metashell - User Friendly Shell

Fergal Daly fergal at
Mon Jan 28 00:33:55 UTC 2008

On 27/01/2008, Forest Bond <forest at> wrote:
> Hi,
> On Sun, Jan 27, 2008 at 04:10:58PM +0000, Fergal Daly wrote:
> > On 27/01/2008, Forest Bond <forest at> wrote:
> > > On Sun, Jan 27, 2008 at 02:01:56AM +0000, Fergal Daly wrote:
> > > > Seems like you could achieve much the same thing by having command
> > > > (let's call it "o" for open so it's nice and short) that checks the
> > > > mime-type of it's argument and opens it according to user preferences.
> > >
> > > This already exists.  It's called "see", "edit", etc...
> > >
> > > Honestly, a whole shell to get functionality that's been around for how long...?
> >
> > Absolutely.
> [...]
> > "open" seems to be the obvious choice of name for such a tool but for
> > me, it's a symlink to openvt. Is there a good reason for openvt to be
> > holding this valuable name or is it just historical. The fact that
> > it's a symlink makes me think that someone has already tried to free
> > up "open". Maybe that could be completed and a discoverable,
> > alternatives-based "open" command could take it's place,
> Are you advocating the creation of a program called "open"?

No, I said "alternatives-based". That is, using the Debian
alternatives system to provide access to one preferred tool from
amongst many similar tools.

> Perhaps I was not clear before.  What you are looking for already exists, and it
> is called "see" (or, perhaps more appropriately, "edit").  These tools pull data
> from mailcap.

You were perfectly clear, however there is definitely some
miscommunication. In my last mail _I_ mentioned that see reads from
mailcap and now for some reason you are explaining exactly that to me
(it was in the part you snipped).

So let me rephrase my points

1 there are multiple tools which do roughly the same thing - see,
gnome-open and probably k-something-or-other and no unified location
for preferences for these tools

2 multiple tools which do roughly the same thing is no problem

3 multiple locations for the same preferences is a bad thing and while
sometimes necessary, should be avoided where possible

4 if you don't already know the name of the tool, you are unlikely to
be able to find it

5 "open" seems to be the obvious name for such a tool. It was the
first thing I tried, it's what's left when you remove "gnome-" from
"gnome-open", it's the verb that appears under every File menu I've
ever seen. It seems quite discoverable. "edit" is also quite
discoverable however if you're just trying to open something to see
it, you're unlikely to try "edit"

6 open is currently a symlink to /usr/bin/openvt - the fact that it's
a symlink and that "man open" talks about "openvt" not "open" makes me
thing that it's ripe for reclamation.

So I am suggesting that Ubuntu would be improved by reclaiming
/usr/bin/open from the  console-tools package and replacing it with an
alternatives-based link to a file opener, on Ubuntu -gnome-open, on
Kubuntu - k-something etc etc. Ideally they would all have the same
interface but even without that it would be good.

It would also be great to have a central mime-type -> action database.
I think that's part of freedesktop but unless see and edit pay
attention to it, the problem is not fully solved,


> If you want it called "open", how about:
> alias open=see
> BTW, what's with the huge CC list?  I trimmed it.  I doubt very much that the
> entire human race is interested in this discussion.
> -Forest
> --
> Forest Bond
> Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (GNU/Linux)
> uwwoEmJUVtH7eACayoR85CE=
> =aXho

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