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Ask Slashdot: Command Line Interfaces -- What Is Out There? 383

Posted by Soulskill
from the anything-but-the-truth dept.
Mars729 writes "GUIs are walled gardens in that features available in one piece of software is not available to other pieces of software. However, there is software out there with command-line options that can make software features accessible to power users and programmers. Some important ones I have uncovered are:
  • Exiftool: A command-line application that can read/write almost any kind of metadata contained in almost any filetype
  • Imagemagick: This and similar software like GraphicsMagick is a full-feature toolkit for displaying, converting and editing image files.
  • Irfanview: Like Imagemagick but faster, although it has much fewer features.
    FFMpeg: For video files
  • VLC: For audio and video files
  • Aspell: A command line spell checker
  • Google Static Maps API: A URL with coordinates, markers, zoom levels and other options to show a custom map from Google Maps. (I just uncovered this: no need to learn KML!)

Less useful but still useful are command shells. These provide file management mostly. I believe some of them may allow for sending and retrieving email messages. Also useful but less accessible and with a steeper learning curve are software with APIs and scripting. Examples would be Visual Basic for Applications in office software and groovy scripting for Freeplane. What else is out there?"

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Ask Slashdot: Command Line Interfaces -- What Is Out There?

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  • What is this? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:22AM (#45835733)
    This isn't worthy of being a story, we all grew up using command lines.
  • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:29AM (#45835751)

    Quoting the summary:

    Less useful but still useful are command shells. These provide file management mostly. I believe some of them may allow for sending and retrieving email messages.

    Yes, my head just exploded. Please pardon the mess, aggressive renovations are in progress. I'm absolutely awestruck that this made it to the front page of /., and suddenly feel extremely old at 32.

    In short, if you are experiencing a lack of flexibility with GUIs, which is a completely normal response in my book, please proceed to install your favorite Linux/BSD/Whatever-nixish distribution and learn to use the following:

    • Shells, at minimum a Bourne-compatible shell
    • Bash, Perl, and Python
    • Man pages

    I really, truly, honestly, brain-explodingly do not know what else to say here. Holy crap.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:43AM (#45835793)

    I'm sorry, is this a joke? The Windows command line - even with powershell - might be a crippled joke, but the unix command line allows you to control *everything* going on in the OS itself and most features of whichever Desktop you're using. Plus the ability to pipe commands together creates a level of poweruser control that is far greater than the sum of its parts. Something Microsoft took 2 decades to realise and a paradigm that a lot of Windows admins still don't "get".

  • by mvar (1386987) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @06:49AM (#45835813)
    First this Tips for your new laptop [slashdot.org] and then this.
    I have a feeling that there's more shitty noob advice to come on this site from now on..Holy crap indeed
  • by YuppieScum (1096) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:06AM (#45835855) Journal

    "GUIs are walled gardens in that features available in one piece of software is not available to other pieces of software.

    Never mind it should be "are" not "is", under what circumstances would you ever be surprised that the features provided by Excel are not available in PhotoShop... with the exception of cut/copy/paste?

    Did I miss a meeting where meretricious twaddle on this site became de rigour?

    Maybe I should resign my ID...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:20AM (#45835905)
    Shit, you should've been there when we thought 600bps was fast. My first modem was a 300bps acoustic coupler.
  • by philip.paradis (2580427) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:22AM (#45835909)
    Man, my original ID was in the 75K-ish range, and I'm seriously debating whether this was (1) a troll submission that got through, or (2) a tactical move to get folks like us to finally just say "fuck it" here and move along while Dice moves along to pursue the new, hip, trendy, GUI-loving, tablet-toting, no-fucking-idea-whatsoever-how-things-work-at-all crowd for ad views. I honestly don't know, but I can safely say this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen posted to this site.
  • by cerberusss (660701) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @07:53AM (#45835985) Homepage Journal

    Obviously the submitter didn't grow up with a unix background, as lots of people here have. And now I see lots of people asking what the hell submitter is thinking, "is this a joke", "not worthy of a story" et cetera.

    But think about it. Submitter came from a GUI background and now discovers the commandline. I'm thinking back when I started with Linux, feeling totally amazed about so much utilities, so much power and I kinda envy the submitter :)

    So give it a rest and just chip in.

