Quake Style Drop Down Terminal for Mac

Published in
3 min readMar 7, 2009


Update: Visor Terminal is now TotalTerminal. It’s a lot easier to configure so you can just download TotalTerminal and perform the steps below starting at 6.

The Visor Terminal, one of my most used hack-features. This guide helps you put your Mac Terminal to the zenith of usability and convenience.

[caption id=”attachment_11" align=”alignleft” width=”640" caption=”Visor Terminal”]

Visor Terminal


The drop-down Quake-style terminal window is extremely convenient to run commands without disrupting the current workflow. Unfortunately the default install is very messy. It needs an open terminal program running in the background which can’t be closed and takes up valuable Dock space.

Then comes a blog from David Zülke who solved the problem with a hack which essentially creates a second terminal program, links the visor extension to it and makes that second terminal always invisible and not appearing in the Dock by playing with the Info.plist file. The world was beautiful until I bought a new Macbook and tried to reinstall Visor but only to find out that his instructions are no longer hosted. So here are the instructions again for those who want a Perfect Visor. This is for version 1.5–2.2 which runs on Leopard — Snow Leopard.

  1. Install SIMBL
  2. This is not necessary but it’s a lot easier if you have XCode to use its .plist editor tool.
  3. Right-click the extracted “Visor” file, select “Show Package Contents” and double-click “Info.plist” in the “Contents” folder[1]. Go to Root, SIMBLTargetApplications, 0 and change BundleIdentifier to “com.apple.VisorTerminal”. Save and close. You can now install the bundle according to the Visor install instructions (i.e. move it to ~/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins or the “global” equivalent in /Library).
  4. Go to your Applications/Utilities folder and duplicate Terminal. Rename the copy to “VisorTerminal”, then right-click it and choose “Show Package Contents”, and double-click “Info.plist” in the “Contents” folder. Go to Root and change CFBundleIdentifier to “com.apple.VisorTerminal”. Save and close.
  5. Start VisorTerminal. Go to Terminal menu and click Visor Preferences. Customize it to your suiting.
  6. Make it run on start up. You can right click the VisorTerminal on Dock and choose “Open at Login”
  7. Make it invisible. Right-click the VisorTerminal, choose “Show Package contents” and double-click Info.plist in the Contents folder. Add a new Sibling inside the root element called LSUIElement, it must be of type “Number” and have the value “1″ (without the quotes, of course). Save and quit.
  8. Done and done! Now the Visor will start on startup and won’t show up anywhere until you press the hotkey. If you don’t like your previous preferences, you can’t right click or use menu anymore but pressing cmd-, will bring up the preferences window for the terminal

Currently, there’s a bug with SIMBL 0.97 that causes the application to stop using SIMBL when LSUIElement is set to 1. To solve this issue, use AppleScript with the following command:

tell application "VisorTerminal"
inject SIMBL into Snow Leopard
end tell

Then save the script as a .app in a desired location. Make this run at startup instead of VisorTerminal.

The next steps are optional but your default Darwin terminal prompt looks like shit. Here’s how to customize it.

  1. Press your hotkey or open Terminal
  2. Go to your home directory
  • cd ~
  1. You are there by default
  2. Change your profile file
  • mate .bash_profile
  1. TextMate is my favorite editor. If you don’t use it, use nano instead of mate
  2. Type
  • export PS1 = “ “
  1. And customize your prompt with the following keywords between the quotes
  • \d — Current date
  • \t — Current time
  • \h — Host name
  • \# — Command number
  • \u — User name
  • \W — Current working directory (ie: Desktop/)
  • \w — Current working directory, full path (ie: /Users/Admin/Desktop)
  1. ie.
  • export PS1=”\u@\h\w: “
  1. Save and restart your terminal