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,
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
- 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.jsto 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
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
(ii) slideshow from markdown file using
greveal and reveal.js,
(iv) word cloud using
d3cloud and d3.js, (v) inline graphics using
and (vi) notebook mode using the standard python interpreter.
Screenshot 3: Embedding terminals within GraphTerm
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 OR 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
For a manual install procedure, download the release tarball from the
Python Package Index, untar,
and execute the following command in the
python setup.py install
For the manual install, you will also need to install the
web server, which can be downloaded from
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
subdirectory of the distribution, after you have installed the
tornado package on your system (or within the
subdirectory of the source distribution). In this case, certain
commands in the
graphterm/bin subdirectory, such as
gauth, would need to be accessed as
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,
when starting the server, and enter the authentication code stored in
~/.graphterm/_gterm_auth.txt as needed. (The
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:
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
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
(Note: You need to execute the
sudo gterm_setup command
to be able to use the GraphTerm toolchain. Otherwise, you will
Permission denied error.)
See Getting Started with GraphTerm
for more info on using GraphTerm. You can also
set up a virtual computer lab
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.
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
GraphTermclient should work on most recent
browsers that support Websockets, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. (Google Chrome usually works best.) The
GraphTermserver 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
xtermescape 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,
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: