32-bit vs 64-bit
    Annotations vs Decorators
    BigQuery vs Bigtable
    Block Storage vs File Storage vs Object Storage
    C vs C++
    Canvas vs SVG
    Constructor vs Init() vs Factory
    Containers vs Virtual Machines (VMs)
    DOM vs Virtual DOM vs Shadow DOM
    DQL vs DDL vs DCL vs DML
    Dagger vs Guice
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    GCP API Gateway vs Cloud Endpoint
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    Strong Consistency vs Eventual Consistency
    Subroutines vs Coroutines vs Generators
    Symlinks vs Hard Links
    TCP vs UDP
    Tensorflow vs PyTorch
    Terminal vs Shell
    Vi vs Vim vs gVim vs Neovim
    WAL vs rollback journal
    gtag vs Tag Manager
    stubs vs mocks vs fakes

Terminal vs Shell

Updated: 2022-02-12


  • Terminal: the "dumb" window frame that takes user input and shows result;
  • Shell: the software that takes input from the Terminal, executes commands, and sends results back to the Terminal.


Terminal is "dumb": it is a text-based environment that takes input and shows text as output, the actual computing work is done at the other end in a mainframe, or by a SHELL in a modern computer.

Teletypewriter (TTY) is the first kind of terminal. It uses a typewriter to take your input, and automatically type out the responses (instead of on a screen).

Later, a Terminal or a Console is referring to the physical device, which includes a screen and a keyboard.

Pseudo Terminals (PTY) are terminal emulators or software interfaces that emulate terminals. The "Terminal" we are talking in these days are most likely Pseudo Terminals.

Terminal Options:

  • is the default terminal on macOS.
  • iTerm2 is a replacement for Terminal on macOS.
  • xterm is the standard terminal emulator of the X Window System.
  • GNOME Terminal is the standard terminal emulator of the GNOME project.
  • Konsole is the terminal emulator that ships with KDE.
  • tmux and GNU Screen: Terminal multiplexers.
  • Windows Terminal and PuTTY: for Windows.


A shell takes user input from the terminal, executes commands, talks to Kernel if needed, and sends output back to the terminal for display.

Shell Options:

  • bash: the default Shell on most Linux and also on macOS.
  • bash alternatives: zsh, ksh, etc.
  • PowerShell: for Windows.