Emacs: GUI Emacs vs Terminal Emacs

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

GUI allows several things that's impossible in terminal.

  1. GUI allows displaying images. [see Emacs: View Image File]
  2. GUI allows more possibilities of keybinding. For example, the ▤ Menu key, or Ctrl with Shift. Also, GUI emacs can distinguish Return vs 【Ctrl+m】. [see Emacs: How to Define Keys]
  3. GUI deals with font better, especially if you use a lot math symbols or Chinese. [see Emacs: Unicode Tutorial]
  4. GUI allows more colors. (it's better for programing language highlight and find/replace hilight.)
  5. GUI allows mouse. Sometimes it's nice to scroll or drag to resize split panes. Or, click link in emacs documentation such as reading info. [see Emacs: View Info Page]
  6. GUI allows control of multiple windows (“emacs frames”) more easily.

I can't really think of any real advantage of running emacs in terminal, except it is simpler. It works fine though. I used emacs in terminal exclusively from 1999 to 2005.

You can start emacs in terminal by emacs -nw.

See also: Why Run Shell in Emacs?

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