Unlike familiar graphical torrent clients such as Deluge and uTorrent, rTorrent is a completely text-based torrent application, designed to be used in a terminal or terminal multiplexer such as tmux.
Users who prefer the typical /r/unixporn text-heavy “rice” desktop configuration of foregoing a full Desktop Environment and instead opting only for a tiling window manager (such as i3wm, i3-gaps, Openbox, etc.) will likely find rTorrent enjoyable, as it fits in well with the keyboard-centric workflow that tiling window managers offer. However, if you’re like me and despite using a distro like Arch Linux, you don’t want to spend hours manually configuring everything for your computer to work properly and would rather just install a DE like GNOME or KDE and get on with your life, you may find rTorrent more trouble than it’s worth and you’ll probably want to stick with a GUI torrent client like Deluge.
How to install rTorrent?
The installation of rTorrent in Arch Linux is the same as any other package, just a simple sudo pacman -S rtorrent, however, there are some configuration steps that have to be completed before rTorrent actually becomes usable. As per the Arch Wiki, you’ll want to copy the system-wide default configuration from /usr/share/doc/rtorrent/rtorrent.rc to your user-specific location of ~/.rtorrent.rc and go ahead and make whatever necessary changes that are mentioned in the Arch Wiki.
The aforementioned Arch Wiki is quite exhaustive in listing all the different ways that rTorrent can be configured to your exact liking, and unfortunately, almost all of it involves editing a text file, whether you’re just editing the config file or creating a new system unit. If you enjoy this sort of thing, as many Linux users do, perhaps you won’t mind, or you may even find it enjoyable. As for me, perhaps I’m just getting old but I personally have grown tired of always having to configure this or edit that just to get a simple application to work.
In the course of installing and trying to use rTorrent for this review, I found myself just not even wanting to bother with it. I just want to install things and use them. Simple things like file and torrent management become a tedious nightmare in rTorrent. I have too much to do in a day to be wasting unnecessary time fiddling with configuration files. That being said, there are quite a few web-based GUI frontends for rTorrent, but that leaves me to ask, why not just use a GUI torrent application like Deluge from the beginning? Why go through the extra hassle? Is saving a few megabytes of hard drive space really that important to you?
Usage and Impressions
Perhaps I’m merely becoming grumpy and crotchety, but rTorrent seems to fall into the stereotypical category of Linux applications that are difficult to use seemingly just for the sake of being difficult. Just trying to read the Arch Wiki page on it is a daunting task in itself, let alone actually following it and going through the configuration process. Perhaps my understanding of the concept of simplicity is skewed, but not every Linux user is a developer. Some users, like myself, just want to use our computers without having to spend hours configuring things first. That sort of masochism is perhaps best saved for attempting a Gentoo installation.
So to conclude, sure, you can use rTorrent if you want to. But why? Why would you want to? Sure it’s not a bad application, but what takes hours to configure via text files can be done in several seconds in a GUI torrent application.
Of course, this article should come with a huge Your Mileage May Vary disclaimer. I am just one user, perhaps an opinionated one at that (aren’t most of us Linux users, after all?). Perhaps you are a developer and tasks like these are a breeze for you. Or perhaps you’re trying to do things “the hard way” (for lack of a better term) for the sake of learning more about Linux, or maybe you just enjoy the challenge and using text-based applications makes you feel like a hacker. All of these are completely valid, and that’s the beauty of Linux and the FOSS movement in general. You can customize and configure your system exactly the way you want to, and it doesn’t matter what some blogger on the internet thinks about it, because you’re the one that actually has to use your system. That being said, just install Deluge or uTorrent or BitTorrent or something and be done with it.