Four more for the console

I picked out four unrelated applications this time, more on the basis of their display than a central function. The reason for that is the one I’ve given a few times in the past: Applications that are a step above a single command can serve as replacements for GUI programs, and with much lighter requirements.

The first is abook, which is fun if only for following what looks like a tabbed index card shape.

I would guess that the real reason we have GUIs at all is to remind us of how an application corresponds to a real-world equivalent. That’s where the idea of the “desktop” came from really, from the idea of a desk littered with files and folders and tasks. abook does the same thing for an address book, recalling those small black books arranged by letter with a little pencil in the spine. Jot down a name and a number, and then wonder for the rest of your days who that was and why you wrote their name down.

Add a name, an address and e-mail or two, phone number etc. The nice advantage of abook over the little paper version is that it organizes and keeps things neat for you. My little paper address books were always quite scratchy.

abook is intended to work alongside mutt, although it certainly doesn’t have to. I don’t have mutt installed and alpine has its own address book functions for e-mail, so unfortunately abook probably won’t stay on my machine for long. On the other hand it is a nifty console application with a clean arrangement and easy interface. Couple this with something like wyrd and your entire office is manageable at the cost of something like 300Kb in disk space.

For a system monitor, here’s atop.

If it looks like top to you, it does to me too. Noninvasive, straightforward and packed with information. Doesn’t exactly scale itself to the space its given, but that’s not a requirement. On the positive side, it’s far from heavyweight and needs almost nothing to run (what you see there is over ssh between a Celeron and a Pentium, and there’s no drag whatsoever). On the negative side … well, it’s not htop. And we all know how popular htop is.

Here’s another console-driven file manager — clex.

Everybody has a particular file manager that they love, whether it’s Nautilus, PCManFM, Midnight Commander or what have you. clex is unorthodox in its arrangement, but perhaps the proper perspective is to look at this as a kind of enhancement to the shell.

clex has hotkeys for the standard ideas — moving files, copying things and so forth — but also for some unusual things, like user and groups information, or a shell command line. Some of these things are available in other managers, but some are unique (for what I’ve seen) to clex.

Many of us console weenies are bred into the two-pane arrangement and so in that case it might be difficult to get past clex’s list format. But this is one of those programs though that becomes more useful the more you use it … and if that sounds odd, just trust me.

Last, here’s ncdu.

This one I find myself coming back to quite frequently. I must agree that the standard disk usage command for Linux is a bother. If all I want to know is the amount of space a folder is taking up on the drive, I have a long and arduous string of flags to tack on to du before I can get the information I want.

ncdu, on the other hand, spins up fast, sorts everything in a jiffy and has enough small frills to make it absolutely indisposable. It doesn’t do much beyond show the size of a directory, but it will track down space hogs faster than they can reproduce, it will remind you of junk you meant to delete weeks ago, and best of all it has an easy-to-manage interface that almost makes it fun. This is another one I recommend as a program that does one thing, does it well and does it with flair.

As always, if you have suggestions or know of similar applications, I’d be happy to hear about them. (And yes, vifm is on my list. :roll: )

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9 Responses to “Four more for the console”


  1. 1 Serguei Filimonov 2010/01/25 at 11:45 AM

    vifm is the best file-management experience I’ve ever had. Perfect for vi ninjas and still great if you’re not into vi.

  2. 2 CorkyAgain 2010/01/25 at 2:16 PM

    I agree, Serguei, and I’m getting impatient waiting for K.Mandla to finally give it a try. ;-)

    But vifm’s default colorscheme is garish, imho. The first thing I do after installing it is edit the colorschemes file to make the borders the same color as the list background. I really dislike the way the default scheme creates a “fat frame” look that feels so utterly un-vi-like. (Check out the screenshot on the vifm website to see what I mean.)

    vifm’s real power comes from its ability to associate filetypes with external commands, and from its extensible set of :com commands. Be sure to experiment with those features when giving vifm a trial run.

  3. 3 Kaleb Elwert 2010/01/25 at 10:52 PM

    Yeah, I found ncdu as a replacement for filelight, but I never use qt libs plus gentoo wanted all the kde stuff as well. Not worth it for one app, especially on a 5-6 year old laptop.
    ncdu has some really useful shortcuts too… like, d will delete the selected directory or file if you’re sure you don’t want it any more… really useful so you don’t need to have a file manager open.

    Looks like I’ll be trying clex. I’ve been looking for a single pane fm for the console… and I like pcmanfm, but it’s going through a huge rewrite and isn’t exactly stable at the moment…

  4. 4 benj1 2010/01/25 at 10:55 PM

    funny you should mention abook, ive recently been looking for some kind of address book, and there seems to be a huge lack of them.

    i only wanted something that would work with calendar for birthdays etc, and an email client, aswell as the usual phone numbers and addresses, but there wasn’t really anything that fit the bill.

    guess I will have to get some awk practise

  5. 5 Mats Rauhala 2010/01/26 at 1:52 AM

    You can also use abook for mutt autocompletion. By setting ‘query_command’ to ‘abook –mutt-query %s’ you use ^T for completing email addresses.

    ‘abook –add-email-quiet’ can be used to parse email files for adding email addresses to abook.

    set query_command=”abook –mutt-query %s”

    for i in cur/*; do cat $i | abook –add-email-quiet ; done # IIRC

  6. 6 Dieter_be 2010/01/28 at 2:48 AM

    I tried ncdu and it’s really cool.
    but it hit me that, ideally, a good filemanager has all the features ncdu has.

    /me goes off installing vifm

  7. 7 Kaleb Elwert 2010/01/28 at 4:16 AM

    I haven’t found any file manager that breaks folders down into the amount of space (including subfolders) it takes. That’s really the main use of ncdu – finding which folders are taking the most space and cleaning it out.


  1. 1 Links 26/1/2010: XGI is Back, Fedora Spins Directory | Boycott Novell Trackback on 2010/01/27 at 11:17 AM

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