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Less is More: The Orthodox File Manager (OFM) Paradigm

by Dr Nikolai Bezroukov

Content : Foreword : Ch01 : Ch02 : Ch03 : Ch04 : Ch05 : Ch06 : Ch07 : OFM1999 : OFM2004 : OFM2012


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File Commander (FC)

File Commander is a 32-bit classic (text mode) OFM for OS/2, Win32 and Linux (version 2.4 supports all major Linux distributions) written by Brian Harvard. This is the only notable representative of OFMs from Australia.

Originally the product was for OS/2 only and if we count those versions as we should, it is considerably older then FAR. Here is the history (minor version and version before 1.0 deleted):

14/03/94 v1.00
25/05/94 v1.1
21/10/94 v1.2
06/05/95 v1.3
16/11/95 v1.4
25/03/97 v1.5
29/09/97 v1.51  First Win32 release
16/08/98 v2.00
08/11/98 v2.01
02/05/99 v2.10
26/07/99 v2.11
06/01/00 v2.12
20/04/02 v2.20
23/09/08 v2.30
03/03/11 v2.40  First Unix release

After OS/2 went into permanent decline, Win32 version was added. Since version 2.12 (released in June 2000) OS/2 and Win32 releases were simultaneous and are supported equally. Now probably the most popular platform for FC became Win32 and here it competes with FAR.  Development stopped for several years and resumed in 2009 with the release of version 2.3. In March 2011 version 2.4 was released that supports major Linux distributions and supports them well (please remember that the original codebase was for OS/2 which was designed to be better OS then Unix)

This very compact and very fast implementation. The current version 2.4 Win 32-bit exe file is just 470K (twice smaller then FAR).

Brian Harvard is the author of several OFM innovations that later found their way to other command line orthodox file managers such as FAR. Among them  usage of regular expression in file selections, more consistent set of macro symbols for user menu and command line, Shift-Enter for running the command in a separate session, etc

As historically FC was one of the first OFM for OS/2 it really dominated command line OFM area for this OS. It was the winner of Readers Choice award of OS/2 e-Zine magazine (1998). OS/2 version was a must for any serious OS/2 OFM user (it was available from  SimTel disk utilities)

Main features:

File Commander 2.30 was a substantial update of the codebase and brought it into forefront of command line OFMs on all platforms. Among notable changes:

Version 2.4 was released in March 2011. It is the first release that supports Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD, As author explained to me (private letter) he wrote his own console implementation as part of FC for Linux because Linux terminal doesn't support many key combinations that he needed. Writing own console provides full control over the keyboard and the screen/window. The downside though is that it you need VC of X11 to run it, as it won't run via ssh/telnet. Among new features:

FC contributions

FC is an interesting product that introduced several innovations that later have found its way to other OFMs.  He also was probably the most aware of Unix developments (especially MC) implementer of Win32 OFM and that provides FC with some distinct advantages over FAR. For example recently he added "/" and "?" keys to viewer as search forwards/backwards as in many unix   tools (less, vi etc) I am not a regular FC user and probably I underestimated the innovation that FC introduced. Among the innovations that I would like to mention:

All macrosymbols  can be used in command line. The macrosymbol !t permit execution of the command for each tagged file. It has correct semantic in case no files was tagged; in this case it is equivalent to the current file.  In addition a separate macrosymbol !l(!L for the passive panel) provides for a space separated list of all tagged files. Macrosymbol !@ - Substitutes for the name of a temporary file that contains a list of tagged files, one per line.

FC also provide an interesting and very useful enhancement for starting a program: Shift-Enter will run command in a separate session.

FC has very reasonable built-in viewer and editor that have good compromise between being too complex and does not providing enough features to be useful.

FC deviations

FC is reasonably compliant with the part 1 of the OFM1999 standard. The main problem is that FC does not have quick view. Also changing of timestamp was implemented as a separate command, not as a part of the attribute command.

Rescanning of the hard drive in the quick tree view is implemented with non-standard key Ctrl-R  (that's acceptable, but the standard key for rescanning is F2).

Ctrl-Enter does not work on quick search. The author decided against this behavior as he thought that it would be more useful to be able to paste the current file to the command line without switching off the quick search mode with Esc. To move to the next/previous quick search match the user should use non-standard keys Alt-Down,Alt-Up. BTW the same keys move to the next/previous tagged file in the regular panel (they are listed among FC contributions, see above).

Recommended Links

File Commander

File Commander - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

File Commander for Windows (FCW) script and utilities. - reboot.pro

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