How can I create a message box from the command line, either GUI message boxes or message boxes shown inside the terminal?

It would also be interesting to be able to get a simple input back from the user, for example, an input given with radio buttons (yes/no, OK, etc).


For a standard "box around a message", use boxes:

echo 'This is a test' | boxes

boxes will look like this (First one. Second one is a custom like cowsay):

Screenshot of an asterix box and an ASCII-art dog holding a sign of text

If you mean an alert box, use notify-send:

notify-send 'title' 'message'

notify-send looks like this:

Pop-up message reading "Hello Ashframe..."

You also can use zenity for a popup window:

zenity --error --text="An error occurred\!" --title="Warning\!"

Zenity is more graphical and has more options, like having the window appear as a question, using:

zenity --question --text="Do you wish to continue/?"

or even progress bars, using:

find /usr | zenity --progress --pulsate --auto-close --auto-kill --text="Working..."

zenity looks like this:

error, question, info, and warning dialog boxes with buttons

Or use dialog, for a command-line only message box:

dialog --checklist "Choose OS:" 15 40 5 \
1 Linux off \
2 Solaris on \
3 'HP UX' off \
4 AIX off

dialog looks like this:

dialog TUI with 4 options

Another option is whiptail:

whiptail --title "Example Dialog" --msgbox "This is an example of a message box. You must hit OK to continue." 8 78

whiptail looks like this:

whiptail pop-up box with two text buttons

And if you are truly crazy, use toilet:

toilet -F border -F gay "CRAZY"

toilet looks like this:

colorful text box reading "CRAZY"

  • Excellent write-up, @polym – I am gonna use zenity to get on my own nerves once a month in the update&upgrade department... – Frank Nocke Sep 18 '19 at 7:51


This is the granddaddy of GUI alerts:

xmessage -center "Hello, World!"

Pure retro goodness.

I also bet that it should be widely available on X11 systems.

SO thread: How to show a GUI message box from a bash script in linux? | Stack Overflow

Tested in Ubuntu 18.04.

  • Worked out of the box on my Openbox install. Thanks! – aexl Nov 20 '18 at 18:52
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    xmessage is even installed on Ubuntu Server by default. So I can use ssh -Y <host> to log into the machine while forwarding x connections and then run some-command; xmessage "some-command is done" to pop up a notification on my desktop when the long running command is finished. – Stephen Ostermiller May 3 '19 at 20:30
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    Cool command. To auto-clear the message after a few seconds: xmessage -timeout 10 "Goodbye in 10s!". – AlainD Sep 11 '19 at 15:49
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    TINY on a 4k monitor. – Gringo Suave Feb 20 '20 at 21:15
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    This will do wonders for my long-running rsync commands over ssh. – Sridhar Sarnobat Nov 19 '20 at 20:10

And then just because @polym's completely over the top answer missed the classic messaging:

write <username> [<terminal>] - send a message to another user. Either interactively or as part of a pipe with echo "message" | write username


And the complement to write, wall to send a message to all users



If you are willing to pipe the text to a Python wrapper, you can use terminaltables:

pip3 install colorclass
pip3 install terminaltables

Then in the GitHub Repo, you can use one of the examples to write a python wrapper.

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