  • Re: What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:09AM (#45836073)

    It appears that lots of people recently have been condemned to reinvent Unix, poorly.

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @08:26AM (#45836141)

    GUIs are walled gardens in that features available in one piece of software is not available to other pieces of software.

    Setting aside the fact that this statement makes no sense, I suspect it was crafted around using the term "walled garden" in a misguided effort to establish nerd street cred. Mission failed.

    However, there is software out there with command-line options that can make software features accessible to power users and programmers.

    Out of all of the CLI based software the submitter could have chosen, the selection demonstrates that they are neither a power user or a programmer.

    Less useful but still useful are command shells.

    Holy fuck. Seriously? What I am supposed to run my CLI based software in to begin with. Never mind everything else about a shell that runs deep.

    The bullet points caught my eyes first, I knew right away it was going to be bad, but this? This article making the front page is an insult to the majority of Slashdot's user base and an affront to our intellect and skill sets. Also, it reads like it was written by a second-grader.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @09:07AM (#45836263)

    cli is amazing and it would be apparent if some of the 'omg did he really just say that crowd' helped out newbies instead of ranting

    What? If you want to learn then it is up to you to learn. You clearly have access to the internet, and time to waste on slashdot. You should be using your time to learn rather than complaining that someone isn't teaching you.

    If you want to learn something then ask a specific question. "Teach me about command lines" is a useless request because the answer will take years and no one will want to spend that much effort teaching you anything if you can't be bothered to make the effort to teach yourself anything.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @10:14AM (#45836547)
    "could start saying that pop3 is a commandline then too"

    It isn't?

    locke:~# telnet 127.0.0.1 110
    Trying 127.0.0.1...
    Connected to 127.0.0.1.
    Escape character is '^]'.
    +OK Dovecot ready.
    user myname
    +OK
    pass mypass
    +OK Logged in.
    stat
    +OK 863 28261240
    retr 1
    +OK 3108 octets
    ...[email text]...

    Of course, what you'll quickly find is that the OP isn't the only clueless one. Other Internet newbies like Microsoft and Google have gone out of their way to make their customer's emails illegible.

  • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <{bassbeast1968} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @11:54AM (#45837125) Journal

    Yes and that is why the GUI has been stagnant in Linux for the better part of a decade. hate on me ALL you want but anybody who is honest will admit its true, look at the file managers for just one example. The default is deep fried ass across the board. Fugly as fugly can be fonts, incredibly shitty icons...its like they went out of their way to make the GUI as ugly and nasty as they possibly could. And the whole OS has a disjointed "Meh lets just throw shit together" look as its pretty damned obvious nobody gives a rat's ass about the human interface guidelines. As much shit as Shuttleworth gets at least he tried to have a look stick across the system, its just too damned bad he gives Steve Ballmer a run for his money in the "no damned taste at all" dept because everything Jobs said about MSFT goes doubly true for Ubuntu. Ubuntu, an ancient word that means "We are totally colorblind".

    Having a great CLI is fine and dandy but sadly its become a crutch, you can completely remove CLI access from Windows and OSX and ya know what? The user would be fine,most wouldn't even notice that it was gone. Try removing access to the CLI for just one year in the Linux of your choice, I DARE you. You can't because 1.- Many of the distros won't even function without user access to the shell, as too many things are depending on CLI, and 2.- The first time you run into a problem the ONLY CHOICE you will have to fix it is "Open up Bash and Type"...that's it, that is all. Hell just ask for a non Bash solution and watch the howls of impotent rage! As an experiment I tried that very thing on a dozen forums with a wireless problem that would have taken all of 30 seconds to solve with the GUI in Windows. I was called every name in the book, had a dozen guys preach to me about how wonderful the church of CLI is, until finally one guy had the balls to admit the truth, there simply wasn't a GUI way to fix the problem!

