Life in a Terminal Window notes

Paul Nijjar


Kitchener-Waterloo Linux User Group


Why bother with terminal programs in 2019?

  • Maybe your computer is too slow for the modern internet

  • Maybe you have a tiling window manager

  • Maybe you want to get work done in an SSH window (with no X-forwarding)

  • Maybe you hate notifications

  • Maybe you are a dinosaur

  • (Mikalai) Maybe you are working inside containers


  • New users: get a sense of what is available from the terminal
  • Give you nouns to search for, as opposed to keystrokes

  • Experienced users: maybe get a tip or two you did not know before
  • What are the quirks?

  • Me: maybe get suggestions for other useful tools


  • I run old old Debian

  • I am not a computer genius

  • I am not a life hacker/optimizer

  • These are the programs I actually use, not always the ones I ought to use

  • Muscle memory is a walled garden


I did not bother preparing more slides!

What now?

Let's improvise!



  • join a network: wicd-curses
  • surf the internets: w3m
    • no javascript
    • cookies are sketch
    • set a browser with o
    • use another browser with m
    • great interface for forms (opens an editor for text fields)
  • search: duckduckgo with a shortcut
  • read news: newsbeuter/newsboat
    • o to open a news item in a screen
    • supports different profiles via environment variables
    • gets slow on huge archives, but is overall good
  • google calendars: gcalcli
    • Use this with a script to populate Watcamp
  • passwords: yapet
    • uses blowfish encryption
  • mail: mutt
    • configurable
    • supports different profiles
    • forwarding attachments is hard
    • html mails are okay (uses w3m)


  • audio mixing: alsamixer
  • music and videos: vlc
    • no displays: vlc --intf rc
      • bad for seeking
      • great for playing music in the background
    • terminal interface: vlc --intf ncurses
  • get videos and such: youtube-dl
    • install dependencies with apt, but not the script
    • there are flags for smaller videos
    • It works on more than youtube
  • MP3 info: eyeD3
  • view images: sxiv
    • there are many others, but this is smooth and effective

Audience suggestions

  • Painting program: krita
  • Art program: photopea
    • works in a browser but can be containerized
  • avconv: audio editing via a script

Other utilities (not in presentation)

  • look up synonyms/spellings/translations: dict
  • spel wurds: wurdspel script
  • convert PDF to text: pdftotext
  • calculator: bc
  • interactive file explorer: mc
  • look at calendars: cal
  • remember important dates: calendar

Things I wish I had, but don't (yet)

  • XLSX spreadsheet viewer
  • Maybe a DOCX reader/extractor
  • Generic iCal client
  • Twitter client
  • Slack client
  • Maybe a better podcatcher
    • I use gpodder and it is okay but slow
    • newsbeuter/newsboat has support for podcasts
  • web browser for javascript

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