Installing URxvt on Debian

I’ve been a long time URxvt user, though I have slacked in my latest install of Debian and inadvertently have been using gnome-terminal for a lot longer than expected. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that terminal emulator but I value having lean and quick programs over more bulky alternatives. Gnome-terminal has recently been crashing for me when running with nvidia-xrun (a topic for another day) and so I decided to make the switch back to rxvt-unicode again!

I am using a Lenovo y50-70 laptop with Debian 10 (bullseye) installed.


Installing URxvt on Debian is as easy as it gets:

apt update
apt install urxvt

Once that is done, you should be able to run urxvt from your current terminal emulator or dyanmic menu.

If you want to quickly change over to using URxvt as your default terminal emulator just run:

update-alternatives --config x-terminal-emulator

This will prompt you with a choice of terminals, one of which should be URxvt…


This is where the bread and butter of URxvt comes to shine, customizability. In it’s default setting URxvt looks… okay.

All of the below edits will be taking place in ~/.Xresources.

The minimal set up you really need for URxvt to become a bit more coherent with your current system is:

URxvt.scrollstyle: plain
URxvt.thickness: 8
URxvt.externalBorder: 12
URxvt.cursorblink: true

These settings, in my opinion, make URxvt usable in most cases. But my font looks ugly! The default font URxvt uses (7x14) can be either wonderful or an eyesore depending on the kind of person you are. The command fc-match "font name" can be used to check if the font you want to use will be found by xft. Once you have a font you like and the corresponding xft string you should simply prepend this to your config:

URxvt.font: xft:Noto Sans:size=12

Replacing Noto Sans and size=12 to whatever you found suits you best!


Copy and paste!

A lot of people go out of their way to install extensions that faciliate the copying of the clipboard selection to URxvt, I will reccomend a different route. The X system uses multiple clipboards, one of them is the “Primary Selection” which is usually automatically filled as soon as you select any text (yes!) and can be pasted using the middle mouse button or shift+insert

If this doesn’t strike your fancy there are countless guides on setting up ctrl+c/ctrl+v functionality.

Disabling the ctrl+shift symbol menu:

URxvt.iso14755: false
URxvt.iso14755_52: false

Adding URL handling:

URxvt.urlLauncher: firefox
URxvt.underlineURLs: true
URxvt.urlButton: 1