guest - flak

meaningful short names

Why don’t unix commands have any vowels in the name? cp and mv are obviously devoweled standins for copy and move. But they’re less intuitive for new users. The user wants to copy a file. Why shouldn’t the name of the command be exactly the operation the user wants to perform?

What exactly does the user want to do? Instead of copying files, maybe I want to link two files. What does that mean? In unix, we have hard links and symbolic links. If I replace the “original” file, do I want the link to refer to the original file or the replacement? Or maybe what I mean by link two files is to combine two object files into an executable. Do we call that loading instead? ln is the name of a command, but link is the name of a concept.

grep is a remarkably useful tool, but with most unintuitive name. Why not call it find like Windows does? I want to find some text, I run find. So obvious. But some users may want to find files in the filesystem, not strings in a file. What command do they run? Probably locate.

There may be a great deal of historical accident in the names of commands (what if the inventors of awk had different initials?), but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize the value of unique and precise identifiers.

Posted 2017-03-03 02:31:53 by tedu Updated: 2017-03-03 02:31:53
Tagged: rants software