FYI - Command Line Programs for the Blind

Linux for blind general discussion blinux-list at
Wed Apr 13 14:36:22 UTC 2022

It is worth noting that Karl's article linked to in the original post, was
not arguing in favour of programs like Mutt. He calls these types of
programs full screen programs, and considers them to be less accessible as
well. The ideal interface for a blind user according to the article, is a
program taking in a stream of text (commands) via standard input, and
replying with a stream of text via standard output.
It is also interesting that both Karl Dahlke (Edbrowse), and TV Raman
(Emacspeak) identified a problem with conveying full screen programs via
speech, but chose to solve it in very different ways. Karl Dahlke by
reducing the interface to a command line (text in, text out) interface, and
TV Raman by conveying more context and semantic information via speech
(gathered by hooking the internals of Emacs.)

TV Raman's argument is presented in this paper:

Much of what he proposes there is now possible with modern accessibility
API's though.



On Wed, Apr 13, 2022 at 4:16 PM Linux for blind general discussion <
blinux-list at> wrote:

> See to me, Thunderbird is entirely too cluttered by default. I don't need
> or want a calendar and search bar. I don't want or need to have to go
> digging to turn those things off in first boot. TO me they should be off by
> default and opt in, not somthing a user has to go hunting to get rid of on
> first boot.
> You are doing the xact same config steps in a CLI email client vs a gGUI
> one. THe only difference is a CLI one exposes a lot more of the settings.
> It's like putting oil in a car through a hole in the hood, vs opening up
> the hood to put the oil into the engine. Both let you put the oil in, but
> one lets you get to far more of the engine than the other.
> That's the way I look at CLI vs GUI setup. Sure, you can get to the same
> settings in both ways, but a CLI exposes far more of the settings than a
> GUI does and makes it easier to view and change. There are, however, things
> like Mutt Wizard for, you guessed it, Mutt and sample configs though
> whether a new user would know to look for them is a whole other argument
> but at the same time, I wouldn't expect a new user to know how to turn off
> the calendar in Thunderbird or hide the message pane or folder pane either
> if it's their very first time using Thunderbird..
>  On Wed, Apr 13, 2022 at 03:59:11PM +0200, Linux for blind general
> discussion wrote:
> > Hi!
> > I sometimes have better luck with cli than graphical environment.
> > To be honest  Orca seldom comes up with a working braille environment
> for me.
> > ANd I have to create a special key file for the burlap if its not there.
> > Otherwise I have to fiddle around with tons of settings to make braille
> work as I want it.
> > In cli it just works.
> > And I can review the screen how I want to and I never have any issues
> with brltty there.
> > /A
> >
> > > 13 apr. 2022 kl. 15:24 skrev Linux for blind general discussion <
> blinux-list at>:
> > >
> > > I just fired up Thunderbird to check and yes. I have to tab past the
> calendar, the search bar, then the list of folders, then to the specific
> message I want. Okay that's 4-5, not 10 tabs....but that's on a brand new
> config however. To me...that is less effficient than pulling down my
> premade .muttrc and typing mutt then I'm straight into the inbox with zero
> flufff like a search field, or a calendar or something getting in the way
> at all. yes. I can disable all that stuff. But on first run it is there.
> It's there and prompting you to set up a new account right away without, at
> least when I was checking it and this may be DE and WM specific, a way to
> get to the options menu to declutter Thunderbird's interface without either
> going through or quitting out of account setup.
> > >
> > > don't want a calendar at first boot. if I want to search messages I'll
> deliberately go and start a search, I don't want or need a search bar
> hovering right above my folder that I need to tab through to get to my
> emails, or a message pane. Just give me the list of messages and let me
> config Thunderbird how I want, without a ton of stuff getting in the way,
> Thunderbird people...See to me, by default, Thunderbird is cluttered with
> stufff I, personally, don't need. For my use case, Mutt is simpler and
> easier. The key binds make sense. M for a new mail, R to reply, D to
> delete, and so on. Yes I had to add urlview to get URLs from a  message but
> that is a simple process (at least for me) of pasting two lines into a
> file, saving, and quitting that can be done with a graphical text editor.
> > >
> > > On that note, I'll give a shout out to Micro for being a text editor
> that actually has sensible shortcuts. Much as I love Vim, the shortcuts are
> as you pointed out, all over the place as far as a : then something. It
> makes sense once you grab the hang of it, sure. But....for beginners it's a
> learning curve, but the commands do make sense, :wq to wirite changes and
> quit the file for example. Chryis's stuff follows the desktop keybinds as
> much as is possible as well
> > >
> > > On that note though each WM/DE does things differently, see opening
> apps up in Gnome, Cinnamon, Mate, etc. The huge advantage CLI has (at least
> for me) is I don't have to deal with desktops and their varying A11Y
> standards, such as Mate freezing up when a Chromium app is exited (or on my
> laptop, anything relaly...I think I need to just nuke and go with something
> decent there...) or Gnome's control center or Cinnamon or....I know I'll
> have Fenrir or espeakup working in one particular way that I can learn
> without having to fight with a desktop or WM's idea of what shortcuts are
> best, or deal with DE or Wm maintainers who aren't up to speed or able
> to/willing to fix A11yY issues.
> > >
> > > Yes for your average, every day user I'd agree that graphical desktops
> are better, but I'd also argue that using the CLI for things doesn't really
> hurt. I mean, 99% of tutorials start with open a terminal and type this...
> so a bit of CLI knowledge is, I'd say just as useful as being able to use a
> desktop. No you don't have to be a power user who lives in a CLI only
> world, but at the same time CLI has its advantages as does a desktop though.
> > >
> > > See if more CLI apps have sensible key binds...I'll recommend them.
> Nano is horrific for this as far as that goes, a lot o the older software
> absolutely has key binds all over the place. I feel like there needs to be
