figlet man page

FIGlet — display large characters made up of ordinary screen characters


figlet [ -cklnoprstvxDELNRSWX ] [ -d fontdirectory ]

[ -f fontfile ] [ -m layoutmode ]

[ -w outputwidth ] [ -C controlfile ]

[ -I infocode ] [ message ]


FIGlet prints its input using large characters (called “FIGcharacters”)made up of ordinary screen characters (called “sub-characters”). FIGlet output is generally reminiscent of the sort of “signatures” many people like to put at the end of e-mail and UseNet messages. It is also reminiscent of the output of some banner programs, although it is oriented normally, not sideways.

FIGlet can print in a variety of fonts, both left-to-right and right-to-left, with adjacent FIGcharacters kerned and “smushed” together in various ways. FIGlet fonts are stored in separate files, which can be identified by the suffix “.flf”. In systems with UTF-8 support FIGlet may also support TOIlet “.tlf” fonts. Most FIGlet font files will be stored in FIGlet's default font directory.

FIGlet can also use “control files”, which tell it to map certain input characters to certain other characters, similar to the Unix tr command. Control files can be identified by the suffix “.flc”. Most FIGlet control files will be stored in FIGlet's default font directory.

You can store FIGlet fonts and control files in compressed form. See Compressed Fonts.


Just start up FIGlet (type “figlet”) and then type whatever you want. Alternatively, pipe a file or the output of another command through FIGlet, or put input on the command line after the options. See Examples for other things to do.


FIGlet reads command line options from left to right, and only the last option that affects a parameter has any effect. Almost every option has an inverse, so that, for example, if FIGlet is customized with a shell alias, all the options are usually still available.

Commonly-used options are -f, -c, -k, -t, -p and -v.

-f fontfile
Select the font. The .flf suffix may be left off of fontfile, in which case FIGlet automatically appends it. FIGlet looks for the file first in the default font directory and then in the current directory, or, if fontfile was given as a full pathname, in the given directory. If the -f option is not specified, FIGlet uses the font that was specified when it was compiled. To find out which font this is, use the -I3 option.
-d fontdirectory
Change the default font directory. FIGlet looks for fonts first in the default directory and then in the current directory. If the -d option is not specified, FIGlet uses the directory that was specified when it was compiled. To find out which directory this is, use the -I2 option.
These options handle the justification of FIGlet output. -c centers the output horizontally. -l makes the output flush-left. -r makes it flush-right. -x (default) sets the justification according to whether left-to-right or right-to-left text is selected. Left-to-right text will be flush-left, while right-to-left text will be flush-right. (Left-to-right versus right-to-left text is controlled by -L, -R and -X.)
-w outputwidth
These options control the outputwidth, or the screen width FIGlet assumes when formatting its output. FIGlet uses the outputwidth to determine when to break lines and how to center the output. Normally, FIGlet assumes 80 columns so that people with wide terminals won't annoy the people they e-mail FIGlet output to. -t sets the outputwidth to the terminal width. If the terminal width cannot be determined, the previous outputwidth is retained. -w sets the outputwidth to the given integer. An outputwidth of 1 is a special value that tells FIGlet to print each non-space FIGcharacter, in its entirety, on a separate line, no matter how wide it is.
These options control how FIGlet handles newlines. -p puts FIGlet into “paragraph mode”, which eliminates some unnecessary line breaks when piping a multi-line file through FIGlet. In paragraph mode, FIGlet treats line breaks within a paragraph as if they were merely blanks between words. (Specifically, -p causes FIGlet to convert any newline which is not preceded by a newline and not followed by a space character into a blank.) -n (default) puts FIGlet back to normal, in which every newline FIGlet reads causes it to produce a line break.
-D switches to the German (ISO 646-DE) character set. Turns `[', `\' and `]' into umlauted A, O and U, respectively. `{', `|' and `}' turn into the respective lower case versions of these. `~' turns into s-z. -E turns off -D processing. These options are deprecated, which means they probably will not appear in the next version of FIGlet.
-C controlfile
These options deal with FIGlet controlfiles. A controlfile is a file containing a list of commands that FIGlet executes each time it reads a character. These commands can map certain input characters to other characters, similar to the Unix tr command or the FIGlet -D option. FIGlet maintains a list of controlfiles, which is empty when FIGlet starts up. -C adds the given controlfile to the list. -N clears the controlfile list, cancelling the effect of any previous -C. FIGlet executes the commands in all controlfiles in the list. See the file figfont.txt, provided with FIGlet, for details on how to write a controlfile.

