Announcing wcurl: a curl wrapper to download files

Samuel Henrique (samueloph) July 03, 2024 [debian, curl]


Whenever you need to download files through the terminal and don't feel like using wget:



Availability (comes installed with the curl package):

If you don't want to wait for the package update to arrive, you can always copy the script and place it in your /usr/bin, the code is here:

Smoother CLI experience

Starting with curl version 8.8.0-2, the Debian's curl package now ships a wcurl executable.

wcurl is the solution for those who just need to download files without having to remember curl's parameters for things like automatically naming the files.

Some people, myself included, would fall back to using wget whenever there was a need to download a file. Sometimes even installing wget just for that usecase. After all, it's easier to remember "apt install wget" rather than "curl -L -O -C - ...".

wcurl consists of a simple shell script that provides sane defaults for the curl invocation, for when the use case is to just download files.

By default, wcurl will:

Example, to download a single file:


If you ever need to set a custom flag, you can make use of the -o/--opts wcurl option, anything set there will be passed to the curl invocation. Just beware that if you need to set any custom flags, it's likely you will be better served by calling curl directly. The -o/--opts options are there to allow for some flexibility in unforeseen circumstances.

The need for wcurl

I've always felt a bit ashamed of not remembering curl's parameters for downloading a file and automatically naming it, having resorted to wget most of the times this was needed (even installing wget when it wasn't there, just for this). I've spoken to a few other experienced people I know and confirmed what could be obvious to others: a lot of people struggle with this.

Recently, the curl project released the results of 2024's curl survey, which also showed this is as a much needed feature, just look at some of the answers:

Q: Which curl command line option do you think needs improvement and how?

-O, I really want wget like functionality where I don't have to specify the name

Downloading a file (like wget) could be improved - with automatic naming of the file

downloading files - wget is much cleaner

I wish the default behaviour when GETting a binary was to drop it on disk. That's the only reason 'wget foo.tgz" is still ingrained in my muscle memory .

Maybe have a way to download without specifying something in -o (the only reason i used wget still)

--remote-time should be default

--remote-name-all could really use a short flag

Q: If you miss support for something, tell us what!

"Write the data to the file named in the URL (or in redirects if I'm feeling daring), and timestamp the file to the last-modified-date". This is the main reason I'm still using wget.

I can finally feel less bad about falling back to wget due to not remembering the parameters I want.

Idealization vs. reality

I don't believe curl will ever change its default behavior in such a way that would accommodate this need, as that would have a side-effect of breaking things which expect the current behavior (the blast radius is literally the solar system).

This means a new executable needs to be shipped side-by-side with curl, an opportunity to start fresh and work with a more focused use case (to download files).

Ideally, this new executable would be maintained by the curl project, make use of libcurl under-the-hood, and be available everywhere. Nobody wants to worry if their systems have the tool or not, it should always be there.

Given I'm just a Debian Developer, with not as much free time as I wish, I've decided to write a simple shell script wrapper calling the curl CLI under-the-hood.

wcurl will come installed with the curl package from now on, and I will check with the release team about shipping it on the current Debian stable as well. Shipping wcurl in other distros will be up to them (Debian-derivatives should pick it up automatically, though).

We've tried to make it easy for anyone to ship this by using the curl license, keeping the script POSIX-compliant, and shipping a manpage.

Maybe if there's enough interest across distributions, someone might sign up for implementing this in upstream curl and increase its reach. I would be happy with the curl project reusing the wcurl name when that happens. It's unlikely that wcurl would be shipped by curl upstream as it is, assuming they would prefer a solution that uses libcurl direclty (more similar to curl the CLI, to maintain).

In the worst case, wcurl becomes a Debian-specific tool that only a few people are aware of, in the best case, it becomes the new go-to CLI tool for simply downloading files. I would be happy if at least someone other than me finds it useful.

Naming is hard

When I started working on it, I was calling the new executable "curld" (stands for "curl download"), but then when discussing this in one of our weekly calls in the Debian Brasília community, it was mentioned that this could be confused for a daemon.

We then settled for the name "wcurl", which doesn't really stand for anything, but it's very easy to remember.

You know... "it's that wget alternative for when you want to use curl instead" :)


I'm hosting the code on Github and Debian's GitLab instance, feel free to open an issue to provide feedback.

We also have a Matrix room for the Debian curl maintainers:
We have historically spoken Portuguese in the room but we'll switch to English in case anyone joins.


The idea for wcurl came a few days before the curl-up conference 2024. I've been thinking a lot about developer productivity in the terminal lately, different tools and better defaults. Before curl-up, I was also thinking about packaging improvements for the curl package. I don't remember what exactly happened, but I likely had to download something and felt a bit ashamed of maintaining curl and not remembering the parameters to download files the way I wanted.

I first discussed this idea in the conference, where I asked the participants about it and there were no concerns raised, and some people said I should give it a go. Participating in curl-up was a really great experience and I'm thankful for the interactions I've had there.

On the Debian side, I've got reviews of the code and manpage by Sergio Durigan Junior <sergiodj>, Guilherme Puida Moreira <puida> and Carlos Henrique Lima Melara <charles>. Sergio ended up rewriting the tool to be POSIX-compliant (my version was written in bash), so he takes all the credit for the portability.