There is a middle ground, so to speak. twin, when used in conjunction with gpm, makes for a kind of terminal window manager (hence the name “t-win” … not “twin”) complete with its own onboard emulator, resizable windows, overlapping and layered frames, shadow effects, color combinations, and so on.
It’s not a terribly popular thing, which is both surprising and unsurprising at the same time.
Surprising because it actually does quite a good job, and under the right conditions, could be a workable pacifier for people who like working in a terminal environment, but need something with manageable windows.
Unsurprising though, because it behaves a little odd for me. It might just be that I need more time with it to get used to it, and it might be that gpm needs to be adjusted to suit me. I can’t seem to get things to move in the way I want or like, but that’s my problem.
I will say that it seems a little … fragile too. A few terminal programs that I’m accustomed to — most notably htop, which I consider crucial — cause it to crash. I’m sure these are things that could be chased properly, considering that the mailing lists are still active.
In spite of that, Ubuntu users have to crawl all the way back to Hardy to install it via the repositories, because there is apparently no package maintainer for twin in Ubuntu any longer (or maybe we can blame this on Debian too). On the other hand, Arch has it in its repositories, and Crux users can piggyback off the PKGBUILD to set it up on their systems. And don’t forget it pretty much goes hand-in-glove with gpm.
But otherwise it’s another option. Set your framebuffer to its best setting, install the terminal applications you love most, trigger your favorite font, and cue it up as soon as you log in. It’ll be just like dvtm or screen-vs, but you’ll have a little more freedom to move around.
There’s that magic word again: “freedom.”