How to Customize Konsole, the Default KDE Terminal Emulator

Ivana Isadora Devcic 01-06-2015

Here’s the cold, hard truth about Linux: the terminal is not going to become obsolete anytime soon, no matter how much you dislike it.


Beginner-friendly distributions like Ubuntu and Linux Mint Is Linux Mint 17 "Qiana" The Ubuntu Killer? The latest version of Linux Mint, the 17th release codenamed "Qiana", is out! It's a great alternative for people leaving Windows as well as those who just don't quite like Ubuntu. Read More will rarely (if ever) require you to open the terminal emulator, yet they still include it as one of the default applications. After all, the terminal is a constituent part of Linux history Penguin Origins: The History of Linux [Geek History] There's virtually no place you can go without being in contact with Linux - it powers everything from regular computers to the most powerful servers to our handheld mobile devices. Most people who aren't techies... Read More , and the concept of command-line utilities is woven into the Unix philosophy. Instead of resisting and avoiding it, why not embrace the terminal and learn how to use it?


If you’re ready to take that step, Konsole is a good starter tool. It’s the default terminal emulator on KDE and ships with every KDE distribution, but you can install it anywhere if you don’t mind the dependencies.

Konsole is a well-balanced application that lets users customize it through dialogs and menus. This is great for beginners who don’t want to edit configuration files just to change the text color, as is necessary with other, usually lightweight terminal emulators. At the same time, advanced users won’t feel slighted when using Konsole because nearly every aspect of the application can be controlled and modified. This guide will showcase the features that make Konsole powerful and teach you how to adapt them to your needs.

A Bit of Motivation

Before we get acquainted with Konsole, I’d like to motivate those who are still not sold on the idea of using the terminal.



Yes, I understand it might feel intimidating How to Get Over Your Fear of Failing at Linux Do you have questions about switching to the world of Linux? If you read this from start to finish, you'll have plenty of answers and tips to succeed at Linux. Read More if you’ve never used anything like it before. We’ve all been beginners at some point. Besides, the risk of breaking your Linux system with commands 9 Lethal Linux Commands You Should Never Run You should never run a Linux command unless you know exactly what it does. Here are some of the deadliest Linux commands that you'll, for the most part, want to avoid. Read More is real, especially if you use them without knowing what they do.

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Yes, the terminal might seem redundant and old-fashioned at first. Yes, you could probably use Linux for the rest of your life without ever touching it. Still, consider these points:


Convinced? Great. Let’s find out how to customize Konsole. Note that the screenshots and descriptions refer to the latest stable version of Konsole for KDE 4.1x. The application has been ported to Plasma 5 The Current State Of the New Linux Desktop Environment, Plasma 5 After years of polishing the 4.x series, KDE is once again leading the innovation race among Linux desktop environments with its latest product: Plasma 5. Read More , but it’s still plagued by annoying bugs, so I opted for the older version.

Profiles and Appearance

Profiles are Konsole’s most practical feature. They make it possible to set up as many separate configurations as you want and switch between them in one session, or even use more profiles at once, each in its own tab. You can create and edit profiles in the Settings > Manage Profiles dialog.


Every profile can start in a different directory and have a custom window size. Konsole opens the Bash shell by default, but you can run other shells (like zsh or fish) in their own profiles and tabs, or set up any other command or application to start when you load a profile. This configuration dialog contains various settings for Konsole behavior, so you can declare custom keybindings in the Keyboard tab and control mouseclick actions in the Mouse tab. We’ll return to other options in the next few sections.



The most interesting tab is Appearance. Konsole supports color schemes Solarized - A Crisp, Scientifically-Based Color Scheme For Your Apps If you spend your days in front of a computer monitor, color can be an important tool in the fight against fatigue and eye strain. Just about every text editor supports syntax coloring, and many... Read More , which you can create yourself or download for free. You can tweak background and font colors for optimal contrast, and choose the font type and size (Konsole detects and displays only monospaced fonts installed on your system). If you want, you can even set a background image for your terminal.


Apart from individual profile configuration, Konsole has a general settings dialog under Settings > Configure Konsole. Here you can choose whether to display tabs and where to put them, as well as change the look of Konsole’s window titlebar.



If you’re into meticulous tweaking, you’ll be happy to hear that Konsole lets you load a custom CSS file to modify the font, color, and size of tabs and the tab bar.

Tab Management

By now it’s obvious that Konsole supports tabs. There’s nothing unusual about it—tabbed browsing The Best Firefox Addons Firefox is famous for its extensions. But which addons are the most useful? Here are the ones we think are best, what they do, and where you can find them. Read More has become a de facto standard for web browsers, and desktop applications like text editors Advanced Linux Text Editors Compared: kate vs gedit Any Linux user will tell you that a good text editor is a vital component of a computer system, no matter if you're a new user or a seasoned pro. While using a Terminal text... Read More , file managers, and terminal emulators 5 Cool Apps to Make the Linux Terminal More Productive Read More have followed suit. In Konsole, you can rename and detach every tab if you click on it in the tab bar.


Detaching a tab closes it in the current Konsole window and opens it in a new one. This is helpful when you want to move an active application to another virtual desktop. To copy a tab into the current window, use the File > Clone Tab option. If you want an overview of several tabs at once, Konsole offers the Split View option in the View menu.


Split View will copy all opened tabs in horizontal or vertical containers, essentially creating a windows-within-a-window situation. You can select the same tab in every container, but scroll to different positions in each one, which is handy when you’re reading a long file. It’s important to remember that closing a tab in one view closes it in all active views. Konsole also supports Fullscreen Mode, which will cover the panel and all active windows once you press F11. It’s a quick way to hide the desktop!


If you often work with the same directories and find yourself opening the same files in Konsole tabs every day, it’s good to know that you can bookmark all opened tabs as a folder and load them all at once the next time you start Konsole. In a way, Konsole bookmarks replace the Save Session functionality How To Make The Most of Firefox's Session Manager Restoring browser sessions was a milestone in browser development. Meanwhile, all browsers offer this feature to some extent. Firefox allows you to restore previous windows and tabs, but it doesn't come with an elaborate session... Read More you might recall from your favorite web browser.

Working With Files and Commands

Konsole is a great companion to a file manager—particularly to Dolphin, KDE’s default—for several reasons. First, it has an option in the File menu that opens the file manager in the currently active directory. Second, you can drag-and-drop items from the file manager window into the Konsole window and get a context menu with a set of convenient actions to copy, open, and link files and folders.


If you want to monitor changes in a log or any other file, check the View menu and its Monitor for Activity/Silence options. Selecting this will allow Konsole to alert you via desktop notifications when something happens (or stops happening) in the tab for which you enabled the option. If you do your backups in the terminal, you can use this to get notified when they’re completed.


As with any other KDE application, you can choose the type of notifications for Konsole. You’ll find the dialog under Settings > Configure Notifications.


Aside from tracking the output of a command, Konsole can also save it as a text or HTML file, and print it to PDF or paper. Both options are in the File menu. You can control the scope of exported files by adjusting the size of the scrollback. It can be preset for each profile, or modified on-the-fly for every opened tab by right-clicking and choosing Adjust Scrollback from the context menu.


Sometimes Linux commands 9 Quirky Linux Commands You Need to Know (And Will Love) Make ASCII art, talk to your computer and play text adventures. Your Linux command line isn't just for work: it can be weirdly entertaining, if you know the right commands. Read More produce huge outputs, flashing several hundred lines of code across the screen before you manage to read them. To give you more control over the contents of your terminal window, Konsole lets you toggle Flow Control—an option to pause the output of a command by pressing a keyboard shortcut. Again, you can configure this feature for each Konsole profile.