These options control how FIGlet spaces the FIGcharacters that it outputs. -s (default) and -S cause “smushing”. The FIGcharacters are displayed as close together as possible, and overlapping sub-characters are removed. Exactly which sub-characters count as “overlapping” depends on the font's layoutmode, which is defined by the font's author. -k causes “kerning”. As many blanks as possible are removed between FIGcharacters, so that they touch, but the FIGcharacters are not smushed. -W makes FIGlet display all FIGcharacters at their full width, which may be fixed or variable, depending on the font.

The difference between -s and -S is that -s will not smush a font whose author specified kerning or full width as the default layoutmode, whereas -S will attempt to do so.

If there is no information in the font about how to smush, or if the -o option is specified, then the FIGcharacters are “overlapped”. This means that after kerning, the first subcharacter of each FIGcharacter is removed. (This is not done if a FIGcharacter contains only one subcharacter.)

-m layoutmode
Specifies an explicit layoutmode between 1 and 63. Smushmodes are explained in figfont.txt, which also provides complete information on the format of a FIGlet font. For the sake of backward compatibility with versions of FIGlet before 2.2, -m0 is equivalent to -k, -m-1 is equivalent to -W, and -m-2 is equivalent to -s. The -m switch is normally used only by font designers testing the various layoutmodes with a new font.
-I infocode

These options print various information about FIGlet, then exit. If several of these options are given on the command line, only the last is executed, and only after all other command-line options have been dealt with.

-v prints version and copyright information, as well as a “Usage: ...” line. -I prints the information corresponding to the given infocode in a consistent, reliable (i.e., guaranteed to be the same in future releases) format. -I is primarily intended to be used by programs that use FIGlet. infocode can be any of the following.

-1 Normal operation (default).
This infocode indicates that FIGlet should operate normally, not giving any informational printout, printing its input in the selected font.
0 Version and copyright.
This is identical to -v.
1 Version (integer).
This will print the version of your copy of FIGlet as a decimal integer. The main version number is multiplied by 10000, the sub-version number is multiplied by 100, and the sub-sub-version number is multiplied by 1. These are added together, and the result is printed out. For example, FIGlet 2.2 will print “20200” , version 2.2.1 will print “20201”. Similarly, version 3.7.2 would print “30702”. These numbers are guaranteed to be ascending, with later versions having higher numbers. Note that the first major release of FIGlet, version 2.0, did not have the -I option.
2 Default font directory.
This will print the default font directory. It is affected by the -d option.
3 Font.
This will print the name of the font FIGlet would use. It is affected by the -f option. This is not a filename; the “.flf” suffix is not printed.
4 Output width.
This will print the value FIGlet would use for outputwidth, the number of columns wide FIGlet assumes the screen is. It is affected by the -w and -t options.
5 Supported font formats.
This will list font formats supported by FIGlet . Possible formats are “flf2” for FIGfont Version 2 .flf files and “tlf2” for TOIlet .tlf files.

If infocode is any other positive value, FIGlet will simply exit without printing anything.


These options control whether FIGlet prints left-to-right or right-to-left. -L selects left-to-right printing. -R selects right-to-left printing. -X (default) makes FIGlet use whichever is specified in the font file.

Once the options are read, if there are any remaining words on the command line, they are used instead of standard input as the source of text. This feature allows shell scripts to generate large letters without having to dummy up standard input files.

An empty argument, obtained by two sequential quotes, results in a line break.


To use FIGlet with its default settings, simply type

example% figlet

and then type whatever you like.

