Graphical web browsing from the terminal

Tutorial – Carbonyl Graphical Web Browser

Article from Issue 272/2023

This Chromium port can run inside any console, with minimal resources, and is a great tool for making old computers really useful – and learning programming along the way.

Carbonyl [1] is a fork of the 100-percent open source version of Chrome called Chromium [2], which has a unique mission: turning any Linux terminal into a modern graphical web browser. In this tutorial, I describe how Carbonyl works, how to use it on Linux, and above all, why I consider this project interesting for programmers – and much more interesting for ordinary web users.

Features and Limitations

Let me acknowledge right away that, as cool as the concept is, Carbonyl has a few serious limitations – if you compare it to "ordinary" 100-percent graphical browsers, that is, and expect Carbonyl to replace them completely. The first obvious limit is that, while Carbonyl does handle images and video streaming, it does it at a much lower resolution than any browser running on top of a full-fledged, window-based interface.

Figure 1 is a good visual introduction to both the power and the limits of Carbonyl because it shows how the text browser w3m (left) and Carbonyl (right) render a page of the Linux Magazine website.


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