More Tweaks, Tricks, and Getting Help

Konsole’s strength doesn’t end here. There are plenty more features and configuration options, both big and small, that you can use to turn Konsole into a perfectly personalized terminal emulator. If you love keyboard shortcuts, feel free to define your own, or just use the defaults. For example, Ctrl+mouse wheel will activate zoom, and holding Ctrl+Alt while highlighting text will automatically select columns if Konsole detects them in the output. There’s also the Search feature with support for regular expressions and case-sensitive keywords.

Advanced users can start Konsole with the --background-mode switch. It will run, but remain invisible and silent, and you can bring it to front by pressing Ctrl+Shift+F12. In case there’s a need to manually edit or backup Konsole profiles, they can be found as simple text files in the ~/.kde/share/apps/konsole/ folder.

You can discover more about Konsole at your own pace, as you gradually learn Linux commands, or you can just soak up all about it from the official help documentation. There’s an offline version that you can read directly in Konsole, but if you’d prefer a separate PDF file, you can download the Handbook. While preparing this article, I discovered that the Konsole Handbook was missing from the official KDE Documentation website, so I contacted Kurt Hindenburg, the developer of Konsole. He promptly replied and fixed the problem. Kudos to Kurt!

Now when you know that Konsole is maintained by such awesome people, there’s really no reason not to try it. Tell us about your experiences with Konsole in the comments. Already a fan of Konsole? Then feel free to share more tips and tricks with our readers.

Image Credits: Featured image, Human-Computer Interaction 96/365 via Flickr.

Related topics: KDE, Terminal.

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  1. Martin
    July 17, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    How can I get the time to appear on the command line so I know when I initiated a program - my jobs run for hours and I open several windows - thanks.

    • Sudarshan
      September 9, 2017 at 1:20 am

      use oh my zsh from github

  2. Anonymous
    June 4, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    For ubuntu I use guake. Very fast and handy. I recommend.

  3. Arpit Kharbanda
    June 4, 2015 at 10:03 am

    A really concise and stupendous article! Hats off to you Ivana! It really helped me in my research. Au Revoir!

  4. siriusdh77
    June 1, 2015 at 11:32 pm

    Thanks for such an informative article. I use Kubuntu and I had no idea the terminal could be tweaked in such a way. I saved this page to keep as a reference. Thank you.

  5. Ivana Isadora Devcic
    June 1, 2015 at 10:17 pm

    Thank you so much for the comment, Danny! My experience is actually similar to yours - I'm not some mad terminal wizard :), and I've also avoided using the terminal for a long time, for various reasons. I'm not using it much these days, either, but when I do, I love it because it's so fast and efficient. Whether it's backup scripts, email checking, or system cleanup and can really do amazing things with simple Bash scripts. And Konsole is a great choice for beginners because you don't have to spend too much time guessing and decyphering how to set it up. Everything is clearly laid out in customization dialogs that look just like any other dialogs in regular KDE apps. I wish you lots of fun and success in your experiments with the terminal, and I'm really glad you like the article. And remember: you don't have to learn *every* Linux command out there. Just figure out what you want to do and focus on that. Even the basics can get you a long way! :)

  6. Danny Strickland
    June 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Another nice article from you Ivana, very informative. As someone who grew up on DOS 1.0 and still did a lot of command line stuff well into the Windows error ( oops...era....Freudian Slip ? ) I did not get into Linux until a couple of years ago after being on Macs for the last decade. I have usually ignored any process that required me to go into terminal, particularly installing programs. My opinion now is if a programmer is too lazy to include an installer and/or wizard, your program is just not worth my time. I could do it, with some training/retraining in terminal syntax and usage, but my time is more valuable now and is taken up with many other useful things than to be hashing out multi-step install scripts via a terminal. That said, in terms of drilling down into the guts of my machine and to see in more detail the various paths and calls of a script is a useful thing that I should be more adept at. I will give these tips a go. At least it should take some of the discomfort out of using terminal and give me added impetus to become a Linux terminal guru.....or close enough for rock and roll. Thanks again !