3 Web Browsers for the Linux Command Line

(Note: This post was first published, in a slightly different form, at Opensource.com and appears here via a CC-BY-SA 4.0 license.)

Let's take a trip back in time to the early, simpler days of the web. A time when most of us went online using low-powered PCs or dumb terminals, often over slow dial-up connections. Some of use visited web pages using command-line, text-only browsers like the venerable Lynx.

Jump forward to these days of web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and a few others. You'd think that browsing the web at the command line would have gone the way of the tag. You'd be wrong. Web browsers that run in a terminal window are alive and kicking. They're niche, but still get the job done.

Let's take a look at three browsers for the command line.

Links2

Links2 bills itself as the graphical version of the venerable Links. It's a lot like its predecessor in that it gives you the option to run either in text-only mode or graphical mode.

When you start it by typing links2 at the command line and go to a website, the result is something like this:

Browsing in a terminal window with Links2

But when you run links2 -g then visit a site, the result is something like this:

Going graphical with Links2

That's not the only trick that Links2 can do. The browser can display frames and tables, and supports basic JavaScript. You can also use your mouse to follow hyperlinks whether you're in text or graphical mode.

Like Links2, ELinks is a fork of the Links browser. And like Links2, ELinks can display tables and frames. While it supports using a mouse to follow hyperlinks, ELinks lacks support for Javascript.

One feature that makes ELinks stand out from other command line browsers is its menu system. Press ESC on your keyboard display a set of menus that let you enter and save URLs, add bookmarks, set up the browser, and more.

Menus in the ELinks browser

ELinks lacks a graphical mode, but it does have a nifty feature that lets you view images on a web page. Either click the placeholder for the image or highlight it and press v on your keyboard. ELinks opens the image with an application like ImageMagick or GraphicsMagick.

Viewing an image on a web page with ELinks

w3m

When I first fired up w3m, it reminded me of a cross between the classic text-based browser Lynx and the UNIX/Linux text viewer more. While it might not have as many features as the other browsers I discuss in this post, w3m gets the job done.

You can navigate web pages using a mouse, and the browser will render tables and even accept cookies. Like ELinks2, w3m lets you view images on a page using an external program. The browser doesn't do JavaScript, though.

As far as the important job of rendering web pages, w3m does a better job than Links2 or ELinks even with complex pages. The rendering is clean and colourful.

Browsing minimally with w3m

w3m doesn't use the same keyboard shortcuts as other command line browsers, so get ready to learn some new ones. You can do that by pressing H while running w3m.

Scott Nesbitt

#linux #cli #web