This page is still being put together.

If you have a computer too old for a graphical desktop, have a broken Xserver, or if you just want to work faster, then this article is a good guide to getting started.

Good Things To Know

Now, if you want to work in a command-line, chances are you already know a good deal about the terminal. However, it's also possible you're just learning. Some good links to check out are, which has tutorials for beginners;, which is a good reference for beginners as well (and is on the forums!);, which is basically a list of places to find information; and, of course,, which you should hopefully be familiar with if you've gotten this far.

If you ever want to more about a command, do man programname to bring up its manual. Some will also have detailed information in info documents (info programname).

Getting set up

So you want to boot to a CLI? Great! Here's how.

$ sudo update-rc.d -f gdm remove

If for some weird reason you ever want to boot to the GDM again, you can do it like so:

$ sudo update-rc.d -f gdm defaults

If you want to get into x, do

$ startx

(preferably after setting up a .xinitrc, which could be another whole subject)

Basic programs

GNU Screen

If you're planning to do your computing in the commandline (or if you ever use a terminal in X), probably the very first thing you should do is install GNU screen (sudo aptitude install screen). Read its infopage--I know it's tedious, but it's easily one of the most useful computer programs out there. It multiplexes a single terminal into many and allows you to copy and paste, get notifications of silence or activity, and switch between many different "windows" at will.

Once you have screen installed, look into screen-profiles (sudo aptitude install screen-profiles). It adds a nice configurable 'statusbar' to your screen session.

The Internet

There are a good many internet programs for the commandline. By default, you have links or elinks as web browsers in full *buntu. Other popular browsers are w3m, w3m-el (the Emacs web browser), and lynx. Not so popular but useful is surfraw, a command-line interface to many popular search engines including Google, Yahoo!, and the Internet Movie Database, to name a few. More information can be found at its website.

To install programs in the commandline, use either sudo apt-get install programname, sudo aptitude install programname, or if you want a user interface, sudo aptitude. Also, apt-cache search enables you to search for packages on the commandline. You can also use wajig, which wraps around apt, dpkg (and many more) and allows you to manage your system much easier.

As to email, there are many mailreaders such as mutt, pine, and gnus (and many more) which range from "very configurable, sharp learning curve" to "not-so-sharp learning curve, not so configurable."

Popular IRC clients include irssi, bitchx, erc, & centericq (which also works as a Y! messenger, MSN messenger, and other protocols client).

Popular instant messaging software includes Centericq, naim, ptyaim, pork, and bitlbee (which is unique in that it's a) multiprotocol and b) a server that runs out of an irc client).

Bittornado works for, well, bittorrent, and nanodc is an (under development) dc++ client.

Text Editing

There are many console-based text editors, needless to say. Most new users will feel at home in nano, the GNU pico (enhanced) clone. More advanced users probably already have a preference, such as nano, GNU emacs, vi/m (vi or vim, vi iMproved), or something else altogether (maybe even ed, the line editor!). However, for the sake of avoiding a religious debate, let's just say that all are quite good programs and if you don't know the difference, you should probably stick to nano for the moment and read up later.

Also note that it's possible to use LaTeX and other markup languages to create pdfs, websites, and other complex output using only a text-editor (and the appropriate interpreter)

Printing can be done with the lpr command assuming your have everything configured.


First you should install lynx. It is a text based browser which has support for many protocols including https. Irssi can be used to get help from the rubuntu irc channel and is installed by default in Dapper. Mutt is a good email client to use when using just the command line. Centericq is a text mode menu- and window-driven IM client program that supports the ICQ2000, Yahoo!, AIM, MSN, IRC and Jabber protocols.

For editing text files, nano and vim are installed by default. If you do not know the difference then you may be better using nano at first. For making formatted text files you may want to consider using LaTeX. Obviously some tasks such and imagework are not well suited to a textual interface.

While not nearly as many games are available if you are not using graphics there are more than one might expect. First off are Muds which are played online via telnet or a specialized client like tf. Next is Interactive Fiction which can be played with an interpreter like frotz or tads depending on the file format. After that are the rogulikes such as nethack-console which are ascii represented dungeon crawlers. There are also some varied games that installing freesweep, bsd-games and bombardier should take care of.

  • moon-buggy-esd makes me switch to console mode especially for it Smile :)

For multimedia, movie files can be played with MPlayer, since it's GUI has been seperated from the playback engine (GUI is called "gmplayer"). If used with the caca output option (I think "mplayer -vo caca filename") then it can output coloured ASCII-art for the display, although updating the display at such a rapid pace can take a lot of processing power and the audio might advance faster than the video. Some audio formats are also supported by Mplayer (such as MP3) but there are also minimalist players like mpg123/mpg321, and others for Ogg Vorbis. Mikmod can play many soundtracker files in a text console as well.

  • There is a server/client based multimedia system which can be accessed via command-line, but I forget it's name. It would be useful to include here


Check out pytone, and mocp (packagename moc) for nice music players with user interfaces, random feature, database support, etc. Both are easy to use and configurable in many ways (such as keybindings).

Another very good option is MPD ( sudo apt-get install mpd ). It is a 'Music Playing Deamon' which just plays music, indexes your music library and manages your playlists. It has many frontends. For a curses based one look at ncmpc. You can also look into mpc which is great if you need to control mpd from a script.


Install mplayer ( sudo aptitude install mplayer svgalib1 ). It is a video (and audio) player. It can play videos on the console using the " -vo svga " parameter. (It can also stream videos from the internet, see "man mplayer")

mplayer -vo svga myvideo.avi

General Tools

Htop is a more graphical system manager. Mc is a file manager. Dc is a calulator.

Managing your computer

apt: see the Internet section, above editing text files: Yup! That's how you manage your computer! Read the manpage and do some judicious googling.


Nethack, nethack-el, moon-buggy-esd, bsdgames, online MUDs and such, etc.

Programs that need sorted into section

Ninvaders, greed, freesweep

CliDesktop (last edited 2009-05-28 13:50:26 by bla-dds)