Roman's blog

Far Manager for Linux and MacOS

Do you remember 2003? I do, and quite vividly at that. I was in my early 20s, studying at uni, working my first “real” software engineering jobs, and using Windows - hey, mostly everyone used Windows those days! Actually, I’m so old that I used DOS - starting from version 5.0, and I remember how thrilled I was when I got my hands on Windows 3.1.

But I digress. Where DOS was concerned, Norton Commander was an absolute must - and so were its numerous clones. It was an unquestionable requirement on any computer, no exceptions.

Norton Commander

Using Norton on Windows, however, was a peculiar experience. It wasn’t originally designed for that purpose - for instance, it would truncate long file names to the classic 8.3 format, and to be honest, it was somewhat cumbersome to use. Fortunately, after a few years, a whole host of clones emerged.

Yet, one of them left a lasting impression on me - Far Manager. A gift from Eugene Roshal to the world (the same individual behind RAR) it was and still remains a de-facto standard two-panel manager for Windows. It’s fast, it’s powerful, it’s extensible, and it’s free.

Far Manager on Windows

I used it for years, employing it everywhere I could. I practically lived in it. Even Total Commander, a darling among power users on Windows, couldn’t persuade me to switch.

However, approximately 15 years ago, I made the switch to Mac as my primary home computer. Soon after, I joined Google, where I exclusively used either Mac or Linux - a pattern that persisted for a considerable amount of time. I did suffer without two-panel file manager, but kinda got used to the console and Finder - after all, ls -lh and less were doing it most of the time.

Recently, while working on a personal machine learning project on my Linux home computer, I found myself needing to quickly sift through numerous small files, locating them within a vast directory tree, and making minor edits here and there. I sorely missed the versatility that Far Manager provided. I attempted to use Midnight Commander, but it simply didn’t compare. It emulated Norton Commander quite closely, which was a problem because the world had moved on, and Norton Commander was a product of its time.

And then I discovered Far Manager for Linux and MacOS or simply far2l. It’s a port of Far Manager, complete with some of the most important plugins (oh how I missed thou, Colorer!). And it works - I tried it on Mac, and I tried it on Linux, and it works mostly identically. It is not really a console app - in fact, they are using WxWidgets to emulate the “old” Far look and feel - but for purists (or, I don’t know, those SSH-ing into machine, far2l --tty brings forth a version which to my untrained eye looks nearly identical, but works in the proper console). It just does everything Far used to - obviously, modulo some Windows-specific functionality (such as, Alt-F1/F2 won’t show you a list of physical disks - but rather a list of mounted file systems).

Far Manager on Linux

Far2L is marked as Beta, and prospective users are cautioned that their homes may catch fire, their dogs might flee, and their spouses may depart - but none of that has befallen me it’s been working just fine for me for the last couqle of months, and getting better with every new build. I suppose it’s not mere nostalgia if it really does work, don’t you think?