Wednesday, March 17, 2010

FAR Manager

My first computer experience was with a x386. It was my school computer and had some version of DOS running. For almost year and half we were using DOS then we moved to earlier version of Windows. Shift was exciting, monochrome to 16 bit color, crappy DOS file management to Windows Explorer, Mouse, Games ;). During this 10 years, my journey seems took a turn. I think this turn is mostly driven by productivity or laziness :)

When you spend 12+ hours with computer, moving your hand between keyboard and mouse become a tiresome and flow-killing activity. That's how I ended up using cool keyboard tools like FAR and AutoHotKey.

These tools are highly customizable and help me stick with keyboard for many of my daily stuff. Particularly FAR manager is very helpful when you do lot of file operations like, moving files around or accessing set of folders frequently or doing set of operations on files. Goal of this post would be to capture cool things about FAR and hope to give some kick off to new users.

Its a Orthodox File manager with dual panels. Its totally text based and its snappy. It takes little bit of time to startup but its worth it.

Initial

As the name says, it has built-in Archive management. So you can create/edit/view most of the compressed archives in one place. You have shortcuts for every action, if you don't like it you can override it. You can automate some repetitive keystrokes/actions with macros. It also supports mouse.

Archive

Another cool features is built-in panels like Quick view, Temporary panel, Info Panel, Tree View.

Quick View panel lets you view file content when you select a file. Its very handy when you just go through list of files and its contents.  Temporary Panel is just a holder for set of files, I use Temp Panel to run set of recursive searches on files. First I can search for specific word then use another search term on returned results and I can keep searching until I find the right file(s). Tree View is a snapshot of folder structure of the current drive. Snappy when you look for a specific folder.

Unicode

It has built in viewer and editor. Can view large files pretty fast. It can even color code the files.

You can set up to ten favorite folder to access them. It has a built-in Command line with auto complete feature, so you can change folders or run DOS commands in FAR. They have Powershell host to run Powershell scripts.

Like any other system it has its own disadvantages and quirks. FAR 2.0 supports Unicode, but I had problem viewing Unicode files and file names. You have to have ConEmu to do this. Copy ConEmu files to FAR installation folder and run ConEmu.exe. It will host FAR with multi tab and Unicode support.

No Image preview. Some keyboard shortcuts are not native and some familiar shortcuts are missing like pressing Backspace wouldn't take you to parent folder, but you can write a macro to do this. Built in command line has same quirks as command line.

Besides all this, its open source and supports plug-in architecture. If you don't like some thing you can go and fix it and some thing is missing you can write a plug-in.

Caveat emptor :) When you use tools like this beware of fact that you may be considered a nerd and getting a chick would be really hard :)

Best way to get started is get the latest release from here it comes with some useful Plug-ins and macros and archive support. Install it and open FarEng.hlf with Notepad or Notepad++ and go through this help file.

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