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If you just want to display a word or a short, possibly multi-line, text as large and as quickly as possible on your screen, then screen-message is the right too for you. It has been used already twice at a Debian conference for the Mugshots.

screen-message runs on Linux and Windows and there is an online version on (with sources in the docs/ folder of this project)

Installation Linux

Get it from your distribution with

apt install sm

or install it from this source repository, if you know how to do these things.

Installation Windows

Get the latest windows installer from my webpage. The windows installer lags behind a few versions; let me know if you need a new version.


Screen Message will display a given multi-line message as large as possible, fullscreen and black on white. You can specify the text either when launching sm, or edit it while the program is running.

After a short timeout, the text entry and the quit button will disappear, leaving nothing on the screen but the entered text. To continue entering text, just start typing or (left-)click anywhere on the screen.

To clear the displayed text, press Escape.

To invert the colors of the text and the background, press Ctrl-I.

To quit the program, press Ctrl-Q, or Escape twice, or click the “Quit”-button.


  • [ text | - ]

    Text to display at start up. Defaults to ":-)". If "-" is passed to sm, it will read the text to display from the standard input, see REMOTE CONTROLLING SM.

  • -f, --foreground=colordesc

    Define a different color to use for the foreground of the text to display than black. The text string can be in any of the forms accepted by XParseColor; these include name for a color from rgb.txt, such as DarkSlateGray, or a hex specification such as #3050b2 or #35b.

  • -b, --background=colordesc

    Define a different color to use for the background of the text to display than white. For possible values, see above.

  • -i, --invert

    Switch the roles for foreground and background colors. Useful if you prefer white-on-black.

  • -n, --font=fontspec

    Define a different font to use than the default sans-serif font of your system. The fontspec be the complete name for a truetype font (like "DejaVu Sans" or "Bitstream Vera Serif") or just a short font family specification ("serif", "sans-serif").

  • -r, --rotate=rotation

    Rotates the display by rotation * 90 degrees counter-clock-wise. So -r 1 rotates the display to the left, and -r 2 puts it upside down.

  • -a, --align=alignment

    Aligns the text centered (-a 0), left (-a 1) or right (-a 2).

  • -- (Double dash)

    End option parsing. This is used to be able to actually hand over text that starts of with an dash.

  • -h, --help

    This option will give you a short usage message summarizing the recognized options and quits.

  • -V --version

    This prints the project name together with its version number quits.

Remote controlling sm

If sm is called with - as a command line argument, it will read the text to be shown from the standard input. It will read the input until it reaches the end of the file, or the line form character \f, and show the input read so far at once. Newline characters at the beginning or the end are ignored. The input is assumed to be UTF-8 encoded.

This can be used to create automatic displays of changing data or similar tricks. For example, the following command will create a simple digital watch:

(while sleep 1; do date +%T; printf '\f'; done) | sm -


Use the GitHub issue tracker or write to Joachim Breitner


Very simple tool to display some text as large as possible






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