Re: PROPOSAL: Automatic wrapping of CLIs with GUIs

Hello everybody.
On Mon, 15 Jun 1998 David Lutterkort ( wrote:
> it occured to me that manpages (or info-files) are way too cumbersome to
> use, especially for users who don't want to dive head on into the world
> of the typical UNIX command-line tools.
> The problem with manpages is that it takes forever to find the
> information one is looking for in most simple cases. Examples: Which
> option do I give to diff to produce output for 'patch' ? How do I tell
> 'df' to print the file system type of the mounted devices ? How do I
> specify the sample rate for 'audiorecord' ? I use these commands only
> infrequently, so every time I use them, I have to look up the right
> options via the manpage. 
> Life would be a lot easier if one could just select the options one
> wants using a GUI and then run the command with these options.
Maybe more useful would be a solution similar to the 'complete' command of
the tcsh (don't know about bash): with 'complete' you specify how the
shell should expand the command line if you type TAB at any position. You
can, for example, tell tcsh to expand only directory names if the first
word on the line is 'cd'. You can also specify all available options for
The disadvantage is, that 
a) the syntax for complete is quite cryptic
b) you have to provide all 'complete' commands by yourself (only some are
   predefined in my Linux distribution).
c) completions need space in every open shell.
d) if the command line options change, you have to change the
   corresponding 'complete' command.
I'm dreaming of a solution for this. Two ideas come to mind:
1) The command line tools communicate with the shell. If the user types
   TAB, the tool gets the current command line, parses it and reports the
   possible completions to the shell, potentially including some helping
   texts. This requires to modify all command line tools to understand the
   corresponding protocol. I don't know much about CORBA, but I believe it
   could be done that way.
2) I the user types TAB, a central database is asked for the possible
The first solution is preferrable, since each tool holds the necessary
information internally. Additional command line options are automatically
available without need to update a central database.
Although I think it would be a great idea and quite useful as well for
beginners as for advanced command line experts, it would require changes
to a lot of tools.

Best regards, 
Dirk Herrmann

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