May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
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(slightly skeptical) Educational society promoting "Back to basics" movement against IT overcomplexity and  bastardization of classic Unix


The Orthodox File Managers (OFMs) that are also known as "Commanders" are remote descendants of  Norton Commander (NC) written by John Socha and first released in 1986 for MS DOS. Despite Spartan interface (or, more correctly, due to it) Orthodox file managers provide an extremely rich functionality, unsurpassed by any other type of file managers. Including a unique way of shell and file manager integration via user menu with a set of macrovariables as well as shell terminal window, making them natural sysadmin IDE. Due to unique blend of power, flexibility and portability they became the tool of choice for system administrators, especially in xUSSR region, Eastern Europe, Germany and Scandinavian countries. Those regions were place of birth of the most impressive OFM implementations such as Far, Total Commander, deco, Volkov Commander, Dos Navigator, Altap Salamander and many others.

The importance of this type of file managers is connected with a very high productivity of advanced users and the portability (the OFM is the only portable file manager known to the author). OFMs can be found on a large variety of operating system including  various flavors of UNIX, OS/2,  all existing versions of DOS, and Windows . They are an essential tool for system administrators, especially NetWare and UNIX system administrators.  The current stage of development is explored, several classical ( NC5, DN, VC, FAR, FC, deco, MC, etc.) and GUI-based (Total Commander, Norton Commander for Windows 95, WinSCP, EmelFM2, Krusader, etc.)  implementations are reviewed and recommendations for future development are proposed.

The author believes that OFMs should become an important tool not only for system administrators, but for WEB masters. The most important role of OFMs is to simplify file management and here new interesting directions are now open with the introduction of plugins in FAR, Total Commander, EmelFM2 and several other OFMs.

OFMs can definitely help to attract new users to Linux and FreeBSD. Midnight Commander now seems to be a leading implementation for Linux is now included into set of RPM avalable from the installation DVD for both Red Hat and Suse distributions.  Index of this site provides additional information and discussion of the open source software).

I would like not to absolutize the value of open source in comparison with other institutional forms of developing software. The most important part is to have a standard for OFM-style file managers. This book is modest contribution to this important goal.

There are three fundamental properties of Orthodox file managers:

  1. Conservative (as in "far from being fancy"),  very stable (25 years without major changes), very flexible interface with two symmetrical windows (called panels, with trademark white on blue letters, by default) that hides behind Spartan interface very rich functionality. It really teaches us that "less is more"
  2. One "terminal style" window that initially is minimized to a single line at the bottom of panels, but can be expanded to full screen, half-screen or any number of lines. The user can work in this window like with regular console screen.
  3. Additional way of integration with the underling OS shell via so called User menu and extension menu using the same set of macro variables that are available for command line, which is also used in the built-in editor, providing an opportunity to pipe result of the shell script execution to the place after the cursor or pipe a selected block as input of some script.

At the end of the book three standards for OFM are proposed. A simple "Orthodox Manager Compatibility Test" is imcluded with Orthodox File Managers Standard 1999(OFM1999) - minimal OFM requirements.  It measures measures the level of compliance of a particular file manager with the proposed standard and contains four parts: "Basic compatibility", "Virtual file systems support", "Modern extensions" and "Recommended extensions/Wish list".

Nikolai Bezroukov



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