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Utility for launching commands in a GUI terminal

Project description


interminal is a utility for launching a graphical terminal emulator and running a command. It has the same behaviour as if you had opened the terminal and typed the command yourself, including history, respecting shell aliases etc. It is tested on Linux, possibly could work on macOS, and is not compatible with Windows.


to install interminal, run:

$ sudo pip3 install interminal

or to install from source:

$ sudo python3 install

interminal requires the pexpect package, which pip should automatically install if it is not already installed.


interminal is mostly useful for things like making an external tool for your text editor, or making a launcher for a terminal program, or things like that. For example, you might want to run the command python3 whenever you press a certain keyboard shortcut in your text editor whilst you've got the file open. It's easy to make an extension to do this in, for example, Sublime Text 3, but the output will be shown in a panel at the bottom of Sublime's GUI. Sublime's GUI is not a terminal emulator, it does not give you the power to re-run the command with different arguments, inspect output files, etc. Sometimes what you really want is for your favourite terminal emulator to be a keystroke away.

You'd think that would be easy, right? All terminal emulators have command line options for telling them what command to run — can't we just use those? Unfortunately it's not that simple. The following command:

$ gnome-terminal -x python3

has a few problems. One, it closes the terminal as soon as the command exits, preventing you from seeing its output. Secondly, the script is not necessarily run from within a shell (whether or not it does seems to vary by terminal emulator and the current phase of the moon), meaning any environment variables you've set in your .bashrc or aliases etc may not be available. If you want your commands to be run in a 'normal' environment, you need to run a shell in the terminal first, and tell the shell to run your command. Then you have to start another shell to ensure the terminal emulator stays open:

$ gnome-terminal -x bash -c "python3; bash"

This is almost good enough. It doesn't add the command to your shell history, but it's basically what we want. But if you need to escape some characters in your command, you are two-layers deep in "passing commands to other commands" — the quoting is going to get out of control fast. And for reasons I can't grasp, I can't get the above to work with some terminal emulators.

Ideally we want something that will work with the minimum quoting, and that emulates exactly what would happen if you typed something into a terminal yourself. That's where interminal comes in.


To run a command such as echo hello in a terminal emulator, run the command:

$ interminal echo hello

This will launch a new terminal emulator, run the command echo hello, and then leave you at an interactive prompt, with the command echo hello in your shell history, exactly as if you had launched the terminal emulator and typed it yourself. In fact, interminal works by injecting the command into the input of a pseudoterminal connected to your shell, and so as far as that shell is concerned, you did type it in. In this way, interminal can respect whatever crazy hacks you have decided to apply to your shell — by just typing things into a terminal the same as a human would.

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If you have something more complex, you can instead do:

$ interminal --script 'du -hs $HOME/* | sort -hr; echo hello'

This allows you to include things that will be interpreted by the shell in the launched terminal emulator (but not by the shell, if any, from which you are executing the above command).


Which terminal emulator to launch is guessed based on the XDG_DESKTOP environment variable — the default terminal emulator for the desktop environment is used. If you want to use a different one, you can call interminal like this, using the terminology terminal emulator as an example:

$ terminology -e inshell --script 'du -hs $HOME/* | sort -hr; echo hello'

interminal is actually just a very short script that replaces its own process with the terminal emulator running the inshell script, which is also part of this package. So you can call inshell yourself as above to control which terminal to launch. If this sounds like it defeats the purpose of this project, it doesn't — inserting the command into a shell that otherwise behaves like an ordinary interactive shell is the tricky bit.

If you are running the interminal command from a shell, then you must make sure that its arguments, after being interpreted by that shell are what you want to run in the interactive shell that is started in the terminal emulator. For example, if you run:

$ interminal echo $PATH

then $PATH will be expanded prior to interminal being called. This might be undesirable if, for example, the shell you are running interminal from is dash, and your $SHELL environment variable (which is what interminal will run) is /bin/bash. The current shell won't have run your .bashrc and so might not have any additions you have made there to your $PATH variable. So as a general rule, in these cases you should do:

$ interminal --script 'echo $PATH'

Of course if you want to have single quotes in your command, the required escape sequences can get unwieldy:

$ interminal --script 'echo $PATH > '"'"'my file with spaces'"'"''

(this will run echo $PATH > 'my file with spaces')

Hopefully, you are using interminal from an environment that lets you pass in command line arguments that are not interpreted by a shell, but instead are passed directly to the exec() system call, in which case the above quoting is unnecessary. For example, in Python, this is fine:

import subprocess
subprocess.Popen(["interminal", "--script", "echo $PATH > 'my file with spaces'"])

In fact, you can have an arbitrarily long multi-line shell script as that final argument, it will be executed as-is.

The following is fine too, for the case where you are not using any features of the shell and just want to run a single command:

import subprocess
subprocess.Popen(["interminal", "python3", "/path/to/my script with"])

No quoting is neccesary at all in this case.

But if you have to pass something to a shell, and you don't know in advance what the arguments are, you should try to quote them programatically to ensure you get the quoting right:

import shlex
import os

# If you have a command using shell features:
args = ["interminal", "--script", "echo $PATH > 'my file with spaces'"]

# or, when not using shell features:
# args = ["interminal", "python3", "/path/to/my script with"]

# Create a single, appropriately quoted command from the arguments:
command = ' '.join(shlex.quote(arg) for arg in args)

# Then pass the single command to whatever shell will interpret it:

Sublime extension example

Here's how I use interminal to make Sublime Text 3 run Python. This requires an extension file to be placed in ~/.config/sublime-text-3/Packages/User/:

# ~/.config/sublime-text-3/Packages/User/

import os
import subprocess
import sublime_plugin

class WindowCommand(sublime_plugin.WindowCommand):

    def current_file(self):
        return os.path.abspath(self.window.active_view().file_name())

    def current_file_basename(self):
        return os.path.basename(self.current_file)

    def current_folder(self):
        return os.path.dirname(self.current_file)

    def save(self):

class PythonInterminalCommand(WindowCommand):
    def run(self, index=None):
        subprocess.Popen(['interminal', 'python3', '-i', self.current_file_basename],

And then it requires an addition to the keybindings file:



    { "keys": ["f5"], "command": "python_interminal" },



Then when you press F5:

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Note that it doesn't matter what the extension file is called, the keybinding finds the right command to run based on a naming convention for the class: foo_bar_baz means it will look for a class called FooBarBazCommand.

I prefer python3 -i but you can of course modify this to whatever you like.

In particular with this command, running commands through an actual shell is useful for because I have an alias such that python3 actually calls ~/anaconda3/bin/python, a newer version of Python than the system Python. If I change the alias, I won't have to change my Sublime extension - I only have to make sure the shell does what I want, and then anything launched via interminal will respect that.

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