Simplifying and improving standard commands


rsync (Figure 7) was originally written for transferring files remotely over SSH. However, for many users, its speed and versatility makes rsync well-suited for local file copying as well, functioning as a replacement for scp and cp. Part of its appeal is its wide breadth of options, but much of its appeal is its delta transfer – that is, its ability to simplify a transfer by copying only files whose attributes or sizes have changed. This feature makes rsync useful for updating backups as well.

Figure 7: rsync is as useful for copying local files as it is for remote ones.

rsync is powerful by itself, but it becomes even more powerful when used via Unison, a front end that makes its options easier to navigate.


The terminals used to enter these commands and others like them have changed little over the history of Linux. Recently, though, the virtual terminal has also been updated. The most comprehensive of these efforts is Tilix, which is written in GTK3+.

Tilix (Figure 8) is especially ideal for those who run several virtual terminals at the same time. It not only provides an index pane or tabs for easy navigation, but also the horizontal or vertical splitting of the current window.

Figure 8: Tilix is a sophisticated virtual terminal.

Once multiple terminals are started, they can be synced, set to read-only, password-protected, and given bookmarks and hyperlinks. Notifications can be set to signal the end of a process, and triggers to start a process. One especially useful feature is a paste dialog to streamline copying.

None of these features is unique in itself, but their combination transforms the terminal and makes standard terminals seem stodgy and old-fashioned. Like the commands listed above, Tilix can make you feel that you are using a thoroughly modern tool and wonder how you ever got along without it.

The Author

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist and a freelance writer and editor specializing in free and open source software. In addition to his writing projects, he also teaches live and e-learning courses. In his spare time, Bruce writes about Northwest coast art. You can read more of his work at

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