urlview to easily handle URLs in the terminal


I recently looked at newsboat as a way of reading RSS news feeds on my laptop. I use Feeder to read the feeds on my android phone and I wanted to keep up to date with the same list of feeds on my laptop. That’s not very exciting, there were the usual UI configurations to change colours and so on, but then I found that it was quite clumsy to act on URLs that I found in posts. Many RSS entries that I read, particularly those from Multi-reddits have images attached alongside the description text. I could open the whole entry in a web browser by pressing o within newsboat, but that seemed like overkill. What I wanted to do was download and open only the links I cared about.

I came across urlview as a remedy for this problem. urlview basically just checks through a text file or STDOUT and finds URLs, then presents them to you in a selectable list. With no extra configuration it just prints the selected URL to STDOUT, but with a fairly simple shell script which defines how different types of URL should be handled, it turns into a very neat way of handling URLs in the terminal without having to copy and paste them.

I installed urlview with brew install urlview. The configuration file for urlview lives in ~/.urlview and can contain instructions for what to do with links, in my case a shell script takes care of this, called linkhandler and lives in my $PATH. ~/.urlview contains:

COMMAND linkhandler

The linkhandler looks like this:


case "$1" in
		youtube-dl -o "~/Downloads/%(title)s.%(ext)s" "$1" ;;
		wget -P ~/Downloads/ "$1"
		open -a preview "Downloads/${1##*/}" ;;
		wget -P ~/Downloads/ "$1"
		open -a skim "Downloads/${1##*/}" ;;
		open -a qutebrowser $1 ;;

It takes the URL as its first and only argument, provided by urlview then depending on the name of the URL it performs different actions using a case statement. If the URL ends in common video or audio extensions (*mkv, *webm ...) it uses youtube-dl to download the file in the URL. If it is an image it wgets it and then opens it in Preview.app, and if it’s a .pdf it does the same but opens it in skim. Finally, if none of the above tests were true, it simply opens the link in my web browser, qutebrowser.

To use urlview in newsboat I can set some options in ~/.config/newsboat/config:

external-url-viewer "urlview"
bind-key U show-urls

This allows me to press U in the article view of newsboat to view the URLs and use linkhandler to determine how they are opened.

The nice thing about this setup with urlview is I can replicate it across many programs. In vim I can put this in my ~/.vimrc to use urlview by pressing <Leader>u:

nnoremap <Leader>u :w<Home>silent <End> !urlview<CR>

I can also use it in Mutt by adding this to my muttrc:

macro index,pager U "<enter-command>set pipe_decode = yes<enter><pipe-message>urlview<enter><enter-command>set pipe_decode = no<enter>""view URLs"

and there is a <code>tmux</code> plugin as well! Though I haven’t looked at that properly yet.