How and why to use Lynx - the faster web browser

Lynx is a text based browser. You think the people who browse without JavaScript are weird? Lynx doesn't even do images or CSS!

It downloads HTML and renders it at blazing fast speed. If you ever wondered just how slow modern web development has made the web - Lynx will show you the meaning of haste.

I use Lynx most days. Not as my exclusive browser - I'm not a masochist - but as a handy tool. If I'm on a bandwidth constrained connection, or a site is overloaded, or I just want to browse without distraction. Lynx is where it's at. It is also brilliant for seeing what weird markup bugs your site has.

Linux users can install it with sudo apt install lynx or similar. Everyone else can download Lynx from the official website.

This is what it looks like:
The Google home page rendered in text.

Using it is simple. On the command line, type lynx to go to

Arrow keys up and down move you... up and down. Left goes back a page, right follows a link. Q quits. And that's all you need to know for your first five minutes.

Pressing the letter O gets you to the option screen. There are a bunch of things you can change here - and it shows off the UI pretty well.

Options on a screen.

There are some things you can't change here. If you want to always accept or reject cookies - rather than be prompted every time - you'll need to edit the ~/.lyncrc file.

Set accept_all_cookies=TRUE.

Why is this important

Computers lie to us. CSS hides our worst sins. JavaScript covers-up our poor architectural choices. With Lynx, there's no escape. You see the HTML rendered and that's it. Lynx renders all the HTML5 elements:

HTML elements rendered in different colours.

It also does interactive elements as well:

Form elements.

I've found so many bugs this way. Little quirks of markup which show up in the most unexpected places.

To be clear, Lynx isn't about accessibility testing. You should do that with proper tools which expose ARIA, show colour contrast, and the like. But Lynx is a good first pass at seeing how the text renders and flows, whether images have alt text, and if the general structure is easy to navigate.

Take some time to use it on your favourite sites today.

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11 thoughts on “How and why to use Lynx - the faster web browser”

  1. says:

    Looks like Homebrew and MacPorts have Lynx in their catalogues, I just used 'brew install lynx' to put it on my iMac.

    Using it on the BBC homepage, I was struck by just how many navigation links there are before you reach any content!

  2. Randy says:

    My first Internet exposure was on a dial-up shell account. At the prompt, I would enter “lynx”, and then the fun began. Imagine, using a DOS machine with an Amber monochrome monitor and seeing [IMAGE] instead of a picture 🙂

  3. NTwoO says:

    Lynx is also handy if you only have an ssh connection to a remote site and you want to view the webinterface of an embedded device. Sure, x forwarding is also an option, I know... But it is an alternative.

    For roll your own distros it is also handy if your graphics are not up and running yet.

  4. Anon says:

    Lynx should process CSS and media selectors so it doesn't show hidden elements intended for FHD browsing. I should only try to render as page intended for narrow/mobile devices. It is a common practice and makes Lynx unnecessarily horrible for rendering websites when it displays content intended for mobile, table, and desktop instead of just mobile.

  5. Allan says:

    For extra command-line-browsing credit, there's edbrowse written by a blind developer to better work with screen reading software. The latest version can browse sites with JavaScript, edit multiple files using an ed-like UI, incorporates email and ODBC clients, and can automate tasks with a built-in scripting language. I'm just dipping my toes into it, but with that feature set, it should be a lot of fun to explore it.


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