Working with Virtual Consoles

After logging in, you will be using an interactive command prompt known as a shell in the Linux text-based or console mode. While you are sitting at your command prompt, you can also use one or more virtual consoles or terminals. Virtual consoles allow you to log in to Linux multiple times. (Each login is called a session.) This can be useful if you are not using a graphical desktop, but want to use several interactive programs, such as a text editor and web browser, at the same time. To do so, after you log in, run a program and then jump to another login prompt, log in, and start another session. Linux supports 63 virtual consoles, but only the first 6 are configured for use. (You can use 7 if you do not run X11.) Here's how to use virtual Linux consoles:

1. Log in. You use the first virtual console, or vt1 by default.

2. Press F2. You should then see another login prompt. Log in again, and you are then using vt2, the second Linux console.

3. Press Alt+F1 to jump back to vt1.

4. Press Alt+F2 to jump back to vt2.

You can jump back and forth between sessions by using the Alt key plus the F key number of the desired session, such as F3, F4, F5, or F6.

One caveat when using virtual consoles is that there is a default limit on the available number (usually six) if an active X Window session is occupying vt7. To jump to a virtual console from an X session, press Ctrl+Alt+F2; you will be at vt2. You can then jump back to your X session from the text console by pressing Alt+F7 (to go to vt7, in use by X). You should also be careful to save any work in progress before you exit each session and to log out of each session when finished. If you do not, you could leave an open login and shell prompt available at the keyboard to anyone who walks by!

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