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A terminal-based interface to zulip chat

Project description

Zulip Terminal (zulip-term)

An interactive terminal interface for Zulip.

Recent changes | Installation & Running | Hot Keys | Troubleshooting | Development

Zulip chat PyPI Python Versions Build Status Coverage status Checked with mypy

Installation & Running

We recommend installing zulip-term in a new python virtual environment (venv); with the required python 3.5+, the following should work on most systems:

  1. python3 -m venv zulip-terminal-venv (creates a venv named zulip-terminal-venv in the current directory)
  2. source zulip-terminal-venv/bin/activate (activates the venv; this assumes a bash-like shell)
  3. pip3 install zulip-term (downloads and installs the latest zulip-terminal release from PyPI)

Zulip Terminal installs as zulip-term, so you can then run:

$ zulip-term

If you see further text, like the following, zulip-term should be loading!

Loading with:
   theme 'default' specified with no config.
   autohide setting 'no_autohide' specified with no config.
Welcome to Zulip.

NOTE: Running in subsequent/different sessions

If you open a different terminal window (or log-off/restart your computer), you'll need to run step 2 of the installation again before running zulip-term, since that activates that virtual environment. You can read more about virtual environments in the Python 3 library venv documentation.

NOTE: The zuliprc file

Upon first running, zulip-term looks for a zuliprc file, by default in your home directory.

If it doesn't find one, you have two options:

  1. zulip-term will prompt you for your server, email and password, and create a zuliprc file for you in that location

  2. You can specify the path to an existing zuliprc file using the -c or --config-file options, eg.

$ zulip-term -c /path/to/zuliprc

You can obtain a personal zuliprc file from Zulip servers in your account settings, which gives you all the permissions you have in the web app. Bot zuliprc files can be downloaded from the area for each bot, and will have more limited permissions.

NOTE: If you use Google/Github Auth to login into your zulip organization then you don't have a password and you need to create one. Please go to your <Your Organization URL>/accounts/password/reset/ (eg: to create a new password for your associated account.

Example zuliprc file

The [api] section of a zuliprc file is relatively standard; zulip-term also reads extra options from the [zterm] section, if they are added:


# Theme can also be set to 'gruvbox' ('blue' & 'light' are older themes needing work)
# Autohide defaults to 'no_autohide', but can be set to 'autohide' to hide the left & right panels except when focused.

Hot Keys

Command Key Combination
Show/hide help menu ?
Go Back esc
Previous message Up / k
Next message Down / j
Go left left / h
Go right right / l
Scroll up PgUp / K
Scroll down PgDn / J
Go to the last message G / end
Reply to the current message r
Reply mentioning the sender of the current message @
Reply quoting the current message text >
Reply privately to the sender of the current message R
New message to a stream c
New message to a person or group of people x
Toggle focus box in compose box tab
Toggle topics in a stream t
Send a message Alt Enter / Ctrl d
Edit a sent message e
Show message information i
Narrow to the stream of the current message s
Narrow to the topic of the current message S
Narrow to a topic/private-chat, or stream/all-private-messages z
Narrow to all private messages P
Narrow to all starred messages f
Next Unread Topic n
Next Unread private message p
Search Users w
Search Messages /
Search Streams q
Mute/unmute Streams m
Add/remove thumbs-up reaction to the current message +
Add/remove star status of the current message *
Jump to the Beginning of line Ctrl + A
Jump backward one character Ctrl + B /
Jump backward one word Meta + B
Delete one character Ctrl + D
Delete one word Meta + D
Jump to the end of line Ctrl + E
Jump forward one character Ctrl + F /
Jump forward one word Meta + F
Delete previous character Ctrl + H
Transpose characters Ctrl + T
Kill (cut) forwards to the end of the line Ctrl + K
Kill (cut) backwards to the start of the line Ctrl + U
Kill (cut) forwards to the end of the current word Meta + D
Kill (cut) backwards to the start of the current word Ctrl + W
Paste last kill Ctrl + Y
Undo last action Ctrl + _
Jump to previous line Ctrl + P /
Jump to next line Ctrl + N /
Quit Ctrl + C
Clear screen Ctrl + L

Note: You can use arrows, home, end, Page up and Page down keys to move around in Zulip-Terminal.

Troubleshooting: Common issues

Unable to render non-ASCII characters

NOTE Releases of 0.3.2 onwards should not have this issue, or require this solution.

If you see ? in place of emojis or Zulip Terminal gives a UnicodeError / CanvasError, you haven't enabled utf-8 encoding in your terminal. To enable it by default, add this to the end of you ~/.bashrc:

export LANG=en_US.utf-8

Unable to open links

If you are unable to open links in messages, then try double right-click on the link.

Alternatively, you might try different modifier keys (eg. shift, ctrl, alt) with a right-click.

If you are still facing problems, please discuss it at #zulip-terminal or open an issue for it mentioning your terminal name, version, and OS.

