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<tty-player>: <video>, but for ttyrec scripts

Current status (2020-01-02): in the middle of a big update from 2015 to 2020 practices. I’ve switched it to using Custom Elements v1 and Shadow DOM v1, dropped IE/Edge support outright, started using CSS Shadow Parts (which Safari doesn’t yet support) for most visual customisation. I did this so that I could use it in a blog post on my website. Planned but ultimately unscheduled work (since I have satisfied my own immediate needs): finish tidying up, redo the build system altogether, minify CSS in the minified JS, migrate from term.js to xterm.js, publish on npm, update all the documentation, update


Suppose you have a short screencast of doing something in a terminal. You might make a full recording of it and include it in your web page like this:

<video autoplay controls loop src=tty-screencast.webm></video>

There are plenty of problems with doing it this way, though:

  • Video codecs are a pain. (Would you like to provide it in MP4, H.264, WebM, Ogg Theora, &c.? Do you even know what they all mean and which entries in that list aren’t actually codecs? Do you know what you need for decent browser compatibility?)
  • Video represents text as low-resolution images makes it harder to read;
  • You can’t select text;
  • Bandwidth requirements are ridiculously high for such a simple thing.

OK, so you use something like ttyrec plus ttygif to record it and produce an animated GIF. But still:

  • You can’t select text;
  • The text size is fixed;
  • Anything beyond linear, looping playback is out;
  • Seriously, who uses GIFs for anything but cat videos anyway? (Don’t answer, I’m not sure I’d want to know.)

This library offers the real solution: a player for your ttyrec scripts, implementing basically the same interface as <video> so that it’s almost a drop-in replacement.

So here is this library: it provides a <tty-player> element, just like <video> except taking a ttyrec file as its source. (And this particular little example is only 34KB, 8KB gzipped! Take that, traditional video formats! Even this screenshot of one frame of that thing only scrunches to 34KB with optipng -o7, 31KB gzipped.)

<tty-player autoplay controls loop src=tty-screencast.ttyrec></tty-player>

A screenshot of <tty-player> in action


  • General examples: a bit of everything with notes on many aspects
  • Popcorn.js: interaction with Popcorn.js (drop a <tty-player> where it expects a <video> and it Just Works™!)
  • Star Wars ASCIImation: large scripts, trivial styling, preloading and the poster attribute.

Using tty-player

  1. Install a tool that can record your terminal appropriately.

    I recommend termrec, because it records the terminal dimensions in the file (and this library knows what to do with it).

    You could also use ttyrec, but dimensions won’t be stored. Or anything else that supports the ttyrec format.

    You cannot use plain old script because even if it supports timing (Mac OS X’s doesn’t) it uses a different format.

  2. Record your terminal! I recommend using the .ttyrec extension, for no particularly good reason.

  3. Add the requirements to your web page:

    • A Web Components polyfill (optional; Chrome and Opera don’t need it, nor does Firefox with dom.webcomponents.enabled set to true).

      Polymer’s webcomponents.js, lite edition is plenty; it’s around 11KB minified and gzipped: Remember that due to its nature it should be the first script.

      (Actually this library only uses Custom Elements and Mutation Observer at present, so you could be more picky if you wanted.)

    • term.js (sorry, I don’t know of any CDNs with it). For termrec’s size hints to work, my fork is currently needed (pending: chjj/term.js#75)

    • tty-player.css

    • tty-player.js (run make to minify these last two; uglifycss required)

  4. Start using the <tty-player> element just like you’d use a <video> element! Make sure you use the src attribute; you can’t use <source> elements.

  5. Spruce the styles up, if you like. What’s there at present by way of window chrome is borrowed from my own i3 arrangement.

Browser compatibility

Tested in current Firefox and Chromium on Linux and IE 11 on Windows. Should work across the board in modern browsers. I haven’t yet gone to the trouble of testing in a broader variety of browser, nor is there any semblence of a test suite. Ain’t the web great—if this were Real Life I’d actually feel obliged to write tests!

  • tty-player.js:
    • General functionality: untested, but probably IE 9+
    • Controls: uses <input type=range>, so IE 10+
  • webcomponents.js: down to at least IE10, not sure about older.
  • term.js: uncertain, presumed broad.

Miscellaneous notes

I like the word miscellany.

Intended future feature: put an <audio> inside the <tty-player> and playback will be synchronised between them. Text tracks might be implemented as a part of this; I haven’t decided at all. In the mean time, try mixing tty-player with Popcorn.js!

<tty-player> as a drop-in replacement for <video>

<tty-player> implements an interface which I will call HTMLTTYPlayerElement. Here’s its definition:

interface HTMLTTYPlayerElement : HTMLMediaElement {
           attribute DOMString defaultTitle;
           attribute DOMString title;

  readonly attribute unsigned long cols;
  readonly attribute unsigned long rows;
  void resize(unsigned long cols, unsigned long rows);

           attribute EventHandler ontitlechange;

  // This one is straight from HTMLVideoElement.
           attribute DOMString poster;

  // s/void/avoid/
  void pretendToBeAVideo();

As implemented, HTMLTTYPlayerElement does not extend HTMLMediaElement, so while document.createElement("video") instanceof HTMLMediaElement, !(document.createElement("tty-player") instanceof HTMLMediaElement. For the most part it would work fine, because all the standard properties of HTMLMediaElement.prototype are overridden in HTMLTTYPlayerElement.prototype, but any that are left will be liable to blow up as soon as you touch them—accessing an unknown property would in Firefox yield a TypeError, for example, because it does not acknowledge my type as implementing the interface HTMLMediaElement. Therefore I think it is safer overall to be content with HTMLElement.

