Delightful Free and Open Source ASCII Art Tools

ASCII art is a graphic design technique that relies primarily on computers for presentation and consists of pictures put together from characters defined by the ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) standard. These characters are letters, numbers and special characters such as # / and \. ASCII art is as much a constituent element of the internet as emoticons, cats, or acronyms such as ROTFL and LOL.

ASCII art was invented, in large part, because early printers lacked graphics ability. Characters were used to replace graphic marks. Dot matrix printers designed for bulk printing often used ASCII art to print large banners, to help distinguish different print jobs from different users. ASCII art was also used in early e-mail when images could not be embedded.

Linux offers a vast collection of small open source utilities that perform functions ranging from the obvious to the bizarre. It is the quality and selection of these tools that help Linux stand out as a productive environment.

ASCII art has long moved on from text messages comprised of underscores and hashes to more complex and appealing designs, but creating such patterns takes some effort. These art tools make the creation of complex ASCII art effortless.

There are some weird utilities featured here, which will particularly be of interest to anyone with an affectionate nostalgia for old school computing, who want to remember the heady days of Bulletin Board Systems, telnet and other pre-WWW networks.

Here’s our recommendations.

Best Free and Open Source ASCII Art Tools

We have compiled the following list to identify our favorite ASCII art tools. Have some fun with these zany open source tools.

Now, let’s explore the 11 ASCII art tools at hand. For each title we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, a screenshot, together with links to relevant resources.

ASCII Art Tools
ASCIIQuariumEmbrace marine life from the terminal with beautiful ASCII art
gif-for-cliConvert media to animated ASCII art
Steam LocomotiveC program written in 295 lines. It's harmless fun
boxesASCII box drawing
FIGletMake large letters out of ordinary screen characters
lolcatRainbows and unicorns
jp2aConvert JPEG images to ASCII
TOIletSimilar in many ways to FIGlet with additional features
textdrawDraw geometric figures and text
cadubiCreative ASCII drawing utility
cowsayGenerates ASCII pictures of a cow with a message in a speech bubble

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Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There's tons of in-depth reviews, alternatives to Google, fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
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