    If there is anything that Android and ARM should have taught it is that the future is NOT some 40+ year old throwback to the age of disco UIs, its intuitive, easy to discover,and easy to learn is THE way of the future! Nobody but nobody is gonna want to sit there and type a bunch of arcane gibberish using a touch keyboard into a 5 inch screen,they are gonna want simple yet powerful GUIs to control these new marvels in their pockets. Linux SHOULD be at the forefront of this GUI revolution, after all its beholden to no corp, doesn't have to maintain backwards compatibility to please the masses, no reason why the next great GUI shouldn't come from Linux....except that too many have taken CLI as their religion, their way to "test the faith" and see if the user is "worthy" to be part of the little club.

    CLI will always have its place, in high performance servers where every byte counts, but even there the cost of a GUI is so trivial compared to what resources the boxes have it isn't funny. And you'll probably never come up with a better way to automate repetitive tasks than simply writing a script and letting the computer run, but its 2014 guys, time to accept that disco is dead and that if you aren't administrating a pile of servers or batch processing a thousand files there really should be NO reason to use a CLI at all. It should be there if you WANT to use it, but it should never ever be the case that you HAVE to use it, not on a modern OS anyway.

  • by hodet (620484) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @12:03PM (#45837181)

    The elitists are out in full force today. Ya the submission is nothing new to many of us but instead of ripping submitter a new one why not share your knowledge with him. Back in 97 I bought Oreilly's Linux in a Nutshell reference book. That book is still on my desk today, beaten up an tattered but sill useful.

    Happy New Year fellow neckbeards! ;-)

  • Re:What is this? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dutch Gun (899105) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @01:51PM (#45837869)

    From my perspective as a Windows programmer/user who is trying to learn more about Linux development: Let me know if you disagree with this analysis.

    CLI is mostly useful for programmers and power-users / sys admins, and *nix was built around the concept of lots of small, useful command-line utilities that can be chained together to get useful things done. Visual interfaces, if they exist at all, are often just pretty wrapping around the core functionality available via the CLI.

    Windows (and the Mac preceding it) was built from the ground up with visual metaphors to make computing simpler for the masses. Command-lines are typically NOT the primary interface with the computer. Often, programs have built-in scripting to provide the power-user with equivalent CLI power on the *nix systems. Less importance is placed on command-line interoperability. Instead, interoperability is achieved through visual metaphors (drag and dropping files, for instance) or through OS services (OLE).

    This is a cultural clash which explains why an OS like Linux will probably never innovate in regards to visual interfaces - I think perhaps its just not all that important to those that control the core feature sets of the operating systems. Essentially, Windows users tend to see the necessity of falling back to a command-line as a crutch for a system that isn't well designed or fully featured (as you indicated), while *nix users take the opposite view, with the command line as the natural place to work, and the visual interfaces as a crutch to assist those who are not as skilled or don't need the power of the CLI.

    I just don't see that perspective changing anytime soon, and so I think UI innovation will tend to be driven by external forces in the *nix world, while the majority of the work still requires a command-line interface to access ALL the important options. BTW, Windows isn't perfect here either, of course. The equivalent in Windows starts with the phrase "Open regedit and search for the key...", but it just seems to happen far less often.

  • by benjymouse (756774) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @02:17PM (#45838115)

    Powershell was designed to market Windows server, providing something that looks familiar to Unix/Linux admins. It's by no means a replacement for VBScript. (Which is *not* the same thing as VBA.) VBScript, being COM-centric, is uniquely suited to accomplishing all sorts of tasks on Windows. It just happens to be getting "deprecated" as part of Microsoft's overall strategy: They want to attract people to Windows server while converting "civilian" Windows into virtually a kiosk OS.

    Sorry, BS. PowerShell is a foundation technology in Windows, unlike VBScript. Since Windows 7, the troubleshooting packs are actually written in PowerShell [technet.com]! The troubleshooting utilities are automatically launched by the system when e.g. network problems occur.

    PowerShell is every bit as COM capable as VBScript. PS uses a "unified" type system where multiple object models (COM, .NET, WMI etc) are surfaced as common PS objects.

    VBScript is definitively legacy (and deprecated). I will actually wager a bet that there is not a single meaningful VBScript that could not be written shorter and more elegant with PowerShell.

  • by serialband (447336) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @02:44PM (#45838437)

    Hairyfeet, back at ya.

    I moved to Linux because from Mac OS X *because* of the command line. It is a first place citizen. You can expect almost all programs on it to support commandline options and such.