Anyhow: because HTMLTTYPlayerElement implements the same interface in contents, if not in name, as HTMLVideoElement, it’s normally a drop-in replacement. Many things will actually work with it straight off. For those things that don’t, there’s a technique that gets even closer: HTMLTTYPlayerElement.pretendToBeAVideo(). This makes an HTMLTTYPlayerElement patch itself to implement the interface of HTMLVideoElement (width, height, videoWidth and videoHeight; it already has poster). And, for good (?) measure, to override the tagName property so that this.tagName == "VIDEO".

MediaElement.js works pretty well with <tty-player>s masquerading as <video>s, though the handling of the poster is not perfect (you end up with two play button overlays; text posters will probably need to be rasterised with the assistance of a canvas, too).

Popcorn.js doesn’t need the masquerade—give it a <tty-player> instead of a <video> and it’s perfectly happy. (Some plugins might potentially need the masquerade. I haven’t tried everything.)

Comparison of similar products


  • script -t: the script program from linux-utils, which supports -t (timing). Linux machines will normally have it, but no one else is likely to. Mac OS X has an older version of script without timing support.

  • Poster: what is shown in the player before you start playing a video. Typically an image that is supposed to show what the video is about.

Features not assessed:

  • How do they handle Unicode? (tty-player assumes UTF-8 unless the appropriate termrec marker indicating that it is not UTF-8 is there, I suspect some of the others won’t handle UTF-8 properly.)


This is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t use term.js.


  • asciicast file format version 1: ah! they specified it! I wish more people would. JSON format very much like script -t with the two files merged, with a bit more information. Tweaking timing is thus easy.
  • … but the player doesn’t speak that; it speaks a proprietary format not based directly on the ANSI codes. Much of a muchness in the end, though I wouldn’t care to edit that format.

Audio: no.


  • Code:
  • Usage: asciinema with subcommands: rec [filename], play <filename>, upload <filename>, auth. Configuration file for specifying command to execute when recording. Ability to cap wait duration between frames. Nice stuff.
  • Dependencies: Linux/Mac OS X. (Written in Go, distributed as binaries for various platforms.)



  • Code:
  • Complexity: moderate.
  • API: uncertain.
  • Dependencies: React, JSXTransformer, jQuery—but not term.js.
  • Attitude to the document: no thinking outside the box permitted!
  • Embedding: rather good; <script>-based, with knobs like autoplay and loop, makes an <iframe>; also produces images of the poster for including in other places (impressive!).
  • Compatibility: uncertain.
  • Prettiness/usability: quite good; even has support for three themes. However its time progress bar usability is poor.
  • Poster: yes, embedded into the metadata block.
  • Window title: no.
  • Experience: I found some bugs with it; for example, the one on the front page of didn’t work for me first time, and the script finishes with its progress bar still some 20px short of 100%, and if you click in the gap it jumps to there and “plays” indefinitely, without having updated the screen to the right place, either. Not encouraging, frankly.


Format: script -t plus initial screen dimensions.

Audio: no.


  • Code:
  • Usage: showterm records and uploads to server; using the script -t format, it also allows basic timing editing before uploading.
  • Dependencies: Ruby, showterm gem (it bundles ttyrec).

Hosting platform:


  • Code:
  • Demo:
  • Complexity: low.
  • API: nothing much.
  • Dependencies: jQuery, jQuery UI, term.js.
  • Attitude to the document: all your document are belong to us.
  • Embedding: <iframe> (problematic for getting dimensions right).
  • Compatibility: untested but presumed high (at least IE8+, jQuery UI holding it back).
  • Prettiness/usability: not terrible, but not magnificent either.
  • Poster: no.
  • Window title: no.


A tool for producing self-contained HTML.

Format: proprietary but simple ([[text, total milliseconds]])

Audio: no.


Hosting: n/a (it produces standalone HTML files)

Web client:


Apparently abandoned.

Format: script -t plus initial screen dimensions.

Audio: no.




  • Code:
  • Complexity: moderate.
  • API: moderately capable; proprietary.
  • Dependencies: uncertain, term.js.
  • Attitude to the document: tell me where to go and I’ll stay inside the lines.
  • Embedding: uncertain, but I imagine there’s something?
  • Compatibility: uncertain.
  • Prettiness/usability: quite good, from the screenshots.
  • Poster: no.
  • Window title: no.


(This library.)

Format: ttyrec (with support for the slightly non-standard termrec UTF-8 and screen dimension indicators).

Audio: no (but planned, having used the HTMLMediaElement base will make it easier).

Recording: termrec (or ttyrec). Not good for editing, unless someone’s made a tool to do that that I haven’t noticed? I would like to make one at some point, anyway.

Hosting: n/a (it’d be a separate project)


  • Code:
  • Complexity: moderate; high in some parts due to following the HTMLMediaElement spec.
  • API: HTMLMediaElement (standard) plus a little bit more. Can imitate HTMLVideoElement fairly completely if instructed to, too.
  • Dependencies: term.js; webcomponents-lite.js (Web Components polyfill) recommended for better browser compatibility.
  • Attitude to the document: thus far shall you come, and no farther. (Just like any other HTML element.)
  • Embedding: that’s all it is! <tty-player src=foo.ttyrec></tty-player>.
  • Compatibility: modern browsers plus probably IE10, maybe mostly IE9 (unverified).
  • Prettiness/usability: Dazzlingly marvelous! Perfect! Flawless! Staggering!
  • Poster: yes, poster=npt:time and it is taken from the source file at that time, or poster=data:text/plain,text with control sequences.
  • Window title: yes (initial value through the window-title attribute, can be set through ANSI codes too).


Chris Morgan (chris-morgan) is the primary author and maintainer of tty-player.


This library is distributed under the terms of the MIT license. See LICENSE for details.