10 Tools to Generate and Have Fun with ASCII Art on Linux

The Linux terminal is not as scary as you think.

Sure, it can be confusing at first, but once you get to know the terminal better, you start to love it.

You will probably use the terminal for serious work. But there are lots of fun things you can do in the terminal as well.

One of them is experimenting with ASCII art. You can display predefined or random messages, play games or perform some animation in ASCII format in the Linux terminal using various command line tools.

My teammate Srinath loves to explore such unusual CLI tools and share his discoveries with me. I share these findings with you.

Most of these programs should be available in your Linux distribution’s repositories. You can use your system’s package manager to install them. To keep the article short, I’ve only included instructions for installing Ubuntu.

1. lolcat: Add colors to your terminal

Good! lolcat has nothing to do with ASCII art. At least not directly.

However, I included it at the beginning of this article because you can combine other ASCII tools with lolcat.

So what does it do? It is similar to the cat command, but adds random gradient colors to its output.

sudo apt install lolcat

2. Aewan: Displays ASCII text beautifully

Aewan is a layered ASCII graphics/animation editor. It creates stand-alone ASCII art files with a cat-able and easy-to-parse format for integration into terminal applications.

There are two tools: aewanASCII editor and aecatto view the created file.

I will not discuss the editorial part here.

sudo apt install aewan

And then use it like this:

aecat hello

3. Cowsay: Make an ASCII cow say whatever you want

What does the cow say? Whatever you want to say.

Cowsay is already a popular tool among Linux power users. Displays an ASCII cow that repeats the text you provide.

Causey

Did you notice the color output in the above screenshot? This is the magic of the lolcat command I mentioned earlier.

To install cowsay use:

sudo apt install cowsay

Once installed, you can use it as follows:

cowsay hello

You can refer to its man page for additional configuration and options.

4. jp2a: Convert images to ASCII art

jp2a is a command line tool that converts images to ASCII art in the Linux terminal. Works with JPEG and PNG files. It also allows color output and your choice of character set to be displayed as an ASCII image.

jp2a

You can install it using the following command:

sudo apt install jp2a

You can get the color output and save the ASCII text like this:

jp2a --output=ascii.txt --colors input.png

This is not the only program of its kind. There is ascii-image-converter and several other tools that can be used for the same purpose. I won’t discuss them all in this list.

5. linuxlogo: Show the ASCII logo of your Linux distribution

The name says it all. It displays the Linux logo in ASCII format.

No, not our favorite Linux logo, Tux, but the logo of your Linux distribution. It also shows some additional information like Linux kernel version, CPU, RAM, hostname, etc.

linux logo

You can install it using the apt command:

sudo apt install linuxlogo

Just type linuxlogo to use the command.

6. Neoftech: Show Linux logo along with system information

The above linuxlogo command is too simplistic. You can boost it using Neofetch.

It shows the distro in a more beautiful way along with several system information like kernel, runtime, desktop, theme, icons, etc.

sudo apt install neofetch

And then just type neoftech to run the command.

There is also screenfetch, a similar tool to Neofetch. You can use any of them.

7. fortune telling: Get fortune telling

Just kidding! No such thing.

However, fortune cookies are still fashionable and apparently people enjoy reading random predictions or teachings.

You can get a similar feature in the Linux terminal with the fortune command:

sudo apt install fortune

Once installed, just type fortune in the terminal to get a random message.

8. pv: Make things animated

This is a classic example of unintentionally using a Linux command. The pv command is used to monitor the progress of data through the channel.

But you can use it to animate the output of any command. Combine it with some of the aforementioned commands and you can see the ASCII image appear on your screen as if it were being typed.

Don `t you understand? Watch this video:

Install it with the following command:

sudo apt install pv

And then use it like this:

neofetch | pv -qL 200 | lolcat

The higher the number, the higher the speed will be.

9. cmatrix: ASCII matrix animation

Remember the cult geek move The Matrix? The green drop code is synonymous with the Matrix and hacking.

You can run an ASCII simulation of the drop code in the Linux terminal with cmatrix command.

I’m sharing a screenshot instead of an animation here.

sudo apt install cmatrix

Once installed, you can run it with:

cmatrix

It immediately starts the animation and continues to generate random green text that falls and disappears from the screen. The command continues to work. To stop the running application, use the Ctrl+C keys.

10. cbonsai: Grow bonsai in your terminal

Got a green thumb? How about growing an ASCII bonsai tree in the terminal?

cbonsai is a fun Linux command that lets you run a bonsai tree growing animation in ASCII format.

I shared YouTube Shorts on the cbonsai command a few days ago.

You can install cbonsai using:

sudo apt install cbonsai

And then to start the animation use this command:

cbonsai -l

Try more

There are many more such fun CLI tools. Heck, there are also ASCII games. It’s fun to use them sometimes to entertain the people around you.

Can you use these commands well? Not sure about usability, but you can add some of these to your .bashrc file so that the command runs as soon as you open a terminal session.

Many system administrators do this on shared Linux systems. A program like cowsay or figlet can be used to display message or system information in a beautiful way.

You can also use some of these programs in your bash scripts, especially if you need to highlight something.

There may be other uses of ASCII art in Linux. I let you share them with others here.

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