open(1) removed from Debian? (was: 'open' instead of 'xdg-open' for usability?)

Liam R E Quin liam at
Mon Dec 23 18:38:01 PST 2013

On Sun, 2013-12-22 at 00:28 -0600, Robert Qualls wrote:
> [...]

>  open belongs in a separate project for high-level,
> user-facing commands that's basically just a bunch of wrappers that
> can be easily personalized by users and maintained over time. This
> way, the community can have a discussion about what commands should be
> kept and how they should be implemented.

Some GNU/Linux™[1] distributions use a parallel mechanism for
system-wide customization, update-alternatives, which uses
a /etc/alternatives/ directory and symbolic links to activate different
system components such as libraries, JVM, /usr/bin commands etc.

A danger in customizing shell-level commands is that shell-scripts can
become hard to debug remotely and hard to share.

I'm personally in favour of keeping xdg-open and not making a grab for
"open", because it helps people remember that the user of a script might
be running a different desktop environment, and that "xdg-open
instructions.txt" might not (for example) bring up gedit by default for

Others mentioned OS X, but it should be remembered that OS X doesn't
support multiple desktop environments in the way that's the entire
raison d'etre for the xdg effort...


[1] Linux is a trademark of Linux Torvalds.

> I'm currently working on prototypes of some of these, namely: open,
> convert (ffmpeg+imagemagick for now), build, download, package
> (universal package manager that uses conversion utilities (and maybe
> docker?) to install foreign packages). I plan to have something
> fleshed out and on github in January or Febuary. Maybe a pretentious
> manifesto document.
> Robert Qualls.
> On Sat, Dec 21, 2013 at 10:46 PM, Jerome Leclanche <adys.wh at> wrote:
> > I have to agree. Regardless of the decision on xdg's side, the
> > debian-specific "open" binary shouldn't exist.
> > J. Leclanche
> >
> >
> > On Sun, Dec 22, 2013 at 4:43 AM, Ma Xiaojun <damage3025 at> wrote:
> >> On Sun, Dec 22, 2013 at 4:23 AM, Matthias Klumpp <mak at> wrote:
> >>> Btw, I don't find "I like open better" a good justification for
> >>> dropping it from kbd - you are asking essentially for an API break
> >>> which has unforseen consequences if we just swap some binary names on
> >>> shell, especially with shell-scripts which are not included in Debian.
> >>
> >> Given giant API breakage like making sh Dash instead of Bash or
> >> probably a init system change someday. I fail to see any reason to cry
> >> about this tiny little API change.
> >>
> >>> Standard is irrelevant here, as it is "just" a binary name, and
> >>> popularity is something to argue about.
> >>
> >> It is "just" a symbol link that exists for no merits.
> >> Have you read the open(1) ?
> >> Does it encourage people to use "open" at all?
> >> The history in the context of 1996 isn't boring, Ah?
> >>
> >>> I am not the kbd maintainer, so it's up to them to decide a rename (or
> >>> more precide, it's upstream's decision). I like "open" for files more
> >>> too, but unless kbd is the only user of that command, renaming it will
> >>> cause problems.
> >>
> >> It seems that kdb upstream is not claiming open(1); it's a Debian "extension".
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> xdg doesn't have to claim open(1) overnight either. It's just that the
> >> current usage of open(1) is a waste of namespace.
> >> _______________________________________________
> >> xdg mailing list
> >> xdg at
> >>
> > _______________________________________________
> > xdg mailing list
> > xdg at
> >
> _______________________________________________
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> xdg at

Liam Quin - XML Activity Lead, W3C,
Pictures from old books:
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