How To: Display Your Fortune In The Terminal

Today’s article is just a silly article, one where you learn how to display your fortune in the terminal. It’ll be fun! It’ll also be quick and easy, probably. If you’re expecting anything serious, this is not the article for you. No… No, it is not!

Once in a while, we remember that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well, we don’t want to be a dull boy, so let’s do something that serves absolutely no benefit. Let’s just have unadulterated fun. It’s my site, I’ll do what I want!

To be fair, I’ve already cover this same topic. I shared how to use ‘cowsay’ with ‘fortune’. I suppose it’s cheating, but this time we’re just going to use the ‘fortune‘ aspect. Trust me, it’s a very different article.

Yes, it’s an excuse to have a quick and easy article. I had an easy article the last time and I still want an easy article. I don’t want to burnout and we’ve had more than 300 articles. So, an easy spell is nice. It’ll help prevent burnout. I’ll be over it in a day or two, I assume. (Note that I didn’t promise.)

Remember, a goal of the site is to be found by search. So, having a ‘fortune’ specific article isn’t a bad thing. Not everyone will want the silliness of ‘cowsay‘. (They not very fun people, but they’re people and they exist!)

So then, let’s just get going with the silliness…

Display Your Fortune In The Terminal:

Obviously, you need an open terminal! It’s right there in the title! If you don’t know how to open the terminal, you can do so with your keyboard – just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open.

With your terminal open, you need to install ‘fortune’. It’s probably available for those using apt and those using rpm based package managers. It may be available for others, but I have not checked. So, to install it:

On apt-based distros:

On rpm-based distros:

With ‘fortune’ happily installed, and feel free to try in other package managers – but leave a comment if they work, you can start with the basic ‘fortune’ command:

Now, as this is just a fun article, I’m actually going to cheat. I’m going to suggest you just use the man page to learn more:

See, this is why I wanted to cover ‘fortune’ by itself. There are a whole lot of options available for such a silly program. Of all of them, my favorite one is the -l flag. That one throws out longer fortunes, like this one:

See?!? The ‘fortune’ command is pure awesomeness! If you’re anything like a cat, or myself, you can bat at the fortune command (as though it was a balled up piece of paper) for way longer than what seems reasonable.

So, check that man page and have fun with ‘fortune’. For example, you can (with the default configuration – and you can do way more with ‘fortune’ than one might ever possibly wish) run one of the following commands:

So, have fun with it. I do! I revisit the command far more often than one might think a grown adult would. Even then, and my memory kinda sucks, I don’t think I’ve read them all. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.


And there you have it… You can now display your fortune in the terminal. I mean, it’s probably not really your fortune – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it. Life is short, but not too short to have some fun in the Linux terminal.

By the way, like the last article, this article was prompted by an recent article on a forum I frequent. Nobody mentioned the ‘fortune’ command, so I figured I’d return to it and try to give it some justice. It’s a fun application with way more  options than it needs – and that’s awesome.

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Let’s Have Some Fun With Cowsay And Fortune

Today, we’ll be having fun with ‘cowsay’ and doing so while getting your fortune in your terminal. Why not? Linux doesn’t always have to be about work. Today’s article will be not even remotely useful for work and none of what you learn will greatly increase your Linux skills. We are doing this for fun, mostly.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be a little silly and to have some fun.

Besides, you’ll get to use the | (pipe) and that’s always fun! Seriously, the pipe is one of the best tools Linux has. It lets you take the output from one command and use it in another one. The man page helpfully describes it like this:

pipe – Postfix delivery to external command

We’ll just be scratching the surface with pipe, so be sure to run man pipe if you’re unfamiliar with it. Pipe hails from Unix and has been with us, in one form or another, since 1973. I dare say that the longevity is good evidence of the value.

I’m just going to give the directions for Debian/Ubuntu/derivatives. I haven’t checked across all the systems, so I’m not sure what distros this will work on. Probably all of the major distros, but it should work on anything with Debian in its lineage. If you’re not doing so, you should still be able to follow along and just adapt it to your package management systems. 

So, that being said and done, let’s look into this matter of a mad world with cows and fortunes.

Fun With Cowsay:

The first thing we have to do is open a terminal. Press CTRL + ALT + T on your keyboard and the default terminal emulator should open up. Once open, run the following command:

That should install both ‘cowsay‘ and ‘fortune‘, along with any dependencies that need to be satisfied. Those are the only two tools you need to install for this exercise, or at least they should be.


Fortune is a tool that outputs fortunes from a database. A normal use would be:

That should happily output a fortune for you.


The cowsay application prints a graphic that looks vaguely cow-like and any text you tell it to print. The command would look a bit like this:

All of which is all well and good – but the magic is when you put them together. So, let’s try that. Let’s pipe fortune output to the cowsay application:

Which will have an output similar to this:

cowsay in action
See? You’ve got a cow spouting wisdom in the terminal! Just what you always wanted!

That’s not it! No, dear reader, that is not it! That’s not all you can do! See, you can change the cow to Tux, the Linux penguin mascot.

What the penguin has to do with a cow, I know not. But, I do know that you can use the command and output a penguin. 

The output from that command should look pretty similar to this:

cowsay goes tux
See? It’s Tux! I wouldn’t make this sort of stuff up. It’s too important!

And there you have it. You’ve successfully piped the output from fortune to cowsay and, as a bonus, morphed the cow into tux. Another productive day at the office, while having fun with cowsay!


I’ve got a couple of articles ahead, which is nice. This one tells you how to have fun with cowsay, which is also nice. It’s pretty important business!

Now to write some that are scheduled years in the future (so that I don’t mistakenly post them and they’re out of the way) and not fret too much when Mother Nature comes to claim my internet… I’m not giving up on my publishing schedule yet!

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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