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SURFRAW(1) General Commands Manual SURFRAW(1)


surfraw - a fast unix command line interface to WWW services


surfraw elviname [options] search words ...
sr elviname [options] search words ...
sr -elvi
sr [options] bookmark [search words]


Surfraw provides a fast unix command line interface to a variety of popular WWW search engines and other artifacts of power. It reclaims google, altavista, dejanews, freshmeat, research index, slashdot and many others from the false‐prophet, pox‐infested heathen lands of html‐forms, placing these wonders where they belong, deep in unix heartland, as god loving extensions to the shell.

Surfraw consists of a collection of elvi, each of which knows how to search a specific web site. To see the list of elvi type:

surfraw -elvi

Note that sr is an alias for surfraw, so that could equally be

sr -elvi

To search using an elvis use:

sr elviname [options] search terms..

For example, to search google for information on Debian ports, using the "I'm feeling lucky" option:

sr google -l debian ports

Adding the elvi to your path

If you are a regular user of surfraw, you will probably get sick of typing sr or surfraw each time. You can regain the old behaviour of running the elvi directly by adding the elvi directory (/usr/lib/surfraw) to your path, either manually or using surfraw-update-path(1).


Surfraw supports bookmarks. To add a bookmark, add it to /etc/xdg/surfraw/bookmarks or $HOME/.config/surfraw/bookmarks

The format of the bookmarks file is simple, each bookmark is on a separate line, with the bookmark and URL separated by whitespace, eg:


If the url contains the string %s, you can specify an optional argument to the bookmark. Without an argument, only the domain will be returned. With arguments, %s will be replaced by the arguments. This obviates the need to create elvi for sites with very simple search options.

To invoke a bookmark, use "surfraw bookmark" or "sr bookmark", and if an elvis of that name doesn't exist, it searches for a bookmark of that name instead.

There are some example bookmarks in /etc/xdg/surfraw/bookmarks


Use sr elviname -local-help for elvi‐specific options.

The following options work with all elvi.

Show summary of options (including elvi‐specific options).

Show elvi‐specific options.

Show version of program.

Set browser (default: sensible-browser).

Display a list of other Surfraw mechanisms for conquering evil.

Apply url escaping to arguments (default: yes)

Bracket all arguments with " characters (default: no). Note that putting quotes round arguments works now, so you can do, for example:

sr google foo "bar baz" bam

and the quoting is passed on to the search engine


$ sr ask why is jeeves gay?
$ surfraw google -results=100 RMS, GNU, which is sinner, which is sin?
$ sr austlii -method=phrase dog like
$ /usr/lib/surfraw/rhyme -method=perfect Julian


Surfraw uses the XDG basedir spec ( to locate config files. The default locations are shown below, but can be modified by setting the environment variables $XDG_CONFIG_HOME and $XDG_CONFIG_DIRS. See the spec for more details.

Surfraw gets its configuration from three sources, in order:

Environment variables

/etc/xdg/surfraw.conf and $HOME/.config/surfraw/conf are both fragments of bourne‐shell style shell script.

/etc/xdg/surfraw.conf should use def and defyn to define variables. These functions set variables unless they are already set by the environment. defyn is used for boolean configuration variables, def for all others. For instance:

def SURFRAW_text_browser /usr/bin/lynx
defyn SURFRAW_graphical no

$HOME/.config/surfraw/conf should use sh‐style entries, eg:


This is because you want them to override environment variables unconditionally.


Location of global configuration file.


def SURFRAW_global_conf /etc/xdg/surfraw/conf

Location of per‐user configuration file.


def SURFRAW_conf $HOME/.config/surfraw/conf

Whether to use a graphical browser.


defyn SURFRAW_graphical no

Name/path of text browser executable. e.g. links, lynx, w3m


def SURFRAW_text_browser sensible-browser

Name/path of graphical browser executable. e.g mozilla, netscape etc.


def SURFRAW_graphical_browser sensible-browser

Text browser arguments, or "none".


def SURFRAW_text_browser_args none

Graphical browser arguments, or "none".


def SURFRAW_graphical_browser_args none

Whether to use "-remote openURL" for graphical browser.


defyn SURFRAW_graphical_remote yes

When using SURFRAW_graphical_remote, open a new window?


defyn SURFRAW_new_window no

Name of screen command to run.


def SURFRAW_screen screen

If surfraw is running under screen(1), start a new screen for each text browser invocation?


defyn SURFRAW_new_screen no

Arguments to pass to the SURFRAW_screen command


def SURFRAW_screen_args ""

Whether to "quote" all the arguments.


defyn SURFRAW_quote_args no

Whether to re‐quote arguments if they have spaces in, ie so:
sr google foo "bar baz" bam
works as expected.


defyn SURFRAW_quote_ifs yes

Default number of results to return (not supported by all elvi).


def SURFRAW_results 30

Whether to escape [% "$%&+,/:;<=>?@[{|}~'] characters in command line arguments subsequently used to construct a url.


defyn SURFRAW_escape_url_args yes


Location of the elvi.

Per‐user elvi.

Default system wide configuration file.

Default per‐user config file

System wide bookmarks file.

Per‐user bookmarks file.


Please report any bugs found (or any web sites in need of surfrawizing) either via the debian bug tracking system ( or to the surfraw-devel list (



Oh Baybe
I need some
Deep Linking
Let us go
Surfin' in the raw!

Read HACKING. Surfrawize the soul of your favourite internet wonder. Join the Shell Users' Revolutionary Front Against the WWW by submitting code. Reclaim heathen lands. Bear witness to the truth. Its love will set you free.

Join us on


Originally written by Julian Assange.

Now maintained by the surfraw-devel team <>.

See the file AUTHORS for the full list of contributors.

Man page by Ian Beckwith, based on the original README and an earlier man page by Christian Surchi.


Copyright (c) 2003-2018 The Surfraw-Devel Team
Copyright (c) 2000-2001 Julian Assange <>
Copyright (c) 2001 Australian Institute for Collaborative Research
Copyright (c) 2000 Melbourne Institute for Advanced Study

The copyright holders listed above assert no rights on this release of the software ``surfraw'' and thereby explicity place this release into the into the public domain. Do what you will.

February 3, 2004