XKCD is probably the most popular webcomic with Devs. It only seems right that you can read it from the comfort of your terminal via a
xkcd command. How can we pull that off?
I use Kitty as my terminal of choice. It is fast, feature-rich, and is cross-platform (Linux and macOS). The real game-changer is that it is one of the few terminal emulators that uses GPU rendering, and has its own graphics protocol for displaying images. So, out of the box Kitty can show images (with a caveat), why not put this capability to use?
#!/usr/bin/env bash # Save this file as "xkcd" URL=https://xkcd.com/ if [ $# -gt 0 ] && [ $1 = "-r" ] then URL=https://c.xkcd.com/random/comic fi img=$(curl -s -L $URL | grep 'href= "https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics.*' | cut -d> -f2 | cut -d< -f1) kitty +kitten icat $img
xkcd to fetch the latest comic, or
xkcd -r for a random selection.
For a more polished version, you can clone the GitHub repo: https://github.com/robole/xkcd.
Read on if you'd like to understand the finer details!
Kitty shows images via the
icat kitten which is included in the default installation. A kitten is a python script to extend the functionality of Kitty.
To display an image, you can run the following command in Kitty:
kitty +kitten icat img.png
There is a caveat that ImageMagick must be installed for
icat to work. I had it installed already, so everything worked first time for me! It supports all image types supported by ImageMagick.
If you want to use another terminal emulator, maybe you can use a python library called Überzug to achieve the same outcome. You could use one of the image viewer utilities, feh and sxiv, but they will always open a new terminal window AFAIK. Personally, I prefer to have the comic shown as an inline image, and Kitty does that with the least fuss. It's a no-brainer for my personal preferences!
You should not need to install anything else if you have a *nix machine or have cygwin installed on Windows (its installed with Git usually). With the GNU coreutils:
cut, we should be able to get the latest webcomic from the XKCD homepage.
It would be nice to be able to read a random XKCD also. Is there a way to do this from the XKCD website?
We are in luck because the XKCD website has a Random page where they fetch a random comic from their archive for you! So, we should be the able to do the same thing with the random page and home page!
To grab the homepage, we use
curl with the "-s" flag (to run in silent mode - so there is no progress meter or error messages):
curl -s https://xkcd.com/
We can use
grep to pick out the URL of the image of the webcomic. The webpage is quite short, so we wont have to write anything too gnarly. We just want to uniquely identify the image URL with the simplest regex (regular expression) possible. On inspection of the HTML, it looks like this snippet is the easiest to target:
Image URL (for hotlinking/embedding): <a href= "https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/rounding.png">https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/rounding.png</a>
There is an extra space after the equals sign for the
href attribute (oddly). If we target the
href attribute with the beginning of the URL, we will will get this as the only result. The regex
href= "https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics.* should do the trick. We pipe the output of the
curl command to the
grep command and get the snippet we are after.
Next, we want to get the URL on its own. We can use
cut to strip out the unwanted parts of this string using the angled brackets as a delimiter. Using
cut -d> -f2 on the output gives us "https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/rounding.png</a", if we pipe this output to
cut -d< -f1, we get the URL on its own!
So, as a single line command, we can run the following the latest webcomic:
kitty +kitten icat $(curl -s https://xkcd.com | grep 'href= "https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics.*' | cut -d> -f2 | cut -d< -f1)
Lets tidy the script up to make it more readable, and add the ability to choose a random comic with a
If there is a "-r" argument passed as the first parameter to the script, we will fetch the page https://c.xkcd.com/random/comic instead of the homepage. Since this URL will redirect you to another page, we need to adjust our
curl command to follow this redirect. We can do this by adding the "-L" flag. And thats it, the rest of the logic is the same for getting the correct image from the fetched page.
This is our final script, which we put in a file named "xkcd":
#!/usr/bin/env bash URL=https://xkcd.com/ if [ $# -gt 0 ] && [ $1 = "-r" ] then URL=https://c.xkcd.com/random/comic fi img=$(curl -s -L $URL | grep 'href= "https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics.*' | cut -d> -f2 | cut -d< -f1) kitty +kitten icat $img
Now, to get a random comic, we can run
You got to love the power of bash scripting for this type of task. Our basic functionality can be achieved with a single-line command, but in less than a dozen lines, we have made a tidy script for reading our favourite comic on the command-line. 🤓
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