> a giant list of CLI stuff with sensible key binds as well for easy
> reference.
> > >
> > >
> > > On Wed, Apr 13, 2022 at 08:32:59AM -0400, Linux for blind general
> discussion wrote:
> > >> so for some things, a CLI program is better and simpler with less work
> > >> involved (for example on Mutt I can just open up my Blinux list
> folder, hit
> > >> end, R, type then y to send, no need to tab 10 times then enter then
> ctrl+r
> > >> then ctrl+enter to send this email), ...
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> Where do you get all the tabbing 10 times and all that extra work?
> You seem
> > >> to have a highly unusual concept of how graphical email programs
> work. For
> > >> example, using Thunderbird, I was able to open up just my inbox,
> press the
> > >> shift+tab key once, which seems to be necessary only because of a
> focus bug,
> > >> press end to get to the bottom of the list, then enter on the message
> I
> > >> wanted to read, this one in this case, select the exact text I wanted
> to
> > >> quote above and nothing more, press control+r to reply, edit the
> quote ever
> > >> so slightly, just to add the ... at the end, go down to the bottom to
> write
> > >> underneath the quote to answer the question, just as I would in any
> text
> > >> editor, and when I'm ready to send the message, after proofreading of
> > >> course, which I always do, but that's an editor thing, not something
> > >> specific to email, I then just press control+enter to send the
> message. I
> > >> have very easy to use conversation threading, full navigation
> capabilities
> > >> that I normally see in a web browser, links just open up in the
> default
> > >> browser without making me have to jump through all kinds of
> configuration
> > >> hoops just to get that working, and best of all, configuration itself
> takes
> > >> about 2 minutes from 0 to two email accounts ready to read and
> respond to
> > >> email, instead of taking weeks or even months to set up and having to
> try to
> > >> figure out weeks later what is still going wrong and why as was my
> problem
> > >> when I tried to use Mutt, although I admit it was years ago that I
> tried it
> > >> and gave up on it, as I never could get external email on an IMAP
> server
> > >> working correctly; the only way I could use Mutt at all was when I
> tried to
> > >> run a home-based email server that was my user account @
> > >> some.dyndns-provider.domain, and of course that ended up going the
> way of
> > >> the dodo because already at that time email was something that only
> > >> corporate types and server operators with boxes that were much
> beefier than
> > >> mine in power-sucking data centers with T1 pipes and static IP's could
> > >> actually run effectively. I mean now I can just run my email from a
> VPS,
> > >> which I do, but now we're back to the external email problem again,
> since I
> > >> use IMAP on the server to let me use any client I want on any device.
> > >> Regarding IMAP, I couldn't even get Alpine working with that, even
> though
> > >> the settings are supposed to be there; I just couldn't find them, and
> this
> > >> was fairly recently. In Thunderbird, I just add a new account, and
> the worst
> > >> case is that I may have to specify the IMAP and SMTP servers and ports
> > >> manually. But even doing this takes far less time to set up on a new
> machine
> > >> than text-based email, especially Mutt. I will grant you that of
> course I
> > >> could just copy over configurations to a new machine, but that is not
> > >> limited to Mutt, since Thunderbird and even the browsers have the
> ability to
> > >> read saved config files that come from other machines. I'm just
> referring to
> > >> first-run setup, or if I ever need to make any changes to the existing
> > >> configurations, which is far easier to do in graphical email programs
> of all
> > >> kinds.
> > >>
> > >>
> > >> I think the real showstopper for me when it comes to text-based
> applications
> > >> is the sheer inconsistency between applications. On my graphical
> desktop, I
> > >> have certain functionality that just works no matter where I am or
> what
> > >> application I'm using. For example, alt+f4 will close this window,
> > >> shift+arrows will highlight text to be copied or cut in most cases,
> that is
> > >> anywhere that text can be selected, then I have the standard
> control+x to
> > >> cut, control+c to copy, then control+v to paste to the application
> where I
> > >> want the text to appear, whether that's in the same application or a
> > >> different one. In most cases, control+q also closes an application,
> and
> > >> control+w closes the current window. These things all work 90% or
> more of
> > >> the time. With text-based applications, there is much inconsistency.
> Just to
> > >> give an example, control+x cuts selected text in most desktop
> applications,
> > >> but it quits Nano, and in most graphical text editors, I press
> control+f to
> > >> find something, this even works in browsers, but in Nano, I have to
> use
> > >> control+w. What? And we're not even gonna talk about things like Vim,
> or the
> > >> dreaded EMACS, or all the other text editors out there, with the
> exception
> > >> of Micro, since it is on the path to rectify the consistency problem
> by
> > >> using familiar keybindings for most things. The problem though is
> that the
> > >> functionality I mentioned in Nano, control+x to quit and control+w to
> find
> > >> something, are limited to Nano, Pico and I think it's called Pilot.
> Most if
> > >> not all other text-based editors have their own keybindings that all
> work
> > >> differently. This is pretty much fine once I have made all my choices
> of
> > >> favorite apps and either got used to the differences and
> inconsistencies or
> > >> reconfigured all their keybindings so that they're all the same, but
> for
> > >> someone just sitting down in front of a computer for the first time
> just
> > >> trying to edit a file or send an email, or even for someone doing
> this for a
> > >> long time, the consistency of the graphical desktop applications and
> the
> > >> functionality they share that is implemented in much the same way
> across
> > >> applications makes me and many others feel more comfortable at the
> computer
> > >> and certainly makes us more productive.
> > >>
> > >> ~Kyle
> > >>
> > >> _______________________________________________
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> > >> Blinux-list at
> > >>
> > >>
> > >
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