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15 talk: a communication program

talk is a visual communication program which copies lines from your terminal to that of another user.


talk person [ttyname]

15.1 Invoking

The command line arguments are as follows:


If you wish to talk to someone on your own machine, then person is just the other person’s login name. If you wish to talk to a user on another host, then person is of the form ‘user@host’.


If you wish to talk to a local user who is logged in more than once, the argument ttyname may be used to indicate the appropriate terminal name, where ttyname typically is of the form ‘ttyXX’, or ‘pts/X’.

When first called, talk sends a message to the addressed user:

Message from TalkDaemon@his_machine…
talk: connection requested by your_name@your_machine.
talk: respond with: talk your_name@your_machine

At this point, the recipient of the message could elect to accept the call and to establish a connection by typing:

talk your_name@your_machine

It doesn’t matter from which machine the recipient replies, as long as his login-name is the same. Once communication is established, the two parties may type text simultaneously, with their output appearing in separate windows. Typing C-L will cause the screen to be reprinted, while erase, kill, and word kill characters will behave normally. In addition, C-D will cause both windows to be locally cleared of all text. This keystroke will appear as a simple ‘^D’ on the remote terminal, though. It signals to the other party that you yourself have just cleared your terminal of all text.

To exit, just type an interrupt character C-C; talk then moves the cursor to the bottom of the screen and restores the terminal to its previous state.

The ability to talk may be enabled or disabled by use of the mesg command. It is system dependent whether this message passing is enabled at the outset of a terminal session. Certain commands, in particular nroff and pr, disable messages in order to prevent messy output.

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