Arcan Project Announces The Modern & Radically Different Cat9 Shell

Written by Michael Larabel in Desktop on 17 October 2022 at 05:48 AM EDT. 14 Comments
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The Arcan project that started out as a display server built atop a game engine and with time has introduced many features and experimenting with original approaches to longstanding Linux desktop/display shortcomings, has announced their Cat9 shell. This modern terminal has been in development for nearly six years while now the developers are finally confident in announcing this initiative.

The Cat9 Shell has been in development since December 2016 while finally this weekend it reached the point that the Arcan Framework developers are confident in announcing it to the masses. The Cat9 Shell is their effort to fundamentally improve command line shells. One of the key differences with the Cat9 Shell is that it interfaces directly with the display server rather than the terminal emulator, which opens it up to supporting many newer and more modern features than conventional terminal emulators.
A guiding principle is the role of the textual shell as a frontend instead of a clunky programming environment. The shell presents a user-facing, interactive interface to make other complex tools more approachable or to glue them together into a more advanced weapon. Cat9 is entirely written in Lua, so scripting in it is a given, but also relatively uninteresting as a feature — there are better languages around for systems programming, and better UI paradigms for automating work flows.

Another is that of delegation – textual shells naturally evolved without assuming a graphical one being present. That is rarely the case today, yet the language for sharing between the two is unrefined, crude and fragile. The graphical shell is infinitely more capable of decorating and managing windows, animating transitions, routing inputs and tuning pixels for specific displays. It should naturally be in charge of such actions.

Another is to make experience self documenting – that the emergent patterns on how your use of command line processing gets extracted and remembered in a form where re-use becomes natural. Primitive forms of this are completions from command history and aliases, but there is much more to be done here.

Cat9 aims to present information in a more visual manner, the prompt format is dynamic and can change depending upon window management state and other factors, silent commands are left out of the history, and various other fundamental changes.


There is a ton at play here with the Cat9 Shell. Those wanting to learn more about all of the features being pursued by this modern command-line shell, stop by the Arcan blog.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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