vis-menu allows a user to interactively select one item from a list of options. A newline-separated list of items is read from standard input, then the list of items is drawn directly onto the terminal so the user may select one. Finally, the selected item is printed to standard output.
For information on actually navigating the menu, see Usage below.
Use case-insensitive comparison when filtering items.
- -t | -b
Normally, the menu is displayed on the current line of the terminal. When -t is provided, the menu will always be drawn on the top line of the terminal. When -b is provided, the menu will always be drawn on the bottom line.
- -p prompt
Display prompt before the list of items.
- -l lines
Normally, the list is displayed with all the items side-by-side on a single line, which is space-efficient but does not show many items at a time, especially if some of them are long. When -l is provided, the list is displayed with each item on its own line, lines lines high. If there are more than lines items in the list, the user can scroll through them with the arrow keys, just like in the regular horizontal mode.
The user can type into a text field to filter the list of items as well as scrolling through them. If supplied, initial is used as the initial content of the text field.
Instead of displaying an interactive menu, vis-menu prints its version number to standard output and exits.
vis-menu displays the prompt (if any), a text field, and a list of items. Normally these are presented side-by-side in a single line, but if the -l flag is given, the prompt and typing area will be on the first line, and list items on the following lines.
The following commands are available:
selects the currently-highlighted list item and exits.
- Control-\ or Control-]
selects the current contents of the text field (even if it does not appear in the list) and exits.
- ESC ESC or Control-C
exit without selecting any item.
- Down or Control-N
scroll forward through the available list items.
- Up or Control-P
scroll backward through the available list items.
- Right or Control-F
move the cursor forward through the typed text, and scroll through the available list items.
- Left or Control-B
move the cursor backward through the typed text, and scroll through the available list items.
- PageUp or Control-V
scrolls to show the previous page of list items.
- PageDown or Meta-v
scrolls to show the next page of list items.
- Home or Control-A
move the cursor to the beginning of the text field or scroll to the first item in the list.
- End or Control-E
move the cursor to the end of the text field or scroll to the last item in the list.
moves the cursor to the beginning of the current word in the text field.
moves the cursor past the end of the current word in the text field.
copies the content of the selected list item into the text field. This is almost, but not quite, like tab completion.
- Delete or Control-D
delete the character in the text field under the cursor.
deletes the character in the text field to the left of the cursor.
deletes the characters in the text field from the character under the cursor to the next space.
deletes the characters in the text field from the character under the cursor to the end.
deletes the characters in the text field from the beginning up to (but not including) the character under the cursor.
deletes the characters in the text field from the previous space up to (but not including) the character under the cursor.
All other non-control characters will be inserted into the text field at the current cursor position.
When there is text in the text field, only list items that include the given text will be shown. If the text contains one or more spaces, each space-delimited string is a separate filter and only items matching every filter will be shown.
If the user filters out all the items from the list, then hits Enter to select the “currently highlighted” item, the text they typed will be returned instead.
Here's a shell-script that allows the user to choose a number from one to 10:
NUMBER=$(seq 1 10 | vis-menu -p "Choose a number") if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then echo "You chose: $NUMBER" else echo "You refused to choose a number, or an error occurred." fi
The vis-menu utility exits 0 if the user successfully selected an item from the list, and 1 if the user cancelled.
If an internal error occurs, the vis-menu utility prints a message to standard error and terminates with an exit status greater than 1. Potential error conditions include being unable to allocate memory, being unable to read from standard input, or being run without a controlling terminal.
dmenu(1), slmenu(1), vis(1)
The original model for a single line menu reading items from standard input was dmenu(1) which implements the idea for X11. dmenu is available from
The code was subsequently re-worked for ANSI terminal output as slmenu(1) which is available from
Since slmenu did not appear to be maintained, it was forked to become vis-menu to be distributed with vis(1).
vis(1), vis-complete(1), vis-open(1).