[svlug] About mc

Erik Steffl steffl at bigfoot.com
Sun Jan 20 00:00:02 PST 2002

J C Lawrence wrote:
> On Sat, 19 Jan 2002 02:57:42 -0800
> Erik Steffl <steffl at bigfoot.com> wrote:
> > J C Lawrence wrote:
> I have use for a file manager no more than once or twice a month.
> I'm not going to learn the keys, and if I do I'm unlikely to

  in mc they are right in front of you. you don't have to learn

> remember them.  That's the primary reason I explicitly don't want
> function key based bindings and do want letter based bindings.

  just wonder how you remember whether r is for remove or for rename:-)
mnemonics are easier to remember but you still have to remember them.

  btw mc uses the function keys for most common functions only and they
are listed on the screen. the other keys are mostly ctrl-something and
esc-something where something is fairly easy to remember (some of them
copy nc, other are e.g. esc-? for find, ctrl-s for search (for a file
within a panel etc.). straight keys go directly to shell so those cannot
be used.

> As an aside I have a particular dislike of function keys in the
> general case, and with the exception of (rare) VT switching or
> window size controls, just never use them.

  you can also use esc-n where n is a number...

> > It is kinda arrogant from a program to not let you assign any
> > keybindings but IMO it's not serious usability problem.
> I generally consider it critical.

  do you remap all the keybindings in vi? in emacs? in other programs?

> > aren't you using command line?
> >From bash, yes, from the file tool, no.

  it's not really from, it's more like parallel to file tool (the way it
works with mc). why not having BOTH file manager and command line
available? it doesn't limit you in any way and it's simpler than ctrl-z
etc. (nothing prevents you from using ctrl-z though).

> > why would you go to different window to have command line
> > available?
> I don't.  I start from the CLI, work there, if something is a bit
> clumsy there I go into the file manager and do whatever, and then
> immediately exit back to the CLI.  If it happens that I need to skip
> out of the file manager quickly for a short task before returning a
> Ctrl-Z does the job (`fg` is your friend).

  ctrl-o is also your friend (lot quicker then ctrl-z and fg<enter>).
isn't it good to have lot of (true) friends?

> > doesn't make sense - you'd have to cd again even though you are
> > right in the directory you want to be in in mc...
> Ctrl-Z.  Directory switching is also not a particular pain or
> something I feel a need/want to avoid.  In the vast majority of
> cases I'm already in the directory I want to work in.

  ? you work in ONE directory for any extended period of time? that's
kinda strange. generally traversing the directory trees is easier using
file manager (less keystrokes, you see what's happening) but working
with files is often easier using CLI - with mc you can use the best of
both worlds since you have both availale at the same time (you don't
have to though, you can use mc in exactly the same way you described)

> > on modern desktop machines there is no excuse for programs not to
> > have context sensitive help.
> Which I rarely to never use.  Not worried.  Not interested.  I'm not
> a fan or much of a user of "modern desktop" design.

  not modern destop design, modern desktop machines: there are no space
(HD or RAM) constraints that would excuse lack of readily available
on-line doc (man page, context sensitive help etc.). how else would you
learn how to use a program?

>   SELECT <file-spec> <command>
> Brought up a scrolling text list of the matching files which could
> be cursored among and tagged/untagged with SPACE.  Hitting ENTER ran
> the provided command on all tagged entries.
> That alone under bash would remove 90% of my need/wish for a file
> manager (I faintly understand you can do something not entirely
> dissimilar under zsh, but I haven't looked into that yet).

  it's not exactly the same but that kind of functionality is covered by
command line auto-completion, I have set it up so that whenever there's
no single choice it shows possibilities...

> > but how do you work with compressed/tar-ed files?
> I unpack them.  Not a problem.  It is relatively rare that I work
> with tar.gz files that I don't want them unpacked.

  but you just use too many keystrokes and too much attention to do it -
you have to know how to uncompress it (gz, bz, rar etc.), you have to
check it first whether tar creates it's own single directory etc. it's
quite uncomfortable...

> Note however that you are defaulting to the idea that you spend most
> of your time in the file manager, or that it is at least a default


> interface.  Conversely I'm starting from the view that a file
> manager is something I only use when the command line is
> inconvenient for some particular problem, and thus only use a couple
> times a month.

  but I spend more time in file manager than that (depending on what I
do about 10 - 60% file managing tasks). and that's only because it's mc
- if I'd have to use one of those explorer type file managers (or just
about any other that I tested) I don't think I would use it that much.
the thing is that mc doesn't get in the way - let's you use shell right
away (or make the panels go away with ctrl-o) and does have all the
basic (and some quite advanced) functionality...

> > I am kinda surprised by your negative attitude towards mc - from
> > what you say you need IMO mc is the best match. LIST doesn't
> > compare (for both beginner and power user).
> LIST (which I last used ~8 years ago under DOS and OS/2) does what I

  I don't get it. What is it that LIST does that mc does not? btw I
didn't even find any way to configure its key bindings. and generally I
found it unusable...

> actually want.  mc enforces a UI which I find nearly unusable and
> supports a raft of features that I find distracting from what I'm

  ? every UI program enforces its UI. every CLI program enforces its UI
as well. LIST does. not sure why you are singling mc out.

  the extra features: you don't have to use them. mc presents you with
two (or one) panels with lists of files that you can fairly easily
perform basic file operations upon (if you don't remember keys just look
at the status line). you don't even have to know about any other fancy
features. how is something that you never see on the screen distracting

  you can fire it off anytime you want and quit it with single
keystroke, it's not a monster that would take forever to start up:

jojda:~>time mc

CORRECT>time .mc (y|n|e|a)? no

0.020u 0.000s 0:00.34 5.8%      0+0k 0+0io 388pf+0w

  that's with hitting F10 to quit immediately.

  you can even run it with command line, it's not some internal funky
CLI, it's your login shell, basically unchanged, you just hit ctrl-o to
make panels disappear (but you _don't_ _have_ to use this feature, you
can just quit mc or use ctrl-z)

  also: menu bar, command line, status line, hint line can all be turned
off so you're left with panel(s) only.

> actually trying to do.  More simply I'm looking for a small
> component to add to my tool box and extend it in a few directions
> and I'm not looking for an integrated solution to replace much of my
> toolbox or solve problems I don't have (or already have solved in
> other ways I like).

  mc is not an integrated solution. it is a simple file manager with
fairly simple and functional interface, it even let's you use your shell
from within it or use it just like any other additional program.

> Hurm.  John Crowe's list (OSS) seems a fairly good starting point.
> Its got most of the basic supports there already.  I really should
> take some time off and just hack it into shape.

  he recommends mc as well:-) just checked the web page.

  the more you're explaining the more I find your position strange.
everything that you write (apart from keybindings configuration) points
to mc. yet you don't like it. is it something personal?


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