Is it possible to have sort of a hybrid terminal that can display isolated images in one or more designated panes?

As I understand it, modern terminals are graphical emulations anyway, so obviously they have the underlying capability to display images.

The way I envision this working is one of two ways:

(1) have a designated or named area of the screen for graphics and the terminal text would wrap around it, or

(2) the images would just print inline with the lines of text; so you would give a command like "show mypicture.png" and the picture would appear below the current line and just scroll off the screen as more commands were entered.

Option (1) would make more sense for a curses-type environment where the application had 2D control over the terminal.

  • 6
    Take a look at terminology, you will even be able to watch movies in terminal background.
    – jimmij
    Feb 27, 2015 at 20:16
  • ^this. And if you're nice to yourself, you'll consider the rest of the enlightenment desktop as well. terminology offers a character cell assignment grid as well - you can print escapes at it marking a filler pattern and then hand it a URL/file link and it will paint that picture over the area you specify. It will do it in the framebuffer.
    – mikeserv
    Feb 27, 2015 at 21:52
  • ^this, and the ty* utilities such as tyls, tycat photo.jpg
    – egmont
    Apr 25, 2015 at 17:11

3 Answers 3


The ubiquitous xterm can have a Tektroniks 4014 mode compiled in. The 4014 was a "storage tube" terminal: you could send escape sequences to it, and it would draw lines and text on screen. Looks like Arch Linux includes a tek 4014 demo. A 4014 manual is still on line.

This is mainly a historic curiosity, I don't imagine this is what you want, but it does illustrate that "in band signaling" could be used to do graphics windows, as opposed to having to do "out of band" signalling, like say, X11 does.

  • 1
    The "Arch Linux" demo is from xterm's sources (predates Linux). Mar 29, 2015 at 10:08
  • 2
    Here's a tek 4014 example program --- including a file you can just cat into a modern xterm. It's worth pointing out, though, that tek 4014 mode doesn't have the ability to draw black other than clearing the screen, because you couldn't do that on storage tubes, and so its ability to do interactive graphics is kinda limited. Jan 12, 2016 at 20:11

Before X Windows there were several attempts at 'inband' graphic protocols. 4014 mode in classic xterm is one. I've seen it do some real work about 25 years ago to do wire frame 3d drawings. A more powerful graphics protocol in early 1980's VT300+ terminals was the DEC REGIS graphics. This was a full raster graphics language with options for 'mouse like' input and a range of drawing primitives (lines, filled/unfilled circles and rectangles). All encoded in an extended version of the classic VT### escape sequences. Some of the REGIS terminals had local 'tiny basic' interpreters and could run local programs downloaded via in band escape sequences. One could imagine had CPU's and memory been just a little larger, entire GUI's could have been developed as an alternative approach to X Window like systems.

  • You can see a windowing system with in-band signalling in the "MGR" windowing system: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ManaGeR . This worked as late as 1994 on a Sun SPARCStation-10 As far as a terminal running programs, that what the basis of Sun Micrososystem's NeWS system: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NeWS As many have noted, everything has been thought of once, the problem is to think of it again.
    – user732
    Feb 27, 2015 at 23:34
  • There's some recent work to add ReGIS to xterm. Mar 29, 2015 at 10:09

iTerm and Kitty support images using their own ad-hock-ish protocols. You can check out their documentation for more details.

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