One Thing Well

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Ranger is a new text-based file manager which, to my Mac-using eyes at least, works like the column view in OS X’s Finder.

Designed for keyboard control, Ranger borrows its keybindings from vim where possible—j to move down, l to move right, gg to move to the top, / to initiate a search, and so on. This allows for lightning quick navigation, file filtering and search. Add a clever bookmarking system and tabbed browsing of the filesystem, and Ranger begins to look like a sophisticated alternative to existing file managers, text-based or otherwise.

Better yet, Ranger combines these powerful features with an interface that is welcoming to new users, even those unfamiliar with vim, letting you navigate with the arrow keys and open files by hitting return. (When the time comes to delve deeper, Ranger’s clear, easy-to-follow help documentation is a keypress away.)

Configuring and customising Ranger is not quite so simple, sadly. Users who know their way around a Python script will have no trouble changing the application Ranger uses to open a PDF file, say, or adding a custom keybinding. Those who balk at editing text files to configure their applications will have to stick with the defaults. Fortunately, out of the box, Ranger is equipped to open common file types with applications that are commonly installed on Linux systems, and, should it run into something it can’t handle, will present the user with a dialog, allowing them to choose the appropriate app.

Ranger will work well on most Unix-like platforms and is well worth a try, especially if you spend a good deal of time at the command line and have never felt comfortable with Midnight Commander and its two pane ilk. It’s fast, simple, powerful, and—slightly fiddly configuration aside—should suit beginners and experts alike.

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