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 clickable folder navigation with command line operations and letting you view image/HTML output without a separate window.
The GraphTerm server can be configured to support multiple users, using Google Authentication, to create a browser-based virtual computer lab for teaching and collaboration. The lab instructor can access all the terminal sessions via a dashboard and monitor the progress of each user in carrying out assigned activities, such as entering code in a "notebook". Lab users can collaboratively view and enter shell commands in each other's terminals, edit files and notebooks etc.
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
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.
This flexible, networked implementation allows for several possible applications for GraphTerm, such as:
- an enhanced terminal that combines the command line with basic GUI operations like navigating folders, file drag-and-drop, displaying images etc.
- an inline data visualization tool to view output from plotting libraries like matplotlib.
- a notebook interface for data analysis and documentation (like the Mathematica or IPython notebook interface, but at the shell level).
- 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. You can then share shell commands and presentations, trace code execution, interact with other users, etc.
- a collaborative terminal that can be remotely accessed by multiple users simultaneously, to run programs, edit files etc. It can also be used as a detachable terminal multiplexer, sort of like GNU screen or tmux.
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.
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.
To install GraphTerm, you need to have Python 2.6+ and the Bash shell on your Mac/Linux/Unix computer. For a quick install, if the python setuptools module is already installed on your system, use the following two commands:
sudo easy_install graphterm sudo gterm_setup # Sets up the command toolchain
(If setuptools is not installed, consider installing it using apt-get install -y python-setuptools on Debian Linux systems or its equivalent on other systems.)
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 https://github.com/downloads/facebook/tornado/tornado-2.3.tar.gz
You can also try out GraphTerm without installing it, after untarring the source tarball (or checking out the source from github). You can run the server as ./gtermserver.py in the graphterm subdirectory of the distribution, after you have installed the tornado package in your system (or in the graphterm subdirectory).
You can browse the GraphTerm source code, and download the development version, at Github.
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 a browser that supports websockets, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or IE10 (Chrome works best), 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:
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 and the Using Graphical Features tutorials for more info on using GraphTerm. You can also set up a virtual computer lab using GraphTerm.
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. Type b three times in quick succession to exit the slideshow.
To report bugs and other issues, use the Github Issue Tracker.
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. 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 3D perspective mode was inspired by Sean Slinsky's Star Wars Opening Crawl with CSS3.
Other packaged open source components include:
GraphTerm was developed as part of the Mindmeldr project, which is aimed at improving classroom interaction.
GraphTerm is distributed as open source under the BSD-license.