A Graphical Terminal Interface that extends xterm by adding GUI-like features and session sharing
JavaScript Python CSS HTML Jupyter Notebook Shell Other




GraphTerm is a browser-based graphical terminal interface, that aims to seamlessly blend the command line and graphical user interfaces. You can use it just like a regular terminal, backwards-compatible with xterm, and access the additional graphical features as needed. These features can help impove your terminal workflow by integrating graphical operations with the command line and letting you view images and HTML output inline.

GraphTerm has several funky features, but two of the most useful practical applications are:

  • an inline data visualization tool for plotting with Python or R that can work seamlessly across SSH login boundaries, with an optional notebook interface. (For remote access, it also serves as a detachable terminal, like tmux or screen.)
  • a virtual computer lab for teaching and demonstrations. The GraphTerm server can be set up in the cloud and accessed by multiple users using their laptop/mobile browsers, with Google Authentication. The lab instructor can monitor all the users' terminals via a "dashboard", and users can collaborate with each other by sharing terminals and notebooks.

Screenshot 1: Inline plotting on a remote machine (via SSH)

Screenshot 2: Monitoring multiple user terminals in a "virtual computer lab"

GraphTerm builds upon two earlier projects, XMLTerm which implemented a terminal using the Mozilla framework and AjaxTerm which is an AJAX/Python terminal implementation. (Other recent projects along these lines include TermKit and Terminology.)

A GraphTerm terminal window is just a web page served from the GraphTerm server program. Multiple users can connect simultaneously to the web server to share terminal sessions. Multiple hosts can also connect to the server (on a different port), allowing a single user to access all of them via the browser. The GraphTerm server acts as a router, sending input from browser windows for different users to the appropriate terminal (pseudo-tty) sessions running on different hosts, and transmitting the terminal output back to the browser windows.

The interface is designed to be touch-friendly for use with tablets, with tappable links and command re-use to minimize the need for a keyboard. It preserves history for all commands, whether entered by typing, clicking, or tapping. It is also themable using CSS.

You can use the GraphTerm API to build "mashups" of web applications that work seamlessly within the terminal. Sample mashups include:

  • greveal: Inline version of reveal.js to display Markdown files as slideshows
  • gtutor: Inline version of pythontutor.com for visual tracing of python programs
  • yweather: Using Yahoo weather API to display weather

Images of GraphTerm in action can be found in screenshots and in this YouTube Video. Here is a sample screenshot showing the output of the metro.sh command, which embeds six smaller terminals within the main terminal, running six different commands from the GraphTerm toolchain: (i) live twitter stream output using gtweet, (ii) weather info using yweather, (ii) slideshow from markdown file using greveal and reveal.js, (iv) word cloud using d3cloud and d3.js, (v) inline graphics using gmatplot.py, and (vi) notebook mode using the standard python interpreter.

Screenshot 3: Embedding terminals within GraphTerm


To install GraphTerm, you need to have Python 2.6+ and the Bash shell on your Mac/Linux/Unix computer. For a quick install, use one of the following two options:

sudo pip install graphterm
sudo easy_install graphterm; sudo gterm_setup

If you wish to install GraphTerm as a non-root user within an Anaconda or Enthought Python environment, you can omit the sudo prefix.

For a manual install procedure, download the release tarball from the Python Package Index, untar, and execute the following command in the graphterm-<version> directory:

python setup.py install

For the manual install, you will also need to install the tornado web server, which can be downloaded from http://www.tornadoweb.org

You can also try out GraphTerm without installing it, by untarring the source tarball (or checking out the source from github). You can run the server as ./gtermserver.py within the graphterm subdirectory of the distribution, after you have installed the tornado package on your system (or within the graphterm subdirectory of the source distribution). In this case, certain commands in the graphterm/bin subdirectory, such as gterm and gauth, would need to be accessed as gterm.py and gauth.py respectively.

You can browse the GraphTerm source code, and download the development version, at Github.

Quick Start

To start the GraphTerm server, use the command:

gtermserver --terminal --auth_type=none

This will run the server and open a GraphTerm terminal window using the default browser. For multi-user computers, omit the --auth_type=none option when starting the server, and enter the authentication code stored in the file ~/.graphterm/_gterm_auth.txt as needed. (The gterm command can automatically enter this code for you.)

You can access the GraphTerm server using any browser that supports websockets. Google Chrome works best, but Firefox, Safari, or IE10 are also supported. Start by entering the following URL:


In the graphterm browser page, select the GraphTerm host you wish to connect to and create a new terminal session. (Note: The GraphTerm host is different from the network hostname for the server.) Within a GraphTerm window, you can use terminal/new menu option, or type the command gmenu new, to create a new GraphTerm session

You can also open additional GraphTerm terminal windows using the gterm command:

gterm --noauth [session_name]

where the terminal session name argument is optional.

Once you have a terminal, try out the following commands:

gls <directory>
gvi <text-filename>

These are commands in the GraphTerm toolchain that imitate basic features of the standard ls and vi commands. (Note: You need to execute the sudo gterm_setup command to be able to use the GraphTerm toolchain. Otherwise, you will encounter a Permission denied error.) See Getting Started with GraphTerm for more info on using GraphTerm. You can also set up a virtual computer lab using GraphTerm.

Documentation and Support

Usage info and other documentation can be found on the project home page, code.mitotic.org/graphterm. See the Contents page for an overview of the documentation and the Talks and Tutorials page for more advanced usage examples.

You can also use the following command:

greveal $GTERM_DIR/bin/landslide/graphterm-talk1.md | gframe -f

to view a slideshow about GraphTerm within GraphTerm. Click on the red X in the top right corner to exit the slideshow.

There is a Google Groups mailing list for announcements of new releases, posting questions related to GraphTerm etc. You can also follow @graphterm on Twitter for updates.

To report bugs and other issues, use the Github Issue Tracker.

Caveats and Limitations

  • Reliability: This software has not been subject to extensive testing. Use at your own risk.

  • Platforms: The GraphTerm client should work on most recent

    browsers that support Websockets, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. (Google Chrome usually works best.) The GraphTerm server is pure-python, but with some OS-specific calls for file, shell, and terminal-related operations. It has been tested only on Linux and Mac OS X so far.

  • Current limitations:
    • Support for xterm escape sequences is incomplete.
    • Most features of GraphTerm only work with the bash shell, not with C-shell, due the need for PROMPT_COMMAND to keep track of the current working directory.
    • At the moment, you cannot customize the shell prompt. (You should be able to so in the future.)


GraphTerm is inspired by two earlier projects that implement the terminal interface within the browser, XMLTerm and AjaxTerm. It borrows many of the ideas from XMLTerm and re-uses chunks of code from AjaxTerm. The server uses the asynchronous Tornado web framework and the client uses jQuery.

The gls command uses icons from the Tango Icon Library, and graphical editing uses the Ajax.org Cloud9 Editor as well as CKEditor

The 3D perspective mode was inspired by Sean Slinsky's Star Wars Opening Crawl with CSS3.

Other packaged open source components include:


GraphTerm is distributed as open source under the BSD-license.