quickly catch issues.

If you prefer bash or zsh over more modern shells, ShellFish gives you many of the visual benefits without having to migrate away from your favorite environment.

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While the default Mac terminal is capable, these alternatives all improve the experience in different ways. iTerm2 is perfect for those wanting extensive customizations. Web developers feel right at home in Hyper. Sysadmins can manage remote servers seamlessly with Termius. And ShellFish allows you to keep using tried and true shells like bash in a more modern way. No matter your needs, there is likely a terminal replacement to make interacting with the command line faster, easier, and much more pleasant.

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