What are the linux virtual consoles?

After the boot menu, linux boots and shows text the first console. In the 90s, the consoles were in text mode but nowadays they are in graphical mode. A linux virtual console is like a full screen terminal.

To access console 3, press: ctrl+alt+F3

On debian buster, ctrl+alt+F1 and F2 are the graphical user interface and the consoles are on ctrl+alt+F3 to F6.

w3m is terminal web browser able to display images on web pages in the consoles. A graphical alternative to w3m running in the framebuffer is netsurf, to learn how to install netsurf in debian buster follow the instructions in this post.

The consoles are able to display text, images and millions of colors.

Other keys for switching console:

  • WIN + Arrow left/right: previous/next console
  • ALT + Fn: Switch to console n
  • WIN + Fn: Switch to console n

Other keys:

  • SHIFT + Page up/Page Down: Scroll up or down
  • ALT(GR) + Printscreen: Switch to last console
  • CTRL + ALT + DEL: Reboot
  • ALT + Printscreen + K: logout from console
  • CTRL + .: Compose, in debian the configuration are in /etc/console-setup/*.inc

In tmux, pane resizing doesn't work unsing the keys CTRL + b + CTRL + ARROWS, use the tmux command prompt instead:

CTRL + b + :
resize-pane -R 10

This command resizes current pane to the right by 10 columns

I open photos with fbi and pdfs with fbgs:

fbi IMG_0484.JPG
fbgs -xxl file.pdf

For watching video in the linux console, I use mplayer with the framebuffer video output:

mplayer -vo fbdev2 video_file.mp4


To change to the cursor to plain rectangle, run this command:

sudo echo 0 > /sys/module/vt/parameters/cur_default


The mouse is handled with the gpm packages:

sudo apt-get install gpm

Sometimes gpm stops working, so I restart it with:

/etc/init.d/gpm restart


I use setvtrgb program to setup the console 16 color palette.

I create the file linuxConsoleColor.txt which correspond to the tango color theme in gnome-terminal:

  • Line 1: red components
  • Line 2: green components
  • Line 3: blue components

Then run the command:

setvtrgb linuxConsoleColor.txt

Set font

setfont /usr/share/consolefonts/Uni2-TerminusBold20x10.psf.gz

For permanent changes, use setupcon to change the values in /etc/default/console-setup



setterm -blank 10

to enable screensaver after 10 minutes

Boot to console

sudo systemctl set-default multi-user.target

Undo boot to console:

sudo systemctl set-default graphical.target