Console network monitors

I keep turning over rocks and finding new console applications that are worth mentioning. I thought I had scraped the bottom of the barrel, but the list of gizmos, gadgets and whirligigs available for the terminal seems to be growing instead of shrinking. They’re like coat hangers, or bunnies. They’re constantly reproducing when you’re not looking.

I found two network traffic monitors I hadn’t heard of, and I’ve added both to my system even if I hardly need them. I already mentioned slurm a few weeks ago, which still stands as one of my favorites. Nothing better than a sideways-scrolling multicolor network graph to keep the kids busy for days.

On the other hand, slurm doesn’t feed you much in the way of details, even if it is a dandy visual metaphor for your network activity. If you want details, you can always install tcpdump, but watching tcpdump spit out information is a bit like skimming a phone book, with lots of numbers and words spinning past without much in the way of coherent presentation.

Here are two more, that are more organized: iptraf and iftop.

At the top is iptraf, and on the bottom right is iftop. slurm is on the left, just for comparison’s sake.

All three are fairly straightforward, showing traffic and usage in their own particular ways. The white bars in iftop will scale to the left and right depending on rates and activity, inverting the text so its readable. iptraf has a detailed version if you want to focus on just one interface, and it will give you far more information that just what you see there. And I suppose it’s worth mentioning that slurm has three graphs you can switch between, by pressing the ‘c,’ ‘l,’ and ‘s’ keys while it’s running.

I don’t have a clear favorite, although personally I see more of a use for slurm and iftop than iptraf. I think on a complex, busy machine like a server or a network host iptraf would be the winner, just because it seems to have more details particular to each address and interface. For me, it’s a little less appealing than the other two.

slurm is good stuff, but slurm doesn’t give me as much information as iftop does. It’s actually kind of nice to be able to connect the numbers to the destinations — to put names to the faces, so to speak. And it’s important to say that iftop has a brief help screen — press ‘h’ — and you can adjust the display to something of your liking. And I like that I can cram iftop into a tiny windowbox and not lose any information … for the most part.

But it’s not colorificationized, like slurm, and doesn’t have cool peaks and valleys and up-and-down-rates in two configurable colors, like slurm. And it doesn’t show as much detail as iptraf can, for the most part. So for me there’s no clear winner, even if I’m more inclined to use iftop and slurm, than iptraf.

You try them and see what you like. They’re all free, and the only investment is the time you spend to install them. Linux is cool that way, isn’t it? :mrgreen:

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11 Responses to “Console network monitors”


  1. 1 trv 2009/04/22 at 8:59 AM

    jnettop is another good option!

  2. 2 mardson 2009/04/22 at 1:41 PM

    yay! you read your comments

    i agree that iptraf is insanely more complicated that iftop. i definitely use iftop more than anything else. it’s amazing how productive you can be on a terminal!

  3. 5 jared 2009/04/23 at 6:22 AM

    Great tools. I have a somewhat comprehensive list of CLI Desktop tools which I add the 3 you mentioned. http://jaredandcoralee.com/CLIapps.html Any suggestions to the list would be appreciated.
    It may give you some additional CLI tools you may want to try out. It’s my attempt to show that anything on the desktop can be done in the CLI.

  4. 6 Zeist 2009/04/23 at 8:16 PM

    My favourite network monitoring tool is one of the really basic ones, BWM-NG ( http://www.gropp.org/?id=projects&sub=bwm-ng ).

    I only really care about bandwith used though, and I don’t really require graphs.


  1. 1 Seeding Jaunty « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/04/23 at 10:01 PM
  2. 2 Quasi-eponymous three-letter-name terminal applications « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/04/24 at 9:02 PM
  3. 3 How could I have forgotten « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/04/26 at 9:54 PM
  4. 4 On the menu « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/06/07 at 9:44 PM
  5. 5 The unknown network monitor « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/12/19 at 10:26 PM

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