Tag Archives: browser

howdoi: Because the Internet knows more than you

I picked howdoi as a complement to betty today, because in some ways, they both do similar things.


Whereas betty would reply with set answers (provided she knew the questions 🙄 ), howdoi acts as a conduit between you and that vast cesspool in the sky, The Internet. Give howdoi a few key terms, and it will give back what it hopes is an answer to your conundrum.

howdoi is aimed mostly at coders, as I understand it, but as you can see, it will handle system admin or just bash issues too. I even asked it a question or two about vim, and I think it gave the right answer. It’s hard to tell with vim. 😐 I didn’t ask it for the weather in London. 🙄

If you tinker with howdoi for a few minutes, you’ll see what it’s doing: searching through StackOverflow, and replying with a best-case answer formatted for your screen. If you ask nicely (in other words, use the -a and/or the -c flags) it will prettify the result, and give a link to where it was found.

I can’t fault howdoi very much, since for the most part, it seems to give the right answers. On the other hand, as you can see above, it doesn’t really know what you’re asking — I don’t think that is the right command to add a user with bash. 😉 So remember: It’s just handing down the wisdom of the unwashed masses, and hoping you will be pacified.

In that way, howdoi is really just a well-designed search utility for the console, like surfraw is and a few other tools do. I’d have to check to see how it’s designed, and whether it actually looks through more than just StackOverflow; I’ve only seen links to that site.

So in all, I can’t complain about howdoi the same way I do about betty. If you’re a coder and you sometimes find yourself fishing for snippets, howdoi is a short and quick tool that gives out just the right amount of info. On the other hand, be aware that while the Internet will always know more than you, what it knows isn’t necessarily something you want to learn.

P.S., Yes, there is an elvi for StackOverflow in surfraw. In case you were headed there next to check. …

bm: A console bookmark manager

I never really thought about a bookmark manager for the console; the browsers that I use these days — specifically elinks or Pale Moon — have onboard bookmarking systems already.

bm does add the ability to bounce straight to a link from the command line, something like surfraw does.


Which might be preferable in some cases, rather than opening a specific browser, then working through the bookmarks to get to a site. Or using surfraw’s search tools to circumnavigate and end up in that spot.

bm can also tally some basic statistics about the number of bookmarks you have, and the popularity of particular categories. A nice touch.

Add to that the ability to sync bookmarks with Dropbox, and its ability to generate page snapshots, and bm appears to be a very good option for leaping straight from the CLI to a web page … particularly if you’re using a graphical desktop.

I had only one problem with bm as it stands now: The actual command to trigger the browser — whether through bm open or just bm — spat out a short error, which I attribute to my screwball setup. I trigger a lot of programs through specific scripts, and there’s just no way for bm to know about that.

I’m willing to give a thumbs-up to bm, even if I don’t anticipate using it much. I can see integrating it into a complete text-only machine, because it provides a good shortcut between the cursor and the browser. Enjoy, with my blessing. 😉

surfraw: Yeah, brilliant

I am going to fall back on an old post from about four years ago, to talk about surfraw. What I wrote back then is still accurate, and surfraw’s output is sufficiently transparent that even the images haven’t really changed.


Nope, no big changes there.

Technically surfraw itself has changed, even if the net results haven’t. The news page shows updates as recently as December, mostly to adjust the underlying search options or add a variable. So if you thought it was dead … it’s not.

People who have used surfraw usually swear by it, whether they live solely at the command line or not. The reasons for that are difficult to explain, except perhaps to say that kicking up a browser with a simple command and getting search results without going through the extra steps is … brilliant.

And don’t feel bad if you’re not 100 percent text-only; surfraw doesn’t care if it triggers a command-line browser or a graphical one. It might sneer at you for spawning Firefox, but these days, who doesn’t?

Get surfraw, install it, configure it, and then try it one or two times to get a feel for it. Hotwiring your command prompt to jump straight to search page results is … yeah, brilliant.

retawq: Ultralight browsing

I have retawq on my list next, and it’s a good one to keep on hand as well.


Naysayers will likely throw a critical glance at retawq for being eight years out of development, having fewer features than some other text-only and framebuffer-based browsers, and only using about four or five colors.

Au contraire!, I say. retawq uses more than one color, which is more than enough. And it’s written purely in C so it’s wicked fast. And really, the Internet was much more interesting in 2006 anyway. 😉

retawq has a lot of other great features, most of which are listed here. Watch for the split-screen option and a “download manager” mode. 😉

Which just goes to show you that there’s a lot more you can do with text-based browsers than just read man pages. No matter what some dork on the Internet suggests.

netrik: Almost the ultralight-est

The words “light” and “browser” usually don’t go together, but in the case of netrik, they certainly do.


netrik might be the least intrusive and quickest text-based browser out there. If it didn’t offer to move between pages by “clicking” links, I’d think it was a pager.

Color is good, although not necessarily true to the original page design … as you can see.

Character support might be where it falls short; as you can also see, curly quotes and similar glyphs are rendered as numbered sequences. Not a dealbreaker, but somewhat annoying. It does that for me in X too.

I can see where, on extremely low-end hardware, netrik would be an ideal browser solution — even perhaps better than something more full-featured, like elinks.

Given the fact that it can apparently be assembled with little more than readline as a dependency, it’s in the running for ultralight-est text-based browser.

It’s got tough competition in this though:

curl inconsolation.wordpress.com | dehtml -p -s | less

If you can call that a browser, I guess. … 🙄

links and lynx: Do things your way

I won’t spend too much time with links or lynx, mostly because I think most people know about them. But also because I’ve been through them several times before.

2013-12-25-lv-r1fz6-links 2013-12-25-lv-r1fz6-lynx

The choice is purely your own; if you want to browse text-only, you have a lot of options available to you. links and lynx are just two of them.

