What I would really like to see is more integration between terminal emulator and the shell (and commands you run in it). Currently in Fedora/GNOME the shell prompt is set up to make the terminal notify you (with a native GUI notification) about long running commands completing. That's cool, but we could go so much further.
For one, the shell could let the terminal know the current directory, hostname, username, git branch, current command, last command status, etc. etc.
The terminal then would display that info in its GUI, and perhaps even let you interact with it (imagine a GtkPopover for changing git branches and a Nautilus-like pathbar for the cwd!) We could then shrink back the prompt back to a simple dollar sign.
That would already be infinitely cool, but it gets better.
What if the shell could send its completions to the terminal and the terminal would display them in a native autocomplete widget (like in Builder)?
What if the terminal could track where the output of each command is and allow you to collapse/expand it with a GtkExpander? What if it could visually present each command and its output as this expandable card, along with the time it was issued and the time it took to run (like `time` outputs) and its exist code? And if it failed, paint that card red? And if it segfaulted, add a button to duck duck go the error, run ABRT or even run dnf debuginfo-install and coredumpctl gdb?
What if pagers like `less` could make use of the native scrolling instead of faking it by moving lines? What if `man` rendered the content to HTML (or GTK's native markup format) and presented it as an actual page, sort of like what you get by running `yelp man:foo` but right there in the terminal?
What if `ls` could make use of the native list/table widget and render file icons, just like Nautilus? What if you could expand the folders it outputs right there using mouse and get a tree view?
Don't tell me that fish or vim already display completions in a pop-up using some magical pseudographics. I'm not talking about abusing the old grid-of-characters model of terminals. I'm talking about making the shell and the terminal communicate better so we can use *native* (e.g. GTK+) widgets for what is traditionally done using text-based interfaces.
Mind, just like currently `ls` knows to columnize and colorize its output and `grep` knows to highlight the matches in red *when outputting to a terminal*, but fall back to plain text when piped to something, what I'm describing here would simply fall back to plain text when piped or run in a less magical terminal. So this is about enhancing the existing tools, not about breaking compatibility in any way.
And at the same time that would really get the terminal/shell experience from "emulating ancient hardware to be able to do stuff we haven't yet made a GUI for" to "a way to do advanced stuff with your computer using a command-based interface".
That would truly be a command-based interface for the 21th century. That would be something I'd be proud, not ashamed, to show off to Windows users as the advanced way to tune your system.
I've made a mock-up to illustrate my ideas about the next-gen terminal experience!
• the pathbar
• username, hostname and git branch displayed in the UI, shrinking the shell prompt back to just a $
• commands as cards
• syntax highlighting, including graying out the output a bit to differentiate it from commands themselves
• autocompletion (displayed in a native widget)
• built-in error handling options
• the time each command took (on the right)
@bugaevc it looks awesome, but wouldn't it add too much of unnecessary complexity to console software? Like, text-based stuff is so famously reliable exactly because it has very little moving parts, it's just spitting characters on screen, works every time, for everything. Text is very generalistic and universal, which is why it is the base for Unix.
And when you are trying to think about wrapping it into some GUI, you immediately lose in versatility - because GUI itself is a specialization, it always intentional, and it always has purpose. This purpose may always not align with what the user really wants. There's a lot of questions associated with the GUI, which you didn't have to answer whan you're making a CLI application, a lot of different decisions to make. That's why GUI design is its own damn field.
@drequivalent it would indeed add complexity, but I wouldn't call it unnecessary, I'd call it "better integration". Plus, most modern CLI programs/utils don't use plain text, they use libreadline, ncurses, terminfo, escape sequences, etc. etc., which is unreliable and to me sounds like it amounts to way more hacks than what I'm proposing.
@bugaevc @drequivalent I'm not sure how standard they are but there are various means for setting title, current directory (vte), and there are things like sixel which is a little what you want... See also the hyperlink support (not just url pattern matching like is the norm) which is are also ways to enrich terminal experience. Not sure how I feel about plumbing more and more over escape codes haha. #DBUSOVERXTERM
@bugaevc @drequivalent and there's terminology but I forget how that's done: https://www.enlightenment.org/about-terminology.md.
Anyway, I agree there's room for improvement in the overall UI/workflow -- maybe time to borrow things from the likes of pharo? :D
@drequivalent @bugaevc Yea that's what I was thinking. You'd have to create console programs that specifically had multiple I/O streams, some of them even object streams. It seems similar to what Microsoft was doing with Powershell, attempting to toss around full .NET objects with parameters instead of parsing/piping text IO.
The biggest problem would just be the tooling.
The VAX VMS operating system has invested heavily in standardizing and regularizing their command-line interface in an effort to make it easier to use. They still have a vastly superior help system than either "man pages" or GNU's TexInfo mechanisms.
In IBM's case, you might have heard of Common User Access standard, which influenced both Windows and OS/2 GUIs. Guess what? That whole standard evolved from prior research that went into making CICS panels on IBM mainframes easier and more productive to use.
So, yeah, 99% of those control key and function key presses you use to get around in your Windows desktop? And to a lesser extent, your Linux or BSD interface of choice?
Those. Came. From. IBM. MAINFRAMES.
@drequivalent @bugaevc Going back to Sergey's original proposition, this has **ALL** been done before. I encourage you to look up Symbolics Genera, a Lisp-based operating system for their line of Lisp computers. It is widely regarded as being the most productive, powerful, and approachable *command-line* interface ever seen on a computing platform. Yes, it requires a graphics/bitmapped display to run, but it's still first and foremost a *command-line.*
@drequivalent @bugaevc As a long-time user of a wide variety of command-line and graphical user interfaces, having a seamless integration between the two is absolutely something I'd be interested in. Especially if the great ideas of Genera can be excavated from the Symbolics graveyard and made more available on a contemporary platform.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk. (Or whatever it is kids these days say.)
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