Quake-style terminal window [Linux FTW]

Updated: Aug 28 2012

Long ago (mid-90′s), there was a revolutionary 3-d first-person-shooter game called “Quake”, made by id Software, the same people that made DooM a few years before.

Quake had this really cool feature where you could press the ~ key at anytime during the game and a terminal window would drop down from the top of the screen. This terminal screen could be used for anything from chatting to changing maps and more. It was sweet.

Since then, there have been many attempts at replicating the functionality in both Mac and Linux environments, where it is still common to use a terminal window with some regularity.

One such software package, Guake, has become a personal favorite of mine. It’s very simple; no bells or whistles other than the ability to adjust the Opacity. My only beef with it was simply that the terminal would just pop up on the screen rather than drop down from the top. Totally superficial — but what’s the point of using an open-source OS if you can’t customize it to do exactly what you want?

Last night, I figured out how to do it. And it’s glorious (video demo after the jump).

Get Guake

For starters, you need to install Guake. Open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install guake

Once it’s installed, open a terminal and type:

guake &

Then close the terminal. Press F12 and the terminal window should pop up. If you’d like to make it more like Quake, click on “Preferences” then “Guake Preferences” and choose the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab. Click on “Toggle Guake Visibility” and press the ~ key. Click close. Test by pressing ~.

Get Compiz

Now, you will need to be using the Compiz compositing manager. Compiz requires that you have a relatively modern video card (5 years old or newer) and that you have it turned on. Ubuntu will automatically load it if your hardware supports it.

You’ll also need the CompizConfig Settings Manager, with the Plugins loaded.

All of these things can be loaded through Synaptic (I’m not sure they’re available in the Ubuntu Software Center). Click on “System” then “Administration” then “Synaptic Package Manager”. Search for “compiz” and install:

  • compiz
  • compizconfig-settings-manager
  • compiz-plugins
  • compiz-plugins-extra (Thanks, Pete!)

If the boxes next to each of those is NOT filled in, right-click each one and select “Mark for Installation.” A few other packages should auto-install with these.

Once it’s installed, click “Preferences” then “Appearance”. Choose the “Visual Effects” tab and select “Extra”. Provided you have a hardware graphics accelerator (most modern computers do) you should be good to go. I don’t think it needs to restart.

Configure the Visual Effects

Assuming Compiz is configured with the standard effects (and you haven’t been tinkering with them), showing the Guake terminal should make it kind of fade in quickly. Nice, but not cool enough.

Click on “Preferences” then “CompizConfig Settings Manager”. Click on “Effects”. Check the box next to “Animation Add-ons” (if that isn’t showing up, you need the Compiz Plugins), then check the box next to “Animations”.

Click on the word “Animation Add-ons” (the one with the paper airplane); This will take you to detailed configuration options for the additional effects. Scroll down to “Skewer”. If it is collapsed, click on the triangle next to the name so it points downward.

  1. Set “Skewer Direction” to “Up”
  2. Set “Tesselation Type” to “Rectangular”
  3. Set “Window Grid Width” to “1″ (slide it all the way to the left)
  4. Set “Window Grid Height” to “1″ (slide it all the way to the left)
  5. Leave “Thickness…” at “0″
  6. Leave “Rotation Angle” at “0″

Click “Back”, then click on “Animations” (the one with the genie lamp).

Click “New”, then:

  1. Choose “Skewer” for “Open Effect”
  2. Set “Duration” to “300″
  3. For “window match”, type: (class=Guake.py) & (title=Guake!)

It should now show up in the list. Click on it once to select it, then click “Up” until it’s at the very top. (It gets overridden by other effects otherwise).

UPDATE: You’ll also need to do this for “Close Effect” as well (Overlooked that in the original post, thanks Pete!)

Press the key to activate Guake (Either F12, ~ or some other key you’ve set it to). It should fade down from the top of the screen, just like Quake’s terminal. Check my video below!

If you’re feeling adventurous, explore the other options in Compiz Settings Manager — there’s some REALLY cool effects there. My favorite one is the rotating cube: