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Cheetsheet for Midnight Commander

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mcview Mcedit MC Macro Substitution MC Context Sensitive User Menu External panelize MC Extension menu OFM Book
  color scheme Editor syntax highlighting OFM Standards MC History Tips Etc
  1. Starting Midnight Commander
  2. Navigational and basic hot keys
  3. Command line and shell window
  4. Function Keys
  5. Tree View Panel
  6. Directory Search Panel (aka NCD panel, aka FindFolder)
  7. File/Directories selection/deselection
  8. Quick view
  9. Quick search
  10. FindFile
  11. Command line execution
  12. Sorting directories
  13. User menu script invocation
  14. Additional file commands
  15. Association (extension menu) management
  16. Compare directories
  17. Compare files operation
  18. Built-in Editor
  19. Archive virtual file system
  20. Infopanel and infoline
  21. History and favorites

Starting Midnight Commander

Open console and type on command prompt:


and press Enter.

There are other ways to start mc. If you enter a directory, it will open in that directory

mc ~/.mc

will open the current directory and ~/.mc

mc ~/.mc /usr/share/mc

will open ~/.mc and /usr/share/mc

The first directory will be in the panel you were in the last time you opened mc. e.g. if you left mc with the right panel selected, mc ~/.mc /usr/share/mc will open /usr/share/mc on the left and ~/.mc on the right.

Navigational and basic hot keys


Command line and shell window

Function Keys

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Old News ;-)

[Jul 28, 2019] Use Midnight Commander like a pro

Jul 28, 2019 |

May 1, 2015

If you've used an *nix system, at some point you've stumbled upon Midnight Commander , a file manager based on the venerable Norton Commander. You're probably familiar with the basic operations ( F5 for copying, F6 for moving, F8 for deleting, etc.) and how to switch panels (ummm, the Tab key). But mc offers so much more than that. This article aims to show all the useful (YMMV) shortcuts and functionalities that are often overlooked. Most of them can be accessed using the menu ( F9 ), but who has the time to do that?

Before we get started, let's establish some facts. This article was written and tested on the following software:

Oh, and make sure you're running a modern and UTF-8 friendly terminal - for example, rxvt-unicode.

Hold your horses

There's actually one thing I'd recommend doing before you run mc . mc has the ability to exit to its current directory. Meaning, you can navigate the filesystem using mc (sometimes it's easier than cd ing into that one directory buried deep down somewhere ) and when you quit mc ( F10 ), your shell will automagically cd to that directory. This is done thanks to the mc-wrapper script that should be bundled with your installation of mc . The exact location is dependent on your distribution - in mine (Gentoo) it's /usr/libexec/mc/ , in Ubuntu supposedly it's in /usr/share/mc/bin/ . Once found, modify your ~/.bashrc :

alias mc='. /usr/libexec/mc/'

Restart your shell, launch mc , change to another directory, exit and your shell should be set to that new directory.

Selecting files Accessing the shell Internal viewer ( F3 ) and editor ( F4 ) Panels Searching files Common actions Virtual File System (VFS)

mc has a concept known as Virtual File System. Try "entering" an archive ( *.tar.gz , *.rpm or even *.jar ) - you'll be able to browse the contents of the archive like a normal folder, without unpacking it first. You extract selected files from the archive by just copying them to the other panel. Bonus points: try "entering" a *.patch file.

This concept is even more powerful when you realize that remote locations can be viewed the same way. A quick way to browse an FTP location is to just cd to it: cd (first Gentoo FTP mirror I found). You'll be able to interact with files as you normally do. To exit this remote location, cd to a local directory. Just typing cd will suffice as it will take you to your home directory.

VFS works for SFTP and Samba shares too. Check the manpages for more information on how to specify user/pass, etc.

Useful options Bonus assignments

Well, that was a lot to take in. Of course, this list is not complete (that's what man mc is there for), but I've selected the commands and functionalities that are the most useful to me . Embrace the ones you find useful, forget the rest and learn about the other ones I've missed!

Midnight Commander Cheat Sheet

Give Me Fish, LLC - Cross-platform C++, Scientific and Technical Programming
Midnight Commander Cheat Sheet

Ctrl-o	 Toggles to/from cl environment
Ctrl-t	 Toggles a file onto/from the "tagged list"
Ctrl-r	 Refresh both views
Ctrl-l  Reformats the screen (I often need to after opening external files
                           such as PDFs, which cause MC to display strangely.)
Ctrl-u  Swap lhs and rhs panels

Other panel views:
Ctrl-x q    Toggles other panel to/from "quick view". Views text.
Ctrl-x i    Toggles other panel to/from "info view". Views file info.
F3	    Toggles to full panel view of text file.
Ctrl-x t    Copies/pastes the currently selected filename(s) to the cl
            [Effective for using svn commands w/multiple files]
Alt-enter   Copies currently highlighted file to the cl
Ctrl-+	    Prompts for a reg-ex string and selects files based on it
Ctrl-*      Selects all files in cwd
Ctrl-x p    Copies the current directory to the command line 
Ctrl-x s       Creates symlink of the file you're currently on (defaults to
            placing that symlink in the dir in the opposite panel).
Alt-p	    Brings to the CL the previously issued command-line within MC
Alt-n	    Brings to the CL the next issued command-line command within MC
Alt-c	    Allows you to cd while preserving whatever is on the CL
Ctrl-\	    Gets you to hotlist
Esc-tab     Completion for command line (like Bash autocomplete)
Alt-i       CD's the other panel to the current panel's CWD
Alt-o       CD's the other panel to directory you are currently highlighting
cd -        On the command line, type "cd -" to return to the directory you
            were previously in. This is very handy if you accidently change
            directories (eg, sync other pane to same dir as current pane)

Hit return when on an archive library (libMylib.a) and see what object files
  have gone into creating the library.

In order to get a pane as an FTP directory, at the MC command line, type:

cd /#ftp:mpeavy:[email protected]         NOTE: PASSWORD is not encrytped
cd /#ftp:[email protected]                  To be prompted for your password (still not encrytped)
cd /#ftp:[email protected]/home/peavy       NOTE: gets you to your home dir directly.

**BETTER** - use scp / sftp instead:

cd /#sh:[email protected]/home/peavy       Secure. Also, starts in home

The above ftp/sftp locations can be added to the hotlist.
In configurations, can set to not show backup (~) files.


Use the External Panelize functions to filter and perform external
 commands multiple times, eg, to view all header files.

Ctrl-x !     - Enter the External Panelize input screen. Choose a command or type
            another command to be executed. 
            Eg: find all header files with:    find . -name *.h
            Save oft-used commands for re-use.
            Will save the output results in the panel you were in.
            To refresh the panel back to the orig. dir view, refresh: Ctrl-r


Colors (Background, foreground, and transparency)


Section 1 – Menu bar: Located at the top of the screen and has the following options. Press F9 (or) Esc 9 to access the menu bar.

Section 2 – Directory panels: Located in the middle and occupies large part of the screen. By default, it displays both left and right directory browsing panels, where you can view contents of two different directories at the same time.

Section 3 – Function keys: Located at the bottom and has following options. Press Esc key followed by the corresponding menu number to access these functions.

  1. Help – Display in-built mc help.
  2. Menu – Displays user defined menu items. You can create custom menu item to execute some complex steps of operations on the selected file. for e.g. compress the selected file and copy to a remote server with a single click. To edit the menu item file, click F9 (invoke menu bar) -> Command -> Edit Menu File
  3. View – View the selected file content using mcview, a viewer for midnight commander.
  4. Edit – Edit the selected file using mcedit, an editor for midnight commander.
  5. Copy – Copy the selected file. If both panels are displayed, it will copy the file to the other panel. mc will ask for confirmation before doing any changes such as, copy file, delete file, move file etc.,
  6. RenMov – Move/Rename the selected file.
  7. Mkdir – Create a new directory under the selected directory.
  8. Delete – Delete the selected file.
  9. PullDn – This will highlight the Menu Bar. This option is helpful when F9 doesn't work to invoke the menu bar.
  10. Quit – To quite midnight commander, press Esc key followed by 0.

Section 4 – Command Line prompt: Using midnight commander does not take away the command line from power user. You can start typing an Unix command anytime and press enter to execute it. Command line prompt is located towards the bottom of the screen.

3. Basic keyboard shortcuts

Most of the mc keyboard shortcuts fall in one of the following category:

Following are some basic keyboard operation

4.Sample mc usage scenarios

Recommended Links

Google matched content

Softpanorama Recommended

Top articles


Midnight Commander Cheat Sheet from Give Me Fish, LLC

Midnight Commander keyboard shortcuts ‒ defkey

mc - man pages section 1 User Commands

HOWTO brief mc howto - Porteus



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