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5873371 Dec 4, 2018
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@akavel @0xflotus
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up - the Ultimate Plumber

up is the Ultimate Plumber, a tool for writing Linux pipes in a terminal-based UI interactively, with instant live preview of command results.

The main goal of the Ultimate Plumber is to help interactively and incrementally explore textual data in Linux, by making it easier to quickly build complex pipelines, thanks to a fast feedback loop. This is achieved by boosting any typical Linux text-processing utils such as grep, sort, cut, paste, awk, wc, perl, etc., etc., by providing a quick, interactive, scrollable preview of their results.


Download up for Linux   |   ArchLinux: aur/up   |   macOS: brew install up   |   Other OSes

To start using up, redirect any text-emitting command (or pipeline) into it — for example:

$ lshw |& ./up


  • use PgUp/PgDn and Ctrl-[←]/Ctrl-[→] for basic browsing through the command output;
  • in the input box at the top of the screen, start writing any bash pipeline; then press Enter to execute the command you typed, and the Ultimate Plumber will immediately show you the output of the pipeline in the scrollable window below (replacing any earlier contents)
    • For example, you can try writing: grep network -A2 | grep : | cut -d: -f2- | paste - - — on my computer, after pressing Enter, the screen then shows the pipeline and a scrollable preview of its output like below:

         | grep network -A2 | grep : | cut -d: -f2- | paste - -
         Wireless interface      Centrino Advanced-N 6235
         Ethernet interface      RTL8111/8168/8411 PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet Controller
    • WARNING: Please be careful when using it! It could be dangerous. In particular, writing "rm" or "dd" into it could be like running around with a chainsaw. But you'd be careful writing "rm" anywhere in Linux anyway, no?

  • when you are satisfied with the result, you can press Ctrl-X to exit the Ultimate Plumber, and the command you built will be written into file in the current working directory (or, if it already existed,, etc., until 1000, based on Shlemiel the Painter's algorithm). Alternatively, you can press Ctrl-C to quit without saving.
  • If the command you piped into up is long-running (in such case you will see a tilde ~ indicator character in the top-left corner of the screen, meaning that up is still waiting for more input), you may need to press Ctrl-S to temporarily freeze up's input buffer (a freeze will be indicated by a # character in top-left corner), which will inject a fake EOF into the pipeline; otherwise, some commands in the pipeline may not print anything, waiting for full input (especially commands like wc or sort, but grep, perl, etc. may also show incomplete results). To unfreeze back, press Ctrl-Q.

Additional Notes

  • The pipeline is passed verbatim to a bash -c command, so any bash-isms should work.
  • The input buffer of the Ultimate Plumber is currently fixed at 40 MB. If you reach this limit, a + character should get displayed in the top-left corner of the screen. (This is intended to be changed to a dynamically/manually growable buffer in a future version of up.)
  • MacOSX support: I don't have a Mac, thus I have no idea if it works on one. You are welcome to try, and also to send PRs. If you're interested in me providing some kind of official-like support for MacOSX, please consider trying to find a way to send me some usable-enough Mac computer. Please note I'm not trying to "take advantage" of you by this, as I'm actually not at all interested in achieving a Mac otherwise. (Also, trying to commit to this kind of support will be an extra burden and obligation on me. Knowing someone out there cares enough to do a fancy physical gesture would really help alleviate this.) If you're serious enough to consider this option, please contact me by email ( or keybase (, so that we could try to research possible ways to achieve this. Thanks for understanding!
  • Prior art: I was surprised no one seemed to write a similar tool before, that I could find. It should have been possible to write this since the dawn of Unix already, or earlier! And indeed, after I announced up, I got enough publicity that my attention was directed to one such earlier project already: Pipecut. Looks interesting! You may like to check it too! (Thanks @TronDD.)
  • Other influences: I don't remember the fact too well already, but I'm rather sure that this must have been inspired in big part by The Bret Victor's Talk(s).

Future Ideas

  • I have quite a lot of ideas for further experimentation of development of up, including but not limited to:
    • RIIR (once I learn enough of Rust... at some point in future... maybe...) — esp. to hopefully make up be a smaller binary (and also to maybe finally learn some Rust); though I'm somewhat afraid if it might ossify the codebase and make harder to develop further..? ...but maybe actually converse?...
    • Maybe it could be made into an UI-less, RPC/REST/socket/text-driven service, like gocode or Language Servers, for integration with editors/IDEs (emacs? vim? VSCode?...) I'd be especially interested in eventually merging it into Luna Studio; RIIR may help in this. (Before this, as a simpler approach, multi-line editing may be needed, or at least left&right scrolling of the command editor input box. Also, some kind of jumping between words in the command line; readline's Alt-b & Alt-f?)
    • Make it possible to capture output of already running processes! (But maybe that could be better made as a separate, composable tool! In Rust?)
    • Adding tests... (ahem; see also #1) ...also write --help...
    • Making it work on Windows, somehow? Also, obviously, would be nice to have some CI infrastructure enabling porting it to MacOSX, BSDs, etc., etc...
    • Integration with fzf and other TUI tools? I only have some vague thoughts and ideas about it as of now, not even sure how this could look like.
    • Adding more previews, for each | in the pipeline; also forking of pipelines, merging, feedback loops, and other mixing and matching (though I'd strongly prefer if Luna was to do it eventually).
  • If you are interested in financing my R&D work, contact me by email at:, or on as akavel. I suppose I will probably be developing the Ultimate Plumber further anyway, but at this time it's purely a hobby project, with all the fun and risks this entails.

Mateusz Czapliński
October 2018