How to preview images

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Vifm v0.8 onward provides four macros describing preview area that can be used along with external applications to preview images in a terminal, they are:

  • %px x coordinate of top-left corner of preview area;
  • %py y coordinate of top-left corner of preview area;
  • %pw width of preview area;
  • %ph height of preview area.

NOTE Because terminals were built to display text rather than images, making them display images can be problematic. Some solutions work better in some environments than others, but none of them is perfect.


For an instruction on how to use Überzug, which is likely to work better than w3m, see this video. The video is based on this thread.


See issue #299 on GitHub for a command for OS X in iTerm2.

Sixel graphics[edit]

If you're using a terminal which has good support of Sixel (i.e., it clears it properly) along with Vifm v0.10.1+ (for %pd macro), see issue #419 on GitHub for sample configuration.


Below is a description and an example of making this work using w3m on GNU/Linux. Mind that the support is lacking and you might have trouble making this work in many terminals. xterm without double-buffering tends to work better than others.


1. w3mimgdisplay which might be part of w3m package or a separate one.

2. Terminal emulator without double buffering, otherwise w3m will fail to display images properly.


1. Create script that invokes w3m. w3mimgdisplay executable might reside in different locations depending on the distribution. Below is a sample script, which can be used after correcting several parameters at the top.

# Based on script by z3bra -- 2014-01-21

fonth=15 # Size of one terminal row    in pixels
fontw=8  # Size of one terminal column in pixels


widthheight=$(printf '5;%s' "$file" | "$w3mimgdisplay")
width=${widthheight% *}
height=${widthheight#* }

if [ -z "$width" ] || [ -z "$height" ]; then
    echo 'Failed to obtain image size. Check if fonth and fontw are correct.'
    exit 1

x=$((fontw * x))
y=$((fonth * y))
max_width=$((fontw * cols))
max_height=$((fonth * lines))

if [ "$width" -gt "$max_width" ]; then
    height=$((height * max_width / width))
if [ "$height" -gt "$max_height" ]; then
    width=$((width * max_height / height))

printf '0;1;%s;%s;%s;%s;;;;;%s\n4;\n3;' "$x" "$y" "$width" "$height" "$file" | 

2. Update vifmrc with preview command like the following:

fileviewer *.bmp,*.jpg,*.jpeg,*.png,*.gif,*.xpm
         \ imgt %px %py %pw %ph %c

Replace "imgt" with path to preview script or just update name if script is available in your $PATH (which is the case if you put it under $VIFM/scripts).


State of terminal support[edit]

One should be aware that this is kinda hack as terminals weren't made to display pictures, thus there might be some difficulties (like double buffering or incomplete clearing). That said, it does work in sufficient amount of configurations.


When running inside terminal emulators, coordinates known to applications are relative to pane/window position. This should be taken into account, because without applying proper offsets images may appear in unexpected locations.


Depending on your terminal this may be enough or require additional script for clearing image leftovers (below), development version of vifm and changed :fileviewer command like this:

fileviewer *.bmp,*.jpg,*.jpeg,*.png,*.gif,*.xpm
         \ imgt %px %py %pw %ph %c
         \ %pc
         \ imgc %px %py %pw %ph

Where imgc is a script that clears background of the terminal (it's configuration is at the top):


FONTH=15 # Size of one terminal row
FONTW=7 # Size of one terminal column


x=$((FONTW * X))
y=$((FONTH * Y))

erase="6;$x;$y;$(( FONTW*COLUMNS ));$(( FONTH*LINES ))\n3;"
echo -e "$erase" | $W3MIMGDISPLAY

This is the case at least for urxvt.

See also[edit]

Other options[edit]

In case everything else doesn't work well and you're fine sacrificing quality, there are numerous other tools which approximate images using characters.

NOTE As of v0.11 Vifm doesn't support 24-bit colors, so undefine $COLORTERM when using some of these tools (e.g., by prepending env -u COLORTERM).

Some of those tools: