'open' instead of 'xdg-open' for usability?

Simon McVittie simon.mcvittie at collabora.co.uk
Mon Dec 16 04:22:00 PST 2013

On 16/12/13 10:03, Robert Qualls wrote:
> Instead of making users google this, shouldn't we just have a universal
> 'open' command on all freedesktop environments?

Unfortunately, that name is already taken. On my Debian system:

archetype% which open
archetype% dpkg -S /bin/open
kbd: /bin/open
archetype% ls -l /bin/open
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 6 Feb 17  2013 /bin/open -> openvt

According to open(1), it was an old name for openvt, which is kept for

This is a nice illustration of how one-word command names are a limited
resource. Similarly, view(1) is either an alias for see(1) (a precursor
of xdg-open from Debian's mime-support, which is a precursor of the
Freedesktop shared MIME database), or an alias for vi(1) which opens the
file read-only; and node(1) is either the Node-JS programming language
interpreter (now called node-js in Debian), or an amateur radio daemon
(now renamed to ax25-node).

> Imagine the following conversation:
> new user: What command do i use to find files?
> *nix veteran: Oh, that's easy. Use xzzy-locate.
> new user: W-why not...just locate? That makes sense.
> *nix veteran: 'Cause we're a bunch of nerds.
> new user: oh.

Welcome to the command line. If things must continue to work the way
they always used to work (which is the case for command-line utilities,
because they're "API" for scripts) then you can't avoid being exposed to
40 years of historical baggage; if this hypothetical new user is using a
GUI, which they probably are, they won't run into this.

> When I got the document open I saw that my viewer was evince. No
> wonder I couldn't remember.

I use evince too, but my GUI menus (in GNOME Shell) call it "Document
Viewer". You should only have to see the internal name if you go looking
for it (or if you use the command-line, where it's necessary to
disambiguate between half a dozen possible document viewers).


More information about the xdg mailing list