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I am aware of Guake (Gnome), Yakuake (KDE) and so on, but this post is about using drop-down grid terminals using Terminator. Read on!

I used to love Yakuake - a drop-down terminal which will remind you of the Quake console - and used it for about an year but then I decided not to install any KDE libraries in Gnome so I switched to Guake. Guake is nice but you can't have multiple terminals in one window and lacks a lot of the customization that was available for Yakuake.

Terminator on the other hand supports multiple terminals in one window, has tabs support, you can save your own custom layouts, has a built-in "watch terminals for activity" option and supports many other customizations but you can't use it as a drop-down terminal, Quake-style. By default that is, because you can actually do this using the Compiz "Widget Layer" plugin.

Here is a video demonstrating how to configure Terminator to use the Widget Layer Compiz plugin and of course, see the actual Terminator using Widget Layer in action (the how-to result is displayed later on in the video, so watch it till the end):

(Watch it in HD!)

And here is the detailed info on how to do it:

1. Install Terminator

The latest Terminator version is available in the Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat official repositories. For older Ubuntu versions, install Terminator from its PPA:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome-terminator/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install terminator

2. Install CompizConfig Settings Manager and Extra plugins:
sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-fusion-plugins-extra

If you didn't have the "compiz-fusion-plugins-extra" package already installed, you may need to log out and log back in (according to Mikael Orrebo - see the comments).

3. Go to System > Preferences > CompizConfig Settings Manager, scroll down to the "Widget Layer" plugin and on the "Behavior" tab, under "Widget Windows", enter:

Then of course, enable the "Widget Layer" plugin.

4. Still under the "Widget Layer" settings, on the first tab ("General"), select the keyboard shortcut (you can select "F12", just like with Yakuake or Guake) to activate the Widget Layer and optionally a window corner to trigger it.

You can tweak some other stuff for the Widget Layer Compiz plugin: on the "Appearance" tab, you can set the "Background brightness" to 100% and then when you trigger the Terminator Widget Layer, there won't be a dark background around Terminator anymore; on the "Behavior" tab, if you uncheck the "End Widget Mode On Click", Terminator won't hide when you click outside its window anymore.

5. Launch Terminator (Applications > Accessories > Terminator), move it to the position where you want it to start, create horizontal / vertical terminals and also check whatever options you want Terminator to use when started (I've unchecked the "Window borders" option so my Terminator doesn't have window borders  for instance), then in the Terminator preferences, on the "Layouts" tab, click the "Add" button and enter a name for the layout you've just created. I've used "widgetlayer" for the layout name".

6. Close Terminator, press ALT + F2 and launch it using the following command:
terminator -b --layout=widgetlayer

Note that "widgetlayer" is the name I've used for my layout under step 5 - if you've used a different name, adjust the above command accordingly.

7. Now you'll have to add the above command to your startup applications so it launches Terminator with the new layout we've created, each time you log in. To do this, go to System > Preferences > Startup Applications, click "Add", under "Name" enter "Terminator" and under "Command", enter:
terminator -b --layout=widgetlayer

Again, replace "widgetlayer" with the name of the layout you've created in step 5.