Quasi-eponymous three-letter-name terminal applications

I hope you’ll forgive another post extolling the magic of console-based software. I have two that I think worth mentioning mostly because they fall outside the bracket of your standard terminal-based fare.

It’s easy to find utilities that run at the command line, but not so easy to find full-fledged applications. Just so you understand the distinction, I consider a utility to be something like iftop, which shows you the traffic through your network interface. It’s a tool, and outside of supplying you with information, it doesn’t have much other function.

On the other hand, these two are — in my humble opinion — more like applications.

At top left is hnb, and at top right is tpp. And why is it important to mention these things, aside from the fact that they both have three-letter names?

Because they actually do something, instead of just supplying you with information. These two run counter to the traditional stigma of a console-based program: That while a command line is useful for picking the lint out of your kernel, it’s not so great for actually doing things.

hnb is a heirarchical notebook — in other words, a program that builds a text outline, with the intent of organizing information. While it’s (at best) a distant cousin to something like Outline mode in Word, it’s a fantastic way to arrange notes and text in a structured and organized way. The learning curve for hnb is incredibly shallow, meaning it will only take you a few minutes to learn how it works. About five minutes after you install it, you can transfer all your lists, notes, reminders, to-do lists and even calendars to it.

It imports files, it exports its information, it’s colorized and menu-driven. It has spellchecker support, a statistical overview, copy, paste and search functions, undo, redo, sorting and shuffling. Anything that would require a practical arrangement of information is perfectly suited for this application.

tpp on the other hand, is more for show — quite literally. tpp is a text presentation program, and if that conjures up an image of PowerPoint running in a terminal, you have the right idea. If you just snickered at the thought, you need not feel guilty … except that a lot of the core functions of PowerPoint are mimicked in tpp.

Color text, oversized (banner) text (via figlet), transition effects like typewriter “mode” and text sliding, slide counters and headers, boxes, lists … and more. The next time you have to give a presentation, you can wow your geek coworkers by dragging in your Pentium and throwing tpp up on the overhead projector.

Creating a tpp presentation is no more difficult than editing a text file, mostly because that’s all they are. Easy-to-organize text codes trigger the effects, and you can adjust them for the occasion with minimal effort. Best of all, the tarball comes with a folder full of examples, which will get you started.

About the only downside to tpp is that it’s ruby-based, which is neither here nor there, except that I have found ruby-based programs to be rather sluggish at extremely low speeds. That’s not a criticism of tpp so much as it’s a note for people (like me) who are still using particuarly old hardware on a daily basis.

There are other programs which would qualify as applications more than utilities (I did tell you about oleo once, a long time ago), and are bound to the console, but these two are standouts for me mostly because they are exceptionally useful. That, and they prove that the terminal isn’t just a place to monitor your network speed. :mrgreen:

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5 Responses to “Quasi-eponymous three-letter-name terminal applications”


  1. 1 Gunni 2009/04/24 at 11:55 PM

    If pure text handled math formulas well (I’m a mathematician) I’d be all over tpp. Everyone else would *never* top that level of geekiness.

  2. 2 thealphanerd 2009/04/26 at 10:27 PM

    What about lynx, alpine and WordGrinder?


  1. 1 How could I have forgotten « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/04/26 at 9:43 PM
  2. 2 More console apps, for future reference « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/05/04 at 4:34 PM
  3. 3 On the menu « Motho ke motho ka botho Trackback on 2009/06/07 at 9:44 PM

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