Trick out your Terminal with ASCII art

Terminals are basic, kinda ugly and wonderfully utilitarian. If you’ve ever thought about “tricking out” your terminal, there’s only so much you can do from the terminal application preferences pane. Changing the background and you can go all black window on green text, “super1337haxor living in the Matrix” style, but that’s as exciting as it gets.

Taking a few more steps, you can transform your terminal into a snazzy window, with awesome colors and welcoming ASCII art. This tutorial is aimed at Mac users that have Homebrew installed. If you’re on Linux, I assume you’re smart enough to figure it out.

Here’s how to go from dull to dazzling in your terminal window:

1. Let’s play around a bit. In the terminal, type:
brew install fortune

Once this has installed, in the terminal, type:
fortune

Keep running it and see all the awesome fortunes that you’ll get!

2. Next we’re going to install this awesome program for the terminal called lolcat. This will effectively make anything you type into a beautiful range of colors.

From the terminal, run this command:
brew install lolcat

Once lolcat has installed, try running
fortune | lolcat

Image

Pretty cool, huh!

Let’s take it a step further — ASCII ART!!

Sidenote: This stuff is amazing. ASCII art has been around since the dawn of the computer age (or 1966, according to Wikipedia, when Bell Labs’  Kenneth Knowlton created the first known ASCII art). Originally used to print out images with characters before printers had the ability to print actual graphics, ASCII art has gone the way of the punch card and is largely relegated to the computer graphics graveyard.

Aside from ASCII art being totally rad, it is mad OG and using it in your terminal as I am about to demonstrate gives you about 1000 internet points. So there.

We’re going to be making ASCII art appear in your terminal every time you open up a new window. This is super simple. In fact, the hardest part is going to be deciding what ASCII art to choose. So let’s get started.

First, pick out the ASCII image you like. There are tons of resources online. My favorite is http://www.chris.com/ascii/

There is a plethora of amazing ASCII art. Case in point:

That’s right, people. Cher.

You’ll want to use your mouse to select the art you like. Copy it and move to the next step.

Next, open up your terminal move to you home directory. Type:

ls -a

You’ll notice a bunch of files appear, including a lot of files that are preceded by a dot(.) These are hidden files. Notice you have a file called “.bash_profile” (on Mac). If you’re on Linux (and probably Windows)  it’s “.bashrc”. You need to open up that file in your text editor. I’m using Textmate:

mate .bash_profile

Once you’re in .bash_profile, click on the empty space at the bottom of the page and type in this command exactly as written:

read -r -d '' VAR <<'EOF'

Paste in your ASCII art below this command. Don’t move it around! Even if it looks weird, just keep it as is.

On the line above below your ASCII art, write:

EOF
echo "$VAR" | lolcat

Save your file and then open up a terminal window. You should see your ASCII art in color! If it looks a little wonky, head back into .bash_profile and make minor edits to the ASCII.

Share your art in the comments!

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2 thoughts on “Trick out your Terminal with ASCII art

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