There are couple of questions that without the shell tag are incorrectly tagged and power users might get frustrated because of this:

I'm sure there are more out there. I haven't found the exact reasons why and where merged (the later happened even though the consensus was not to merge terminal).

  • shell and terminal are both synonyms to command-line
    – guntbert
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 17:20
  • @guntbert I know, I want to revert that back ;)
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 17:58
  • Also worth mentioning, there is a shell-scripting tag. I'm not sure if it merits being part of this discussion.
    – Oli Mod
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 17:53
  • @Oli yeah, but that was created (I hope) to make a distinction between scripting languages (that use scripts) and shell based scripts.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 23:18

3 Answers 3


I'm not yet convinced. I'm familiar with what each of the three terms mean but I'm struggling to see why they should all exist as separate tags here.

  • What does shell (or cli-shell shudder) add that command-line doesn't already cover?
  • If it adds anything, wouldn't the actual shell tags add even more? (eg: bash, ksh, zsh, etc)
  • And why does terminal need its own tag at all? It's used synonymously with command-line by a very many people. It's possible the most worthwhile synonym we have in the system.

They're all pretty generic and they overlap huge amounts. I think in their case it's much more useful to have one tag to describe that we're talking about the command line and anything else be specific to the problem.

And to agree with Marco, "shell" is and has been super-generic term for "interface" for a very long time. I'll concede it's more popularly talked about when describing the command line these days... But that's not its only use. And that's the problem with shell/terminal/command-line.

I don't disagree with Gilles's 2010 opinion (the three words all technically mean disparate things), but people don't use tags based on their dictionary definitions, they use them how they've always used them. And in the real world, terminal, shell, cli and command-line all mean roughly the same thing. Like it or not, they are synonymous to most of our users.

To separate these three out means one thing for the future of posts about the command line: really crappy tagging. Some posts will be terminal, some will be command-line and shell... It's just generating a metric butt-tonne of review. At least with the way things are, we have one tag that covers all of that and people can add detail through further, more specific tags.

  • But Oli, is our work, the most knowledgeable users, to teach new users the differences between one and other. I think we could ask a question here about the differences between shell, command line and terminal and then add the most accurate definitions to our tags so users will know which tags apply to their problems. Practical questions an user could ask with different tags:
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 18:04
  • How to change my background using the command line (he's asking for non-GUI based solutions)? How to change my default terminal (he doesn't care if he needs to use the GUI or the terminal to do it)? Changing my shell to tcsh (IMHO there should be both graphical, scripts, commands, debconf maybe based solutions to do this)?
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 18:04
  • Anyways, the usage of the tags are up to us, and the use or misuse is our responsibility in any case. I was trying to get this done since I could answer some questions that doesn't rely on the command line (since mine uses the GUI) but are about shells and since the shell -> command line is in place it could be counter producent answering a command line question with something GUI-related.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 6, 2014 at 18:07

They should be separated tags. If users are confused about their use is our responsibility to guide users into the light. That most of the users don't recognize the differences between them and we leave them like that just promotes the confusion in all the users that has the right to know how each of the parts of their system is called and will facilitate the exchanging of information between the users to answer and ask questions.

A fine tag excerpt and tag wiki explaining in plain english what are the uses of each tag and how to use them will be beneficial.

No other SE site merged , and . Both Super User and Unix & Linux use separated tag and command line is present only in 5% of the terminal and shell tags in SU; and in U&L only 10% of the tags has relationship.


Because the shell tag is almost a meta tag if you're talking about "Desktop Environments" (Unity, Gnome Shell, KDE, etc). As such if you want to refer to a shell, it should be the specific shell.

  • In that case we should remove it since people can use tag [gnome] and [shell] and the thing will end in [gnome] and [command line] due the synonym. And the questions that are not about an specific shell, how we tag them?
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 17:57
  • 1
    No, it's gnome-shell, not shell. Shell is too generic a word hence it's almost "meta tag" status Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 20:36
  • yeah, but gnome shell will have "gnome" appended somewhere, we just need to enforce the use of shell and prevent the use in gnome, and shell is very specific and we have resources in the site that explain it: Shell: The program running atop the command line, like Bash, Dash, Zsh... Rather, we are going against what our own answers says. Also, we can enforce the use for whatever means necessary. I'm already enforcing some tags uses, I think I can manage 2 more.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 20:57
  • gnome-shell implies gnome, there's really no need to tag it twice. Shell is just a bad tag because it has multiple meanings we can't force one or the other because they're both technically valid. So shell should remain synonymous with command-line and those wanting to refer to the desktop environment should just use gnome-shell Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 22:28
  • 2
    Oh, come on. Yes, shell could mean a graphical shell, but hardly anybody uses it that way in the Linux world. Even in the Ubuntu world. Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 22:45
  • @MarcoCeppi plus, gnome-shell does not imply Gnome, until the recent 2.0 version, Cinnamon also used Gnome shell and if I'm not mistaken, so does Mate. It is reasonable to assume that other spin-offs will also arise, none of which are Gnome despite using gnome-shell.
    – terdon
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 22:47
  • If compromise is needed, just remove the shell tag, and I will create cli-shell? No double meaning with GUI, and everyone will know what the tag is about. But I don't want shell synonymized to command line, since as you said, GUI-shell != command-line (shell)
    – Braiam
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 22:49
  • I'm speechless. Wow! A shell has always meant the non-GUI variety as far as I've ever heard.
    – slm
    Commented Jan 4, 2014 at 23:24
  • That's funny, because I am being increasingly corrected that Unity is "a shell" and that it's "gnome shell" not a desktop environment yadda yadda.
    – Seth
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 17:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .