Midnight Commander on Mac
#133 Henry, Saturday, 16 June 2012 1:50 PM (Category: UNIX Tools)
(Tags: mc midnight commander mac xtree orthodox file manager macports)

I've been cleaning up my MacBook and my Mac Mini.

Once I moved the ebook processing back to Linux, I was left with a bunch of files and directories on the MacBook that needed to be transferred or removed. And now that I am better organising my video collection on the Mac Mini, again I have a bunch of files in places that need to be moved to other places. I need a decent file manager.

I loathe the Finder on the Macs. It's the sort of file manager that people use only when they don't know any better. Come to think of it, any GUI file manager sucks. You need a sharp, snappy, flexible, text based File Manager. Decades ago, I loved Xtree in the DOS world. I tried Xtree for Windows and that was when I discovered that there was a huge difference between a tool and the GUI version of that tool. One is useful and the other is not. GUI file managers just suck. I just did a quick Google search on "gui file managers suck" and it turns out I am not alone in this opinion.

I found a little bit of history. Jeffrey C Johnson, creator of XTree and Xtree Gold, has a website with a history of XTree, how it was developed and how it was destroyed. Interesting reading.

I also found a lovely home for what is called Orthodox File Managers. What XTree was. What Midnight Commander is. I didn't like Midnight Commander when I first found it in the late 1990s. I was too fresh from the beauty of XTree. But over the years I have learned its idiom, and now I depend on it. So when I have to organise my files on my Macs and it's a slow tedious stupid bit of work using the Finder, I thought of Midnight Commander.

A while ago, I had it installed on my Mac Mini, but that was an earlier version of OS X, and a few hard disks ago. I am now running Lion on my MacBook and Snow Leopard on my Mac Mini, and they are both at their evolutionary end. I think I used Fink to install it all those years ago. I wanted Midnight Commander back. But first, is Fink still the way to go to get Unix tools on the Mac?

I did some reading and settled on MacPorts this time.

Installation was easy on the MacBook. I went to the MacPorts web site, downloaded the package and installed it. Then I dropped to the command line and "sudo port -v selfupdate" and the repository was made ready. Then "sudo port install mc" and waited for about a century while a large number of support packages were installed. Finally Midnight Commander was installed and all was well with my world.

Installation was not quite as easy on the Mac Mini. I got the MacPorts package and installed it. I got a complaint that XCode was not installed and a warning that not much more could be done. I had XCode installed on my MacBook as I am trying my hand at writing some apps for my iPad. That's a struggle of a different kind. But I hadn't bothered installing XCode on my Mac Mini. If I want Midnight Commander, then it looks like I need XCode. I installed it through the Apple App Store. Then I tried to run MacPorts again. How clever, it told me I had installed the Installer of XCode and now I needed to run it to really install XCode. I went to Applications like MacPorts suggested, and there was an icon called Install XCode. I ran it. Ages later, it was done. I ran MacPorts again and yes, it successfuly did the selfupdate. Then I did "sudo ports install mc" and off it went. It installed all sorts of things. Perl, glibc, getttext, and many many more. And finally it was all done. I typed "mc" and got "-bash: mc: command not found". Gloom. Oh wait, just exit from the shell, log in again, and type "mc" again and there it is - Midnight Commander in all its comforting glory.

With the right tool in place, I rapidly finished cleaning up my systems.