Presenting RetroTxt, the ASCII art & NFO browser for Chrome

RetroTxt available on the Chrome Web Store.

Last month I wrote a long post titled ASCII, NFO Art & Text Encodings. That covered the complications and technical difficulties involved in accurately rendering ASCII art and NFO text in modern browsers. It also dealt with how I overcame those difficulties and developed a backend rendering engine to accurately display text files hosted on in the browser as text.

But the backend implementation was restricted to the site and its code limited to an out of fashion language. So based on that original code I decided to create RetroTxt, an open-source extension for Chrome, that could be used by anyone on any website hosting text files. To stylise plain text, ascii art and nfo text files using various fonts and colours for early 8/16-bit home computers. And as Chrome extensions are HTML/JavaScript/CSS the core code would be more useful to fellow developers.

RetroTxt is a handy little extension that takes old fashioned text files and stylises them in a more pleasing visual format. Despite the web being built on text, web browsers are often incapable of accurately displaying texts written during the pre and early web eras. This is where RetroTxt comes in! It imports the text into a modern format, injects a font that mimics a chosen retro computer, then applies styling to improve the display and readability. It can also double up as a text viewer for your locally stored, off-line files and even serve as an NFO text viewer.

The best way to explain RetroTxt is to see it in action with this short 54 second muted video. Where I browse a few NFO files hosted on showing both before and after RetroTxt has been applied.

I’ve tried to keep the extension as light and hands off as possible within the confines of the restrictive Chrome extension API. While still giving users the ability to easily customise fonts, colours and other theme settings. It offers a choice of 25 retro fonts, 11 colour themes, text alignment options as well as some presets for MS-DOS, Commodore Amiga, Commodore 64, Apple II and even a DOS font, web hybrid.

RetroTxt options menu
RetroTxt options

RetroTxt works on all operating systems for Chrome and compatible browsers (Chromium, Vivaldi) and can be installed from the Chrome Web Store.

Future ports are possible for both Firefox and Edge.

The readme, help and further information can be found here.

The source code can be found on GitHub and is released under a GNU Lesser GPL.

Any web developers looking to browse the code would probably be interested in functions.js and text.css. As they contain the core functionality of the text character conversions, font colours and CSS styling. The rest of the code is mostly for the extension functionally and UI.


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