To change the font, use the -f option, for example,

example% figlet -f script

Use the -c option if you would prefer centered output:

example% figlet -c

We have found that the most common use of FIGlet is making up large text to be placed in e-mail messages. For this reason, FIGlet defaults to 80 column output. If you are using a wider terminal, and would like FIGlet to use the full width of your terminal, use the -t option:

example% figlet -t

If you don't want FIGlet to smush FIGcharacters into each other, use the -k option:

example% figlet -k

If figlet gets its input from a file, it is often a good idea to use -p:

example% figlet -p < myfile

Of course, the above can be combined:

example% figlet -ptk -f shadow < anotherfile
example% figlet -cf slant

Finally, if you want to have FIGlet take the input from the command line instead of a file:

example% figlet Hello world

Other Things to Try

On many systems nice effects can be obtained from the lean font by piping it through tr. Some you might want to try are the following:

example% figlet -f lean | tr ' _/' ' ()'
example% figlet -f lean | tr ' _/' './\\'
example% figlet -f lean | tr ' _/' ' //'
example% figlet -f lean | tr ' _/' '/  '

Similar things can be done with the block font and many of the other FIGlet fonts.

Compressed Fonts

You can compress the fonts and controlfiles using the zip archiving program. Place only one font or controlfile in each archive, and rename the archive file (which will have a name ending in .zip) back to .flf or .flc as the case may be. If you don't rename the file appropriately, FIGlet won't be able to find it.

FIGlet does not care what the filename within the .zip archive is, and will process only the first file.

The .zip format was chosen because tools to create and manipulate it are widely available for free on many platforms.

The Standard Fonts

Here are a few notes about some of the fonts provided with FIGlet. You can get many other font from the Web site
http://www.figlet.org/ This location should also contain the latest version of FIGlet and other related utilities.

The font standard is the basic FIGlet font, used when no other font is specified. (This default can be changed when FIGlet is compiled on your system.) The controlfiles 8859-2, 8859-3, 8859-4, and 8859-9 are provided for interpreting those character sets, also known as ISO Latin-2 through Latin-5 respectively. The character set 8859-1 (ISO Latin-1) is FIGlet's default and requires no special controlfile.

Closely related are the fonts slant, shadow, small, smslant (both small and slanted), smshadow, (both small and shadowed), and big. These fonts support only Latin-1, except that big supports Greek FIGcharacters as well; the controlfiles frango (for Greek text written in Latin characters, so-called “frangovlakhika”), and 8859-7 (for mixed Latin/Greek text) are provided.

The ivrit font is a right-to-left font including both Latin and Hebrew FIGcharacters; the Latin characters are those of the standard font. The available controlfiles are ilhebrew, which maps the letters you get by typing on a U.S. keyboard as if it were a Hebrew keyboard; ushebrew, which makes a reasonable mapping from Latin letters to Hebrew ones; and 8859-8, which supports mixed Latin/Hebrew text. Warning: FIGlet doesn't support bidirectional text, so everything will come out right-to-left, even Latin letters.

The fonts terminal, digital, and bubble output the input character with some decoration around it (or no decoration, in the case of terminal). The characters coded 128 to 159, which have varying interpretations, are output as-is. You can use the appropriate controlfiles to process Latin-2, Latin-3, or Latin-4 (but not Latin-5) text, provided your output device has screen or printer fonts that are appropriate for these character sets.

Two script fonts are available: script, which is larger than standard, and smscript, which is smaller.

The font lean is made up solely of `/' and `_' sub-characters; block is a straight (non-leaning) version of it.

The font mini is very small, and especially suitable for e-mail signatures.

The font banner looks like the output of the banner program; it is a capitals and small capitals font that doesn't support the ISO Latin-1 extensions to plain ASCII. It does, however, support the Japanese katakana syllabary; the controlfile uskata maps the upper-case and lower-case Latin letters into the 48 basic katakana characters, and the controlfile jis0201 handles JIS 0201X (JIS-Roman) mixed Latin and katakana text. Furthermore, the banner font also supports Cyrillic (Russian) FIGcharacters; the controlfile 8859-5 supports mixed Latin and Cyrillic text, the controlfile koi8r supports the popular KOI8-R mapping of mixed text, and the controlfile moscow supports a sensible mapping from Latin to Cyrillic, compatible with the moscow font (not supplied).