Each has its own style and presentation; lynx appears to handle colors well, but links is not trapped in black-and-white, either.

Each one is speedy and faithful to text displays, and if that’s what you need from a text-based browser, your life might be complete on that note.

Web jockeys in the post-2.0 era will insist that very little gets done without AJAX or Flash 10.X or embedded 1080p video playback, but at the risk of mincing words, I think that’s a load of crap.

Use whatever gets the job done for you. I can breeze through my GMail accounts in a third of the time with either links or lynx, as it takes with Firefox 26.0011, a/k/a Firefox The Pudge.

Point being, don’t let any screwball Internet pundit tell you text-based browsing is passé. Being a screwball Internet pundit is passé, if anything is. 😈

gopher: The way things might have been

I don’t know much about gopher, the TCP/IP protocol, except that it dates way back to the early 90s and to the University of Minnesota in America.

I couldn’t tell you if it was a good thing or a bad thing, a better way to do business or a throwback to a simpler time.

I did find the gopher client though, which is pretty cool.


Basic text-based movement, fairly quick on the uptake and with a fun thing to do here or there. Reminds me of telnet, for some reason.

That screenshot is from Debian, by the way. The Arch version, I am sad to report, crashed and burned when I tried to build it.

I hope that’s not a sign that the past has already left us. 😦

edbrowse: Be afraid. Be very afraid

What would happen if you took a text editor that nobody really thought about, exposed it to massive does of gamma radiation, and cut it loose to rampage text files, your file directory, your e-mail and the Internet beyond?

Well, first thing is, you’d hear a lot of crying and whimpering in the background. That would be emacs fans openly weeping in their lukewarm chay while vi fans rubbed their temples and whined about how life isn’t fair. And edbrowse would be to blame for that.


You remember ed, of course — the surly, ungainly, tight-lipped text editor that everyone usually laughs about before dismissing as an holdover from the Unix of 30 years ago.

Well, someone got it into their head to take ed and pump it full of steroids, teach it how to navigate directory trees, how to handle e-mail and how to traverse the Internet. And the result is pure, unadulterated evil.

But in a good way. 🙄 Much of the original ed is still here, and I’d venture to guess (but I can’t be 100 percent sure) that anything ed can do, edbrowse can do too.

And now edbrowse can navigate between directories, list their contents, delete files and so forth — so you have a file management function. And it can tackle e-mail now, both reading and sending. And it can pull pages from the web and browse them. And FTP. And negotiate SSL. And open multiple sessions. And escape to a shell. And wrangle JavaScript. And safely delete files to a trash folder. And write-protect directories. And use manage “buttons” on web pages. And convert to UTF8. And play an audio buffer. And more.

Yes, this is where the wailing and gnashing of teeth come in. You can smell the fear in the air.

ed alone was easy enough to pat on the head and send to the dustbin of history, and laugh at behind its back. But this new ed, this edbrowse. …

This is a force to be reckoned with. 😯

elinks: The browser we both probably know

If your local search engine is to be believed, I still haven’t mentioned elinks specifically in any of these posts.

Hard to believe, after 10 months of sifting through applications for the terminal. 🙄

2013-10-19-lv-r1fz6-elinks 2013-10-19-lv-r1fz6-elinks

Then again, maybe not. I’ve been an elinks fan for years — probably since I realized it had the bulk of the features I needed in a graphical browser (no, Flash playback isn’t one of them).

And I’ve picked through elinks many times, in hopes of drumming up support for it, so rehashing it’s greatness is hardly anything new.

But in short, I’ll give you these points, and you can take away from them what you will:

  1. elinks is fast.
  2. elinks is small (especially when compared to Firefox, the porker).
  3. elinks trims out a lot of the gunk that bogs down the Web these days.
  4. elinks has a tabbed interface.
  5. elinks has a built-in download manager.
  6. elinks can handle different file types and pass them to an appropriate application.
  7. elinks has mouse support.
  8. elinks handles up to 256 colors and tries to stay faithful to the original color codes.
  9. elinks is menu-driven.
  10. elinks will drive your geek friends into a paroxysm of jealousy.

And the last one alone should be reason enough to use it. Any time you can trigger a conniption in a geek, you should take advantage of it.

I will admit that in the realm of text-only browsers, elinks is probably the heaviest. See here for more detail. But that’s the price you pay for power, I guess.

That’s enough. Let’s move on through the list.

w3m: This is not an April Fools joke

Look closely at these two screenshots. Very closely.

2013-02-28-solo-2150-w3m-inconsolation 2013-02-28-solo-2150-w3m-bbcnews

That’s it. Move in closer. Closer. Now, what’s wrong with those pictures? I’ll tell you: There are thumbnail images injected into the text page.

And just to be clear, that is this machine running without X, in a strictly framebuffer environment.

What fresh hell is this?! 👿 Who approved such an abomination? What’s next, dogs and cats living together? Blasphemy!

And I know what you’re thinking right now: This must be some kind of April Fools joke. No, no joke. The world has truly gone mad.

Yes and no. That’s strictly business as usual for w3m. Or rather, the Arch version of w3m, which incorporates tweaks to splice images into pages.

w3m is no joke; I’ve been back and forth between that and elinks more than once in my short time as a Linux enthusiast.

But I won’t dwell too long on it. Mostly because a couple years ago I put together a longer and more detailed analysis, along with some competition.

And really, while the images are kind of cute, I miss fun stuff from elinks that w3m doesn’t seem to have yet. Or maybe I’ve just never looked deep enough. … 😐

Give it a shot though. It renders fast enough and without undue stress at 500Mhz against a Rage Mobility video card. What it can do at slower speeds is open to interpretation. 😉