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Terminal Life

TODO: Under construction, terminal keyboard shortcuts

I learned to use a computer back in the days of DOS and enjoyed working in that environment. Once Windows and Macintosh took over, DOS was forgotten by most computer users and stopped being the ship’s helm that the Linux terminal is today. Thankfully, modern Linux has retained and embraced the command line even as slick desktop environments have grown up around it.

The more you use the terminal, the more jarring it is to switch between it and its GUI counterparts. This leads to the inevitable question: Could I just do that in the terminal? With Linux, the answer is almost certainly yes.

I’ve assembled this page of resources and applications that I enjoy using when in the terminal, and compare some of the alternatives available. Applications and resources are grouped by category.

Terminal-based Distributions

I don’t know of any Linux distribution that doesn’t feature a terminal application and the command line tools users expect to find on a Linux machine. But there are two distributions I’ve used that are particularly suited to command line junkies.

i3 / Regolith

i3 is a tiling window manager that makes the terminal the command center of your desktop environment. I’ve found it takes a good deal of configuration and tweaking by itself, and that’s where Regolith comes in. Regolith is an Ubuntu-based distribution that gives you a beautifully configured i3/Gnome desktop environment. If you’ve always wanted to try a tiling window manager, Regolith is a great place to start.

Arch / Endeavor

Arch Linux deliberately doesn’t include a GUI package manager. It’s a distribution that expects you to be in the terminal regularly. It’s my favorite Linux flavor and is a great option for terminal junkies. That said, the install can be a little intimidating, and it takes some skill to end up with a nicely coordinated desktop environment. If you’re not looking for that kind of challenge, Endeavor OS is an Arch-based distribution with a friendly installer. You end up with Arch installed along with a beautifully coordinated desktop environment. As of this writing, it’s what I’m running as my daily driver.

None

If you’re really hardcore, just install Arch (or the server distribution of your choice) with no desktop environment. This is a great project for an old computer you’ve got kicking around. It’s fun to see how far you can take this, and how long you can stand it. If you do this, tmux is you’re friend.

Mail

Reading mail from the Linux terminal is reminiscent of the Unix terminals many of us used back in the day. My go-to in college (early 90s) was Pine. I loved its simplicity and speed. But email was a lot simpler back then. If you’re using a simple shell email account and don’t mind some difficulty with badly formed marketing emails, Pine’s maintained replacement Alpine is definitely worth a look.

My current-day recommendation for mail in the terminal is mutt, which works beautifully with GMail’s IMAP integration.

If you’re going to commit to mail in the terminal, you’ll grow to appreciate plain text email. Plain text email is somewhat of an endangered species. Read more about its plight at https://useplaintext.email.


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