04 Jun 2013

I’ve been moving a lot of my daily tasks to the command-line lately, and that includes redditing. I probably spend far too much time on reddit as it is, but I really wanted to find an efficient way to view reddit through the command-line. w3m could render reddit okay, but I couldn’t view my personal front-page because that required me to login to my profile.

The solution was cortex, a CLI app for viewing reddit.

However, I kind of got tired of viewing reddit through w3m, the header alone is a few pages long to scroll through, and the CSS for the comments doesn’t load so there isn’t any sense of threading. But, then I discovered reddit’s mobile website: http://reddit.com/.mobile, and it looks absolutely beautiful in w3m. In fact, I think I prefer it to the normal website in any modern browser; there are no distractions, just pure content.

m.reddit.com rendered in w3m

In order to get cortex to open the mobile version of reddit, I made a bash script wrapper around w3m that takes urls and appends ".mobile" to the end of reddit urls before passing them to w3m (as well as fixing a double forward slash error in the comment uri cortex outputs that desktop reddit accepts but mobile reddit 404s on). The script:


until [ -z "$1" ]; do
  case "$1" in
    -t|--tmux) t=1; shift ;;
    --) shift ; break ;;
    -*) echo "invalid option $1" 1>&2 ; shift ;; # or, error and exit 1 just like getopt does
    *) args+=("$1") ; shift ;;

for arg in "${args[@]}" ; do
    # Switch to mobile reddit
    if [[ $url =~ http:\/\/www.reddit.com || $url =~ http:\/\/reddit.com ]]
        if [[ $url =~ \/$ ]]
    # Fix double backslash error in comment uri for mobile reddit
    if [[ $t == "1" ]]; then
        tmux new-window 'w3m "'${url}'"'
        w3m "${url}"

Since I regurally use Tmux (with Byobu), I also added an optional -t/--tmux switch that will open w3m in a temporary new tmux window that will close when w3m is closed.

I saved the script as w3m-reddit and made it an executable command. In Ubuntu that’s done with the following commands:

$ sudo mv w3m-reddit /usr/bin/
$ sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/w3m-reddit

Now cortex needs to be configured to use w3m-reddit, and that’s done by setting browser-command in the cortex config at ~/.cortex/config to w3m-reddit:

## Command to invoke the webbrowser
## If left empty will try to autodetect the system default browser
##browser-command=firefox '{0}'
browser-command=w3m-reddit '{0}'

The result is a distraction-free reddit experience right in the command-line without having to edit cortex directly. I’ve found that I even prefer reddit this way. Without image thumbnails (I need to explicitly select the image links to view the image in w3m) I am more inclined to pay equal attention to every post, not just mindlessly scrolling through meme-fests. Thus I’m more focused and tend to not loose myself like I do in the infinite scrolling of RES reddit in a GUI browser.

There are still some improvements I could make to the w3m-reddit script. Namely, it should pass along any arguments to itself to w3m underneath. I’m still a newby at bash though, and I couldn’t figure out an easy way to do that without scrapping the whole thing and starting over in Python instead.

Stay tuned for more posts on how I view images and videos efficiently from the command-line.

EDIT 04/25/2015: Reddit seems to have gotten rid of their old mobile reddit site and replaced it with a more modern version that unfortunately doesn’t look as good in w3m. However, the old mobile site is still accessable by adding a “.mobile” to the end of urls. The script above has been edited to reflect this change.