Are there any (good) terminal based (ie. runs in a VT, not in GUI/X) spreadsheets or wordprocessors for Unix/Linux? Can anybody remember the name of such programs which were popular before (eg. before X became so widespread)?

I know the "correct" way of doing wordprocessing in Unix is using a markup-language like LaTeX or GROFF together with a simple editor like vi or emacs... But what I'm wondering about, is if there is - or was (anybody remember an older program that did this?) - something like the old MS-DOS (pre-Windows) WordPerfect-like program for Unix? Where you didn't have true WYSIWYG, but where things like emphesize and underline was marked in the text with colors, reverse video and such.

Programs that are more "front ends" for LaTeX or some XML-format to create wordprocess-documents are also of interest, provided they use the terminal and use colors and such to mark things like emphesized text (rather than you see the latex format-code). Eg. you press CTRL-I, the text you write turns reverse video, and is written to file inbetween format-codes for emphesize.

10 Answers 10


As for command-line spreadsheet programs there are sc and oleo.


  • 3
    In addition, there's also a rather fun one with a very innovative feature (3D), teapot.
    – HalosGhost
    Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 0:28
  • Thank you, I was looking for exactly that kind of spreadsheet - usable both from the console or a GUI, with a syntax simpler than that of tables in Org-mode.
    – lmsteffan
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 23:01
  • 4
    scim is a successor to sc, adding things like undo!
    – Sparhawk
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 7:52
  • @spawhawk Awesome. Appears it's been renamed again to sc-im github.com/andmarti1424/sc-im
    – laanwj
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 7:19
  • Note that "The last development version of Oleo, 1.99.16, was released in 2001." From en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_Oleo
    – user7543
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 16:00

SC-IM (formerly scim; based on SC) is the best command line spreadsheet right now. It compiles easily on OSX. You have to make one modification to the source code to fix the backspace key on OSX.

  • 1
    Here is the Debian install walk-through for scim. At least sudo apt install libzip-dev libxml2-dev bison libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev will be required in addition to editing a few Makefile lines. Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 23:37
  • I was able today to install in debian without editing Makefile so... Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 15:11
  • Just a brew install sc-im away on macOS as of 2022-JUN-18.
    – dimitarvp
    Commented Jun 18, 2022 at 0:23

I would suggest visidata.

VisiData is an interactive multitool for tabular data. It combines the clarity of a spreadsheet, the efficiency of the terminal, and the power of Python, into a lightweight utility which can handle millions of rows with ease.


For command-line interface (CLI) spreadsheet programs, see the following options:

1) SC: Spreadsheet Calculator (Linux Journal Article) / Ubuntu Manpage

2) SC-IM: Spreadsheet Calculator IMprovised (A modern version of SC)

3) Oleo: GNU's spreadsheet

4) PEM: GNU Personal Expenses Manager

5) Teapot: a table editor and planner

6) VisiData: an interactive multitool for tabular data


Try Wordgrinder. It's in the Debian and Ubuntu repos. The only one I found.

  • This is a surprisingly GUI-like word processor for a command-line, which is nice when using it via Termux on Android. You can do a lot of stuff, but it still has ways of doing things that would be non-standard in a GUI-based app. It's important to realize that it is a word processor, though (not a text editor, since the text is formatted). It even has a spellcheck. Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:23

Word Perfect was available for Unix, at least for SCO Unix.

Emacs can handle spreadsheets pretty well. Check out the emacs Wiki article on the topic. Since a traditional terminal does not have any graphics capabilities, the markup display on traditional text editors is rather limited. Emacs can nevertheless use colors to highlight text elements when using a text markup mode like latex or markdown.

If you are motivated to experiment, you can compile Qt embedded and link (nearly) any Qt application against it. By this you can use many programs on the framebuffer console.


scim seems good indeed! To help some new users to fix quickly the backspace key, look for the macros.h file.

Define MACOSX value then launch make. Just as easy!

To seek help within the program, enter :help and read the documentation.

Have fun using spreadsheet in your terminal!


You can probably consider the use of ted a command line .rtf file editor. It 's open source and could be compile probably with any c compiler. See http://www.nllgg.nl/ted/


Can anybody remember the name of such programs which were popular before (eg. before X became so widespread)?

According to this, there were barely any WYSIWYG spreadsheet editors before GUI interfaces, although spreadsheets and the processing of such goes much further back. None of those look to have been ported to *nix, perhaps because at the time no one used unix on a home (or small business) PC.

Your best bet might be to look for a web-based spreadsheet editor that works inside links or some other TUI browser that supports javascript (lynx doesn't, and I'm sure it will be required).

The same could be true for word processing. There is, appartently, a TeX WYSIWYG editor based on Emacs, but I can't tell whether it has a TUI version.

  • I don't know about on Linux, but back in the day, DOS had at least one word processor that was fairly easy to learn how to use (i.e. Norton Textra Writer). Maybe check out the historical word processors here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_word_processors#Historical Commented Feb 17, 2021 at 11:51

joe (Joe's Own Editor) is a very good WordStar clone, and can be configured with WordPerfect key bindings (as "jed" i think...)

It is very fiull featured and has a full, WordStar like menu/help screen. It is WYSIWYG and intuitive.

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