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Posts from June 2018

31st anniversary of the GIF: give your terminal some personality with Tenor GIF for CLI

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Creating ASCII art for your terminal isn’t new. Displaying animating ASCII GIFs in the CLI (command line interface), however, hasn’t been possible, or at least, not easy to do -- until now.

Shortly after Tenor was acquired by Google, I had an idea.

Many developers configure static ASCII art to appear when opening a terminal, but I imagined that ASCII art could animate like a GIF, and could easily be created from any GIF on Tenor.

After some tinkering, GIF for CLI was born.

Just in time for the 31st anniversary of the GIF, GIF for CLI is available today on GitHub. GIF for CLI takes in a GIF, short video, or a query to the Tenor GIF API and converts it to animated ASCII art. This means each time you log on to your programming workstation, your GIF is there to greet you in ASCII form. Animation and color support are performed using ANSI escape sequences.

Rob Delaney as “Peter” from Deadpool 2, in ASCII GIF form. See the original GIF on Tenor here.
For the more technically-minded, here are the details:

When the command line program is run, it takes the chosen .gif file (file, url, or Tenor query) and uses ffmpeg to split the animated gif or short video into static jpg frames. Those jpg frames are then converted to ASCII art (these ASCII art frames are cached in $HOME/.cache/gif-for-cli). The program then prints one frame at a time to the console, clearing the console using ANSI escape sequences between each frame.

You could also use GIF for CLI to run gif-for-cli in your .bashrc or .profile to get an animated ASCII art image as your MOTD, or with Git hooks.

GIF for CLI integrates with the Tenor GIF API to source the GIFs. The Tenor API powers GIF search within many of today’s most popular messaging apps and social platforms on iOS and Android. 

Share screen captures of your ASCII GIFs with us on Twitter with #GIFforCLI. 

By Sean Hayes, Tenor
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