A text-gatherer for Unix

Version 2.06
Jan Wolter

Gate version 2.06 has some portability fixes.

Gate is text-gatherer. A text-gatherer is like a text-editor, but much more lightweight and unobtrusive.

If you have a program or shell script that asks people to enter a small chunk of text, a text-gatherer like Gate is a good way to do it. It doesn't clear the screen (annoying if there were just some instructions printed there, or, in a conferencing system, if the response you are responding to is displayed there). It doesn't require you to know a lot of obscure editing commands. It doesn't make excessive demands on the intelligence of your terminal emulation software.

It does provide a number of features that make it easier for novice users to produce good text. It does word-wrap, prints a prompt on each new line, and allows backspacing from the currently line onto previous lines. It also provides features that a more experienced user can use. You can call up normal editor, or use some of gate's simple-minded editing commands. You can read in files, or save your text to a file. You can filter your text through something like the unix "fmt" command. It provides a nice spell-checking interface too.

Some of what it does is pretty obscure - If you print a prompt on each line, and the text being entered is meant to be printed without a prompt, or with a different number of characters prefixed to each line, there is a very good chance that all your tabs will be messed up. Gate fixes things so tabs during input act just like they will on output.

It is quite configurable, and decently portable among Unix systems.

I am not currently doing active development on gate, but bug-fix release still occasionally happen. Basically, the era where novice-friendliness was sought in command-line interfaces is past. Novices are mostly provided with GUI's these days. So the motivation for further improvements (like making arrow keys work) is lacking.


Gate was designed in the mid-1980's to be used with the Picospan and Yapp conferencing systems, and many parts of the design were optimized for this use. (It sort of works with Caucus too.) It is heavily used on M-Net and Grex, mostly by people who don't know they are running it (the natural reward for unobtrusiveness). There is a similar program, named "red" that was written for use with Picospan on the Well. I've never seen it, but I believe gate does everything red does and quite a bit more. It has been used in non-conferencing applications, but not all that much.

More recently, gate has been used with Fronttalk, an open source, client-server clone of Picospan.

The name "gate" is an abbreviation of "GAther TExt."


For more detailed information, there is a man page for gate here.

Getting It

Current gate source may be obtained here.

Mon Jan 24 12:16:20 EST 2005