    ....

    OSX is based off BSD now, so there are plenty of command tools available to you. All your basic linux commands work in OSX as well as several additional useful OSX command tools that just don't exist elsewhere. I frequently run command line scripts to configure OSX and install numerous pieces of software on several Macs. You can also install Fink, or MacPorts, or Homebrew to install plenty of additional useful software. It's all there if you learn how to use OSX on the command line.

    Windows also has a command line, and the vast majority of Windows software can be installed on the command line. There are many useful command line utilities that vastly speed up setup of the a windows system. You could also install cygwin if you really want unix style commands. With powershell, there's less of a need to have cygwin. In a Domain, you can use group policy to manage numerous systems, but that's not available if you're not in a domain. If you manage systems not in a domain, or before you join it to a domain, you can do just about everything on a local trusted network with command line tools in a batch file script or powershell.

    Many people think of Windows or OSX as GUI only, or mainly, have never really sat down to find the command line way of doing it because the GUI was always there as a crutch. The GUI was so well done that they never bothered seek out the command line. On linux, the GUI came much, much later. In the beginning, some of the linux GUI, like the early SAMBA config GUI that wiped smb.conf, was quite broken. There's still work to be done with the GUI.

    Don't mistake a useful GUI for lack of a command line on OSX or Windows. It's all there and you've just never learned to use it. The linux GUI is not as well designed and still needs more work to get to where Windows and OSX are. That's probably why most linux users are still going to the command line. Eventually, that will change and it will mainly be sysadmins and certain power users that do any command line on linux as well.

  • Re:pop3 and Google (Score:4, Insightful)

    by msauve (701917) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @02:57PM (#45838589)
    "I get my email from Google over POP3. pop.gmail.com:995. But it requires SSL,..."

    Not a problem...

    openssl s_client -connect pop.gmail.com:995

  • Re:What is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday January 01, 2014 @03:57PM (#45839113) Journal

    hate on me ALL you want but anybody who is honest will admit its true,

    the hating on you will be for using a blatant "no true scotsman" fallacy, not for disliking the gui. You're a massive wanker for claiming I'm a liar because I disagree with you.

    you can completely remove CLI access from Windows and OSX and ya know what? The user would be fine,most wouldn't even notice that it was gone.

    Not if the user in question was me. In fact I know quite a lot of people who install the cygwin commandline stuff for Windows because the builtin commandline is not very good. And then there's the MinGW effort. Apparently enough people miss the commandline that there are not one but two competing efforts to bring a good commandline to windows.

    Fiven that they're Free that means there are enough people wanting that that there are enough developers from withing that subset to make two.

    That's a lot of people and you're dishonest if you don't agree, naturally.

    Try removing access to the CLI for just one year in the Linux of your choice, I DARE you.

    Why the fuck would I want to do that?

    The first time you run into a problem the ONLY CHOICE you will have to fix it is "Open up Bash and Type"...that's it, that is all.

    Well, no. That's true in some cases, but then registry hacks are true in some cases in Windows and commandline-fu is the only solution in some cases in OSX. Not sure what your point is.

    Hell just ask for a non Bash solution and watch the howls of impotent rage!

    So basically, you ask people to donate their time to you for free and they do. They give you an answer in a clear, succint way which doesn't involve the rather tricky comminucation of visual information in a forum and you have the entitledness to complain that they're not helping you "the right way".

    Wow, you sound like an asshole.

    If there is anything that Android and ARM should have taught it is that the future is NOT some 40+ year old throwback to the age of disco UIs, its intuitive, easy to discover,and easy to learn is THE way of the future!

    Except that it's not unless you have very limted horizons. And ARM was in fact developed to run an OS with an integrated commandline.

    So, mr. intiutive, how do I script repetitive actions in my workflow on Android?

    Linux....except that too many have taken CLI as their religion, their way to "test the faith" and see if the user is "worthy" to be part of the little club.

    You're the one who sounds like a religious nutball. I happen to like the commandline. I really don't care if you do. You seem to care that I like it. that's got religious quackery written all over it.

    Oh and almost forgot, of course you're dishonest if you don't agree with me.

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