multixterm Man page

MULTIXTERM(1) General Commands Manual MULTIXTERM(1)


multixterm – drive multiple xterms separately or together


multixterm [ args ]


Multixterm creates multiple xterms that can be driven together or sepa‐

In its simplest form, multixterm is run with no arguments and commands
are interactively entered in the first entry field. Press return (or
click the “new xterm” button) to create a new xterm running that com‐

Keystrokes in the “stdin window” are redirected to all xterms started
by multixterm. xterms may be driven separately simply by focusing on

The stdin window must have the focus for keystrokes to be sent to the
xterms. When it has the focus, the color changes to aquamarine. As
characters are entered, the color changes to green for a second. This
provides feedback since characters are not echoed in the stdin window.

Typing in the stdin window while holding down the alt or meta keys
sends an escape character before the typed characters. This provides
support for programs such as emacs.


-xa The optional -xa argument indicates arguments to pass to

-xc The optional -xc argument indicates a command to be run in
each named xterm (see -xn). With no -xc argument, the com‐
mand is the current shell.

-xd The optional -xd argument indicates a directory to search
for files that will appear in the Files menu. By default,
the directory is: ~/lib/multixterm

-xf The optional -xf argument indicates a file to be read at
startup. See FILES below for more info.

-xn The optional -xn argument indicates a name for each xterm.
This name will also be substituted for any %n in the command
argument (see -xc).

-xv The optional -xv flag puts multixterm into a verbose mode
where it will describe some of the things it is doing inter‐
nally. The verbose output is not intended to be understand‐
able to anyone but the author.

Less common options may be changed by the startup file (see FILES

All the usual X and wish flags are supported (i.e., -display, -name).
There are so many of them that to avoid colliding and make them easy to
remember, all the multixterm flags begin with -x.

If any arguments do not match the flags above, the remainder of the
command line is made available for user processing. By default, the
remainder is used as a list of xterm names in the style of -xn. The
default behavior may be changed using the .multixtermrc file (see DOT
FILE below).



The following command line starts up two xterms using ssh to the hosts
bud and dexter.

multixterm -xc “ssh %n” bud dexter

Command files may be used to drive or initialize multixterm. The File
menu may be used to invoke other files. If files exist in the command
file directory (see -xd above), they will appear in the File menu.
Files may also be loaded by using File->Open. Any filename is accept‐
able but the File->Open browser defaults to files with a .mxt suffix.

Files are written in Tcl and may change any variables or invoke any
procedures. The primary variables of interest are ‘xtermCmd’ which
identifies the command (see -xc) and ‘xtermNames’ which is a list of
names (see -xn). The procedure xtermStartAll, starts xterms for each
name in the list. Other variables and procedures may be discovered by
examining multixterm itself.

The following file does the same thing as the earlier example command

# start two xterms connected to bud and dexter
set xtermCmd “ssh %n”
set xtermNames {bud dexter}

At startup, multixterm reads ~/.multixtermrc if present. This is simi‐
lar to the command files (see FILES above) except that .multixtermrc
may not call xtermStartAll. Instead it is called implicitly, similar
to the way that it is implicit in the command line use of -xn.

The following example .multixtermrc file makes every xterm run ssh to
the hosts named on the command line.

set xtermCmd “ssh %n”

Then multixterm could be called simply:

multixterm bud dexter

If any command-line argument does not match a multixterm flag, the
remainder of the command line is made available to .multixtermrc in the
argv variable. If argv is non-empty when .multixtermrc returns, it is
assigned to xtermNames unless xtermNames is non-empty in which case,
the content of argv is ignored.

Commands from multixterm are evaluated early in the initialization of
multixterm. Anything that must be done late in the initialization
(such as adding additional bindings to the user interface) may be done
by putting the commands inside a procedure called “initLate”.

Except as otherwise noted, the menus are self-explanatory. Some of the
menus have dashed lines as the first entry. Clicking on the dashed
lines will “tear off” the menus.

Aliases may be used to store lengthy command-line invocations. Command
files can be also be used to store such invocations as well as provid‐
ing a convenient way to share configurations.

Tcl is a general-purpose language. Thus multixterm command files can
be extremely flexible, such as loading hostnames from other programs or
files that may change from day-to-day. In addition, command files can
be used for other purposes. For example, command files may be used to
prepared common canned interaction sequences. For example, the command
to send the same string to all xterms is:

xtermSend “a particularly long string”

The File menu (torn-off) makes canned sequences particularly conve‐
nient. Interactions could also be bound to a mouse button, keystroke,
or added to a menu via the .multixtermrc file.

The following .multixtermrc causes tiny xterms to tile across and down
the screen. (You may have to adjust the parameters for your screen.)
This can be very helpful when dealing with large numbers of xterms.

set yPos 0
set xPos 0

trace variable xtermArgs r traceArgs

proc traceArgs {args} {
global xPos yPos
set ::xtermArgs “-geometry 80×12+$xPos+$yPos -font 6×10”
if {$xPos} {
set xPos 0
incr yPos 145
if {$yPos > 800} {set yPos 0}
} else {
set xPos 500

The xtermArgs variable in the code above is the variable corresponding
to the -xa argument.

xterms can be also be created directly. The following command file
creates three xterms overlapped horizontally:

set xPos 0
foreach name {bud dexter hotdog} {
set ::xtermArgs “-geometry 80×12+$xPos+0 -font 6×10”
set ::xtermNames $name
incr xPos 300



The following .multixtermrc shows an example of changing the default
handling of the arguments from hostnames to a filename containing host‐

set xtermNames [exec cat $argv]

The following is a variation, retrieving the host names from the yp

set xtermNames [exec ypcat $argv]

The following hardcodes two sets of hosts, so that you can call multix‐
term with either “cluster1” or “cluster2”:

switch $argv {
cluster1 {
set xtermNames “bud dexter”
cluster2 {
set xtermNames “frank hotdog weiner”

It is worth comparing multixterm to xkibitz. Multixterm connects a
separate process to each xterm. xkibitz connects the same process to
each xterm.

Multixterm provides no way to remotely control scrollbars, resize, and
most other window system related functions.

Because xterm has no mechanism for propagating size information to
external processes, particularly for character graphic applications
(e.g., vi, emacs), you may have to manually ensure that the spawned
process behind each xterm has the correct size. For example, if you
create or set the xterm to a size, you may have to send an explicit
stty command with the correct size to the spawned process(es). Alter‐
natively, you can add the correct size argument when an xterm is cre‐
ated (i.e., “-geometry 80×20”).

Multixterm can only control new xterms that multixterm itself has

As a convenience, the File menu shows a limited number of files. To
show all the files, use File->Open.

$DOTDIR/.multixtermrc initial command file
~/.multixtermrc fallback command file
~/lib/multixterm/ default command file directory


If multixterm is killed using an uncatchable kill, the xterms are not
killed. This appears to be a bug in xterm itself.

Send/expect sequences can be done in multixterm command files. How‐
ever, due to the richness of the possibilities, to document it properly
would take more time than the author has at present.

Requires Expect 5.36.0 or later.
Requires Tk 8.3.3 or later.

This man page describes version 1.8 of multixterm.

The latest version of multixterm is available from . If your version of Expect
and Tk are too old (see REQUIREMENTS above), download a new version of
Expect from

April 30, 2002


Don Libes

Multixterm is in the public domain; however the author would appreciate
acknowledgement if multixterm or parts of it or ideas from it are used.

16 August 2002 MULTIXTERM(1)