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I like the command line because it preserves the context of what I'm doing. But if I use a "rogue" mode program like vi or less, the whole screen gets taken over.

Is a middle way possible, where the console mode program takes over only half the screen (above or below the shell part)?

I'm borrowing the term "rogue" from Eric Raymond:

Roguelike programs are designed to be run on a system console, an X terminal emulator, or a video display terminal. They use the full screen and support a visual interface style, but with character-cell display rather than graphics and a mouse.

I already use tmux and GNU screen to split the terminal into panes, but I'm looking for a way to stay in one shell session.

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I don't understand the motivation. You could probably trick curses into thinking the terminal is smaller than it actually is but what would you do with the remaining space besides put another screen or tmux split pane in there running a different process? –  jw013 Aug 23 '12 at 17:35
    
dvtm is another possible way, if I understood what you want correctly. –  schaiba Mar 21 '13 at 23:48
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I guess you could run your full-screen program in tmux or Screen pane directly, without additional shell session (shell is just another program).

Another way, which I prefer, is to use tiling/stacking window manager like i3 and terminal program urxvt. The latter has very fast daemon/client structure, which allows opening new windows instantly, so you could run any program in new window this way:

urxvtc -e <command> <args>

This needs to be in a script or a function, really.

New window will take one half, one third, or so on of the screen in default tiling mode. Combined modes are also possible in these WMs.

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Those are also the same command args as xterm. For running the rogue program in a new pane, see wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/… –  JodieC Mar 26 '12 at 14:18
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