The fonts mnemonic and safemnem support the mnemonic character set documented in RFC 1345. They implement a large subset of Unicode (over 1800 characters) very crudely, using ASCII-based mnemonic sequences, and are good for getting a quick look at UTF-8 unicode files, using the controlfile utf8.


If $FIGLET_FONTDIR is set, its value is used as a path to search for font files.


FIGlet font file
FIGlet control file


FIGlet's diagnostics are intended to be self-explanatory. Possible messages are

Usage: ...
Out of memory
Unable to open font file
Not a FIGlet 2 font file
Unable to open control file
Not a FIGlet 2 control file
"-t" is disabled, since ioctl is not fully implemented.

This last message is printed when the -t option is given, but the operating system in use does not include the system call FIGlet uses to determine the terminal width.

FIGlet also prints an explanatory message if the -F option is given on the command line. The earlier version of FIGlet, version 2.0, listed the available fonts when the -F option was given. This option has been removed from FIGlet 2.1. It has been replaced by the figlist script, which is part of the standard FIGlet package.


FIGlet” stands for “Frank, Ian and Glenn's LETters”. Inspired by Frank's .sig, Glenn wrote (most of) it, and Ian helped.

Most of the standard FIGlet fonts were inspired by signatures on various UseNet articles. Since typically hundreds of people use the same style of letters in their signatures, it was often not deemed necessary to give credit to any one font designer.


Very little error checking is done on font and control files. While FIGlet tries to be forgiving of errors, and should (hopefully) never actually crash, using an improperly-formatted file with FIGlet will produce unpredictable output.

FIGlet does not handle format characters in a very intelligent way. A tab character is converted to a blank, and vertical-tab, form-feed and carriage-return are each converted to a newline. On many systems, tabs can be handled better by piping files through expand before piping through FIGlet.

FIGlet output is quite ugly if it is displayed in a proportionally-spaced font. I suppose this is to be expected.

Please report any errors you find in this man page or the program to <info@figlet.org>

Website and Mailing List

You can get many fonts which are not in the basic FIGlet package from the Web site http://www.figlet.org/ It should also contain the latest version of FIGlet and other utilities related to FIGlet.

There is a mailing list for FIGlet for general discussions about FIGlet and a place where you can ask questions or share ideas with other FIGlet users. It is also the place where we will publish news about new fonts, new software updates etc.

To subscribe or unsubscribe from the FIGlet mailing list, please send email to figlet-subscribe@figlet.org or figlet-unsubscribe@figlet.org or visit the following web page: http://www.figlet.org/mailman/listinfo/…


Glenn Chappell did most of the work. You can e-mail him but he is not an e-mail fanatic; people who e-mail Glenn will probably get answers, but if you e-mail his best friend:

Ian Chai, who is an e-mail fanatic, you'll get answers, endless conversation about the mysteries of life, invitations to join some 473 mailing lists and a free toaster. (Well, ok, maybe not the free toaster.)

Frank inspired this whole project with his .sig, but don't e-mail him; he's decidedly an un-e-mail-fanatic.

Gilbert "The Mad Programmer" Healton added the -A option for version 2.1.1. This option specified input from the command line; it is still allowed, but has no effect.

John Cowan added the -o, -s, -k, -S, and -W options, and the support for Unicode mapping tables, ISO 2022/HZ/Shift-JIS/UTF-8 input, and compressed fonts and control files. He also revised this documentation, with a lot of input from Paul Burton.

Claudio Matsuoka added the support for .tlf files for version 2.2.4 and performs random hacks and bugfixes.

As a fan of FIGlet, Christiaan Keet revised the official FIGlet documentation and set up the new FIGlet website at http://www.figlet.org/ (and the corresponding ftp://ftp.figlet.org/pub/figlet/)

See Also

figlist(6), chkfont(6), showfigfonts(6), toilet(1)

Referenced By

chkfont(6), cowsay(1), figlist(6), showfigfonts(6).

Explore man page connections for figlet(6).

v2.2.5 31 May 2012