Thomas Thurman


blt - bash loves twitter - command-line client for twitter


 blt eating ice-cream and loving python
 blt "It's all in a day's work when you protect apostrophes"
 blt --check --public --sync


blt is a command-line client for, designed to integrate helpfully with bash(1). It makes sending messages simple, and receiving them as simple as with the old biff(1) program which told you when you had new mail.


Twitter is a blogging system which limits posts (known as "tweets") to 140 characters. This means that users can receive them easily over text messaging, instant messaging, and so on.

Twitter allows you to send three kinds of messages:

Public The ordinary kind, directed at everyone, to tell them what you're currently doing or thinking.
Directed which are pointed at one particular user, but still public. These contain "@username". A user can opt to not be told about directed messages not aimed at people they know.
Private These are only seen by the sender and the recipient. blt can send these using the "d" notation (see the -s mode below) but does not yet show them when you ask it to check.


These are all lowercase letters, and you may have exactly one of them. The default mode is s. You may "bundle" the short forms of modes and switches together.

-s, --set

Send a message to Twitter. The rest of the line is the message to send. If this begins with "d" and a space, and then a username and a space, this will send a private message to that user. This is a Twitter convention and not part of the design of blt.

-c, --check

Checks whether recent messages have come in for you.

-a user, --as=user

Uses the given user's details rather than the default user. This makes no difference on the public timeline.

-v, --version

Prints the current version number and exits.

-h, --help

Prints some basic help and exits.


These are all capitals; you may combine as many as you wish.

-F, --force

Check even if we checked recently. Overuse of this option may transgress Twitter's acceptable use policy. This is silently ignored if we're reading the public timeline, because there is no cache requirement there anyway.

-S, --sync

Don't return until all the information has been gathered and printing (see ASYNCHRONICITY below).

-P, --public

Read the public timeline, and not a user's timeline. This may only be combined with checking, not setting; an attempt to set on the public timeline causes an error.

No caching is required. Nor is any authentication; hence this is the only instance when ~/.bltrc.xml need not exist, and blt will not attempt to create it if it is not found.


The public timmeline is a list of all public posts made to twitter in the last few seconds. Unlike all other modes, the public timeline does not require any authentication on your part.

You can read the public timeline with no configuration file. This will mean that the minimum time between fetching each new set of information from Twitter is 60 seconds.


If you are checking a timeline on Twitter, you can run blt either synchronously (with -S) or asynchronously (without -S). If you run it synchronously, it will go away and fetch the information from and not return until it's done.

If you run it asynchronously, though, one of three things will happen:

  • There can be twitter information stored in blt's cache; if so, it will print this and exit.

  • Otherwise, if no blt background process is running, blt will start one and exit. The background process will get the information from twitter and then exit.

  • Otherwise there b<is> a background process running, so blt leaves it alone and exits.

Asynchronous mode exists because Twitter can be very slow to respond sometimes, although this has been improving recently.


bash(1) calls the program given in the variable PROMPT_COMMAND every time you press return. When you create a ~/.bltrc.xml, blt also attempts to insert a line into ~/.bashrc setting this variable so that blt will be called every time you press return.


The configuration file is a simple piece f XML called ~/.bltrc.xml. Its root node is bltrc, which has one attribute, interval. This is the minimum time that must pass between fetching information from Twitter. (The Twitter acceptable use policy requires this to be at least 52 seconds.)

Within this root element are a number of ac elements, each representing an account, with id and pass elements. On initial creation, only one account exists. You may add new accounts in the same format and select them using the -a switch; see above under SWITCHES.


  • It can send but not receive private/direct messages.

  • blt is pretty fast, but you still might not want to run blt from ~/.bashrc on a particularly slow computer.


Thomas Thurman, tthurman at gnome dot org.

5 POD Errors

The following errors were encountered while parsing the POD:

Around line 255:

=back doesn't take any parameters, but you said =back 4

Around line 289:

=back doesn't take any parameters, but you said =back 4

Around line 319:

You forgot a '=back' before '=head1'

Around line 356:

=back doesn't take any parameters, but you said =back 4

Around line 393:

=back doesn't take any parameters, but you said =back 4