Integrating a Command Shell into a Web Browser

Robert C. Miller and Brad A. Myers

Robert C. Miller and Brad A. Myers. "Integrating a Command Shell into a Web Browser." USENIX 2000 Annual Technical Conference, San Diego, CA, June 2000, pp 171-182.

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The transition from command-line interfaces to graphical interfaces has resulted in programs that are easier to learn and use, but harder to automate and reuse. Another transition is now underway, to HTML interfaces hosted by a web browser. To help users automate HTML interfaces, we propose the browser-shell, a web browser that integrates a command interpreter into the browser's Location box. The browser-shell's command language is designed for extracting and manipulating HTML and text, and commands can also invoke local programs. Command input is drawn from the current browser page, and command output is displayed as a new page. The browser-shell brings to web browsing many advantages of the Unix shell, including scripting web services and creating pipelines of web services and local programs. A browser-shell also allows legacy command-line programs to be wrapped with an HTML/CGI interface that is graphical but still scriptable, and offers a new shell interaction model, different from the conventional typescript model, which may improve usability in some respects.

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Rob Miller