Tool tests on the fast track
Tool review: Dialog 0.7, virtenv 0.8.6, collectd 5.4.0, convmv 1.15, Drukkar 1.11, and ngIRCd 20.3.
Function: User Interfaces to Shell Scripts
Alternatives: Zenity, Xdialog
Adding graphical dialogs to your own shell scripts is not rocket science. With a tool like Dialog, users can quickly put together an intuitive, straightforward window for user queries. The return values then determine the future course of the script. The C program uses ncurses and thus does not require an X server. Users can control the tool with command-line parameters, thus modifying the appearance and content.
More than 20 different types of dialogs are available, including simple notification boxes, file selection dialogs, and password requests. Since I last took a look at the tool six years ago, the developers have been busy fixing numerous bugs and implementing many new features. For example, the types known from Xdialog
treeview were added; the makers also adopted the
--output-separator options. A new feature,
--prgbox, shows output from external programs in the ncurses interface, and
--programbox offers an alternative: Pipes let users embed the output from shell commands.
More new features, such as
--extra-button, allow users to customize the controls in the interface to suit their own needs. The
--default-button parameter defines a standard choice for the respective window. An upgrade to the current version of Dialog is definitely worthwhile.
Dialog is ncurses-based, does not require an active X server, and is thus quite frugal. Ideal for use in scripts, such as with SSH for remote maintenance.
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