GraphTerm: A Graphical Terminal Interface
GraphTerm is a browser-based graphical terminal interface, that aims to seamlessly blend the command line and graphical user interfaces. The goal is to provide a fully backwards-compatible terminal emulator for xterm. You should be able to use it just like a regular terminal interface, accessing additional graphical features only as needed. GraphTerm builds upon two earlier projects, XMLTerm which implemented a terminal using the Mozilla framework and AjaxTerm which is an AJAX/Python terminal implementation. (Another recent project along these lines is TermKit.)
A GraphTerm terminal window is just a web page served from the GraphTerm web 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.
- a web-based remote desktop that supports a simple GUI without the need for installing VNC or X-windows on the remote host
- a detachable terminal multiplexer, sort of like GNU screen or tmux
- an inline data visualization tool to view output from plotting libraries like matplotlib
- a collaborative terminal that can be remotely accessed by multiple users simultaneously, to run programs, edit files etc.
- a simple presentation tool for webcasting images as slideshows (and receiving live feedback)
- a management console for a cluster of real or virtual hosts, with wildcard access to hosts/sessions (e.g., to manage a virtual computer lab using cloud instances),
The interface is designed to be touch-friendly for use with tablets, relying upon 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 illustrating graphical gls and cat command output using a 3D perspective theme (captured on OS X Lion, using Google Chrome).
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 commands:
sudo easy_install graphterm sudo gterm_setup
(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 gtermserver.py in the graphterm subdirectory of the distribution, after you have installed the tornado module in your system (or in the graphterm subdirectory).
You can browse the GraphTerm source code, and download the development version, at Github.
You can also use the following command:
glandslide -o graphterm-talk1.md | giframe -f
to view a slideshow about GraphTerm within GraphTerm (type h for help and q to quit)..
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.
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.