I like ASCII animations and want to view them through a terminal window.

What famous Linux programs and commands are suitable here to display ASCII animations or view videos in a terminal screen?

  • You mean animated ASCII art?
    – Byte Commander
    Nov 17, 2015 at 13:59
  • I'd like to clarify to the downvoters and thos who want to close this question - I meant ASCII animation - I didn't know what it was called :)
    – TellMeWhy
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:59
  • 1
    I retracted my close vote :)
    – Ravan
    Nov 17, 2015 at 15:12
  • 2
    I won't retract my vote since I view this as too broad.
    – muru
    Nov 17, 2015 at 16:27
  • Thanx for the edit @ByteCommander :)
    – TellMeWhy
    Nov 18, 2015 at 10:57

7 Answers 7


Not really a short video but here is the most famous one: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Open a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T) and run :

telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl

enter image description here

  • 1
    what's your theme and terminal? Nov 18, 2015 at 0:11
  • I am using arc-theme with Gnome terminal. Background color : #2F343F.
    – hg8
    Nov 18, 2015 at 8:28

You can play any video as an ascii animation with the caca video driver for mplayer:

sudo apt-get install mplayer2 caca-utils
mplayer -vo caca /path/to/video

This has several output options which work better in X11 but can also work from a real terminal, even over SSH (urgh, it's horrible). It'll also sync sound in there too.

If you don't have any videos to hand, I can help you out. You wouldn't get this from any other guy. I just wanna tell you how I'm feeling. Gotta make you understand...

sudo wget -qO /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl https://yt-dl.org/downloads/latest/youtube-dl
sudo chmod a+rx /usr/local/bin/youtube-dl

youtube-dl -o- "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQw4w9WgXcQ" | mplayer -vo caca -

enter image description here

  • 4
    My eyes! My eyes!
    – muru
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:39
  • 1
    The goggles do nothing.
    – cbll
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:40
  • Great one - but I have no more votes... :P Can it play sound too?
    – Byte Commander
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:47
  • @ByteCommander: It is full MPlayer, so it supports all of MPlayer's audio output capabilities. Nov 17, 2015 at 21:14
  • You do know that downloading YouTube videos violates the YouTube EULA? Nov 17, 2015 at 23:53

If you like trains, install sl:

sudo apt-get install sl

enter image description here

Now you can enjoy a beautiful old steam locomotive driving through your terminal as often as you want!

Also try sl with different parameters:

  • -a: "accident" - people in the train crying for help
  • -l: "little" - a smaller locomotive
  • -F: "flying" - antigravity is cool! ;D
  • 6
    I'm thoroughly convinced there should be a carexecutable to be run when you misspell cat.
    – kos
    Nov 17, 2015 at 14:40
  • 2
    @kos that would be so cool :)
    – TellMeWhy
    Nov 17, 2015 at 15:09
  • 4
    The joke is that you get a train every time you make typo of ls ;) Nov 17, 2015 at 19:59
  • Thanks for this suggestion - sadly it does not have the screensaver behavior like cmatrix, in the man sl there is no indication Sep 30, 2021 at 13:57

Try this command:

$ curl -s http://artscene.textfiles.com/vt100/movglobe.vt | pv -q -L 9600

to see animated AsciiGlobe:

enter image description here

More examples: http://artscene.textfiles.com/vt100/

What is Animated Ascii Art?: http://www.qqpr.com/ascii-art-article-2.html

Source of command line snippet: http://www.cambus.net/visualizing-progression-of-file-operations-using-pv-pipe-viewer/

  • This should have been the accepted answere.
    – ychaouche
    Feb 12, 2019 at 15:54
  • Run sudo apt-get install pv to install pv May 28, 2020 at 13:30

This is also a great one - I haven't tried it but it looks awesome...

A live aquarium!

You can find out how to install it here.


I've just found one:

Burn your terminal:

sudo apt-get install libaa-bin

Run it with aafire:

  • hey that's neat May 2, 2020 at 4:59
  • Wow, animated fractals in ascii is hard to beat! Nov 16, 2020 at 5:06

What 6 answers and no mention of bb?

Youtube vid at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ukhOAUseKY

enter image description here

if not installed:

sudo apt-get install bb

run with:

  • 1
    I just watched the YouTube video you linked, but COOL! :D
    – Byte Commander
    Nov 18, 2015 at 8:55

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