Great console experience using Midnight Commander (MC)

Valic —  June 3, 2013 — Leave a comment
Commander may sound familiar for you. GNU Midnight Commander, or MC, is a clone from Norton Commander and a free cross platform file manager licensed under the terms of the GNU License. It has a text user interface, being a console application. It includes 2 panels meant to display the system of files. You can move to files using arrow keys, you are able to select one file using the Insert key and some Function keys are for operations like editing, renaming or copying files. Some advanced versions of Midnight Commander have support for mouse.

If you didn’t knew, the term of Midnight Commander comes from a Swiss army knife. It is excellent for a newbie in Debian because it gives you a menu driven console experience which you will find very easy to learn, especially standard Debian commands. If you want to install the Midnight Commander package, called ‘mc’, you will have to run the command ‘ apt-get install mc‘.

If you need to explore the Debian file system the command is mc. Now you have it there, here are some cool locations you can explore using direction keys and Enter key:

  • “/etc” and subdirectories
  • /usr/share/doc” and subdirectories
  • /var/log” and subdirectories
  • /bin” and “/sbin

The default package comes without any customizations. If you need some changes, these can be made modifying the “~/.bashrc” which has to include a script provided in the package. You can start the MC using the command ‘mc’. Your effort will be minimal since all operations are made using the included menu. F1 is the best way to start, in order to see the help screen and check some useful stuff there. If encoding characters are an issue for you, just including an ‘-a’ to your command in MC will make these problems disappear.

File manager in Midnight Commander

It includes two panels which lists the files. Many users set the right panel to display information regarding permissions, for example, which you may find it to be useful sometimes. Here are some keystrokes very important when you use the MC under Debian:

  • F1 opens the help menu
  • F3 displays the internal file viewer
  • F4 opens an internal editor
  • F9 to activate pull down menu
  • F10 will exit from Midnight Commander
  • Tab helps you move between two windows
  • Insert or Ctrl-T is used to mark the file for a multiple-file operation such as copy or rename
  • Del is used to delete the file (set MC to safe delete mode)
  • Cursor keys -  move through file system

Also, if you want to know some tricks for command line, here are some of them – ‘cd’ command will change the directory, ‘Ctrl + Enter’ will copy a file name to the command line, shell file name expansion choices can be seen using ‘Alt + Tab’, ‘Esc + 1′ has the effect of F1 and pressing ‘Esc’ before pressing another key is like pressing Alt + that key.

This is just a starter article, more to come soon. Please use the above information along with Debian documentation and Midnight Commander will become easier for you.


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Editor in Chief at Debian-Tutorials, Linux enthusiast.

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