Above mentioned hotkeys don't work as described

If any of the above mentioned hotkeys don't work for you, feel free to open an issue or discuss it on #zulip-terminal.

Zulip-term crashed!

We hope this doesn't happen, but would love to hear about this in order to fix it, since the application should be increasingly stable! Please let us know the problem, and if you're able to duplicate the issue, on the github issue-tracker or at #zulip-terminal.

This process would be helped if you could send us the 'traceback' showing the cause of the error, which should be output in such cases:

  • version 0.3.1 and earlier: the error is shown on the terminal;
  • versions 0.3.2+: the error is present/appended to the file zulip-terminal-tracebacks.log.

Something looks wrong! Where's this feature? There's a bug!

Come meet us on the #zulip-terminal stream on

Contributor Guidelines

Zulip Terminal is being built by the awesome Zulip community.

To be a part of it and to contribute to the code, feel free to work on any issue or propose your idea on #zulip-terminal.

Please read our commit message guidelines and git guide.

A simple tutorial for implementing the typing indicator is available in the wiki. Follow it to understand the how to implement a new feature for zulip-terminal.

Setting up a development environment

Various options are available; we are exploring the benefits of each and would appreciate feedback on which you use or feel works best.

Note that the tools used in each case are typically the same, but are called in different ways.

With any option, you first need to clone the zulip/zulip-terminal repository locally (the following will place the repository in the current directory):

$ git clone

The following commands should be run in the repository directory, which can be achieved with cd zulip-terminal.


  1. Install pipenv (see the recommended installation notes; pipenv can be installed in a virtual environment, if you wish)
$ pip3 install --user pipenv
  1. Initialize the pipenv virtual environment for zulip-term (using the default python 3; use eg. --python 3.6 to be more specific)
$ pipenv --three
  1. Install zulip-term, with the development requirements
$ pipenv install --dev
$ pipenv run pip3 install -e .[dev]


  1. Manually create & activate a virtual environment; any method should work, such as that used in the above simple installation

    1. python3 -m venv zulip-terminal-venv (creates a venv named zulip-terminal-venv in the current directory)
    2. source zulip-terminal-venv/bin/activate (activates the venv; this assumes a bash-like shell)
  2. Install zulip-term, with the development requirements

$ pip3 install -e .[dev]

Development tasks

Once you have a development environment set up, you might find the following useful, depending upon your type of environment:

Task Pip Pipenv
Run normally zulip-term pipenv run zulip-term
Run in debug mode zulip-term -d pipenv run zulip-term -d
Run with profiling zulip-term --profile pipenv run zulip-term --profile
Run all tests (including linter) pytest pipenv run pytest
Build test coverage report pytest --cov-report html:cov_html --cov=./ pipenv run pytest --cov-report html:cov_html --cov=./
Check type annotations ./tools/run-mypy pipenv run ./tools/run-mypy

GitLint (optional)

If you plan to add git commits and submit pull-requests (PRs), then we highly suggest installing the gitlint commit-message hook by running gitlint install-hook (or pipenv run gitlint install-hook with pipenv setups). While the content still depends upon your writing skills, this ensures a more consistent formatting structure between commits, including by different authors.

If the hook is installed as described above, then after completing the text for a commit, it will be checked by gitlint against the style we have set up, and will offer advice if there are any issues it notices. If gitlint finds any, it will ask if you wish to commit with the message as it is (y for 'yes'), stop the commit process (n for 'no'), or edit the commit message (e for 'edit').

Other gitlint options are available; for example it is possible to apply it to a range of commits with the --commits option, eg. gitlint --commits HEAD~2..HEAD would apply it to the last few commits.

Debugging Tips

Output using print

The stdout for zulip-terminal is redirected to ./debug.log by default.

If you want to check the value of a variable, or perhaps indicate reaching a certain point in the code, you can simply write

print(variable, flush=True)

and the value of the variable will be printed to ./debug.log.

We suggest the flush=True to ensure it prints straight away.

If you have a bash-like terminal, you can run something like tail -f debug.log in another terminal, to see the output from print as it happens.

Interactive debugging using pudb & telnet

If you want to debug zulip-terminal while it is running, or in a specific state, you can insert

from pudb.remote import set_trace

in the part of the code you want to debug. This will start a telnet connection for you. You can find the IP address and port of the telnet connection in ./debug.log. Then simply run

$ telnet 6899

in another terminal, where is the IP address and 6899 is port you find in ./debug.log.

There's no effect in Zulip Terminal after making local changes!

This likely means that you have installed both normal and development versions of zulip-terminal.

To ensure you run the development version:

  • If using pipenv, call pipenv run zulip-term from the cloned/downloaded zulip-terminal directory;
  • If using pip (pip3), ensure you have activated the correct virtual environment (venv); depending on how your shell is configured, the name of the venv may appear in the command prompt. Note that not including the -e in the pip3 command will also cause this problem.

Project details

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