iTerm2 has been a mandatory install for me since switching back to OS X a few years ago. At that time it was superior to Terminal for my usage. Recently I asked myself, “what value does iTerm2 add can’t be accomplished with Terminal? Turns out, not enough to keep using iTerm2.

I use the command-line for as much as possible. I use vim/nvim for development, and prefer the CLI to GUI apps for just about everything. The main reason I started to use iTerm2 was because of the split panes. I’ve since moved to using tmux so splits are no longer an issue. If you prefer splits native to the app, iTerm2’s splits are still more robust than in Terminal.

iTerm2 is introducing a ton of new features in version 3, which I was running the beta for. The most captivating for me was the ability to resize without snapping to the character grid. If you’re a Spectacle user, you may have run into the issue where terminal apps end up with a gap when positions. This upcoming iTerm2 setting eliminates the gap. It’s just aesthetics though, so I can live without it. In fact, I’ve already lived without it for a while as I only started to run the beta a few months ago.

Most of the other new features, like being able to view images inside of iTerm2 feel more like novelty to me. If nothing else, they are features that will only work on your local system and not on a remote box. I’d much rather strengthen my command-line skills than introduce codependencies with my terminal application.

So if there are no features that compel me to continue using iTerm2, what about the performance aspect of it? I remember a while back reading that iTerm2 was actually faster than Terminal. I’m either remembering that wrong or the latest beta version doesn’t perform as well as it should. I figured the best way to check performance would be to run time tree / and see what happens.

The results were pretty interesting. Terminal completed the task in 2:39 compared to iTerm2’s 3:56. I ran it a few times with comparable results. time reported that Terminal used more CPU though. My unscientific monitoring of Activity Monitor told a different story. Just eyeballing, Terminal used 50% CPU and 500MB of memory to iTerm2’s 100% CPU and over 2GB of memory.

That was enough for me to consider Terminal as my new terminal application.

I can hear you now, “but the Terminal icon sucks ass compared to iTerm2’s!” You’re right, it does. It also doesn’t take much effort to customize the icon for Terminal to whatever you want. That includes using iTerm2’s icon if so desired. Again, just another aesthetic thing that I can deal with.

As per usual, this doesn’t mean that I won’t be back on iTerm2 in the future. But for the moment, I am enjoying my time in Terminal.





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