Introducing TermBuilder - a Linux command line generator

Command line

If you're a Linux newbie who wants to learn a bit more about the command line, or if you want to chain a few commands together to get some special output, we have a new tool for you to try. We call it TermBuilder, and it's a web-based command-line generator for Linux and other compatible Unixes. All you have to do is click buttons and choose options and it will generate commands for you to copy and paste into your terminal.

Now, this is just the first release of TermBuilder, and that means you should expect some bugs. Plus, it only supports a handful of commands right now - if there are things you'd like to see it do, post a comment on the TermBuilder page and we'll see what we can do. In the meantime, give it a try and let us know what you think!

TermBuilder: a graphical Linux command line generator

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Your comments

Good idea, good precedents too

The main issues I have with the *Nix command-line are:

(1) You need to have memorised the *exact* name and syntax of the a command for a specific task in order to be able to use it (or you have to consult a manual)

(2) You need to be very careful not to make stupid mistakes in your command because it *will* be executed exactly as specified (which just might not always be what you intended).

The idea of having a GUI environment construct your command for you addresses both issues.

First off, a GUI is easily the best way we have discovered so far to guide a casual user in any man-machine dialogue. It informs the user about the possibilities, allows him to pick the one he likes, and then have that choice implemented. This is how most end-users interact with their computer and this is also why MS Windows is so widely accepted: it's easy to use.

On the other hand, clicking your way through a series of menus is tedious, time-consuming, not easily reproduceable, and not scriptable. It's also an infuriating waste of time if you know precisely what you want done and are able to express that wish in one or two commands.

Secondly a GUI can eliminate the possibility of a casual user messing up the command to be issued and thereby irreversibly damaging his system.

Once the command is formed and ready to be submitted to the operating system commandline interpreter any user who feels he knows what he is doing may alter it as he sees fit.

It's a bit like the use of "Syntax" files in SPSS (probably the most heavily used statistics package in the world for casual to intermediate users). SPSS *can* be used using only the menu, but behind the scenes the GUI only constructs real scripted commands which are then sent to the interpreter. You can see that by enabling the logfile option, which echoes the comands that were created to a logfile.

However, simply clicking your way through a data-analysis is just asking for trouble. You can't really be sure what you did because you can't reproduce it, you can't repeat it without going through another boring and time-consuming point-and-click orgy, and you can't reliably carry out the exact same analysis (or slightly changed: as inputting a better caption on a graph) on the same dataset. Let alone on, say, another 10 datasets.

Therefore any serious SPSS user appreciates SPSS syntax files and soon learns how to use them.

On the other hand, almost nobody writes SPSS syntax files from scratch as the proper commands are not intuitive, syntax files are finicky things to write, and stupid mistakes that lead to error messages, wrong results, or no results (just forget to put a full stop at the end of a command and the interpreter will halt there and silently wait forever for completion of your command) are easily made.

That's why SPSS (very successfully) offers both interfaces: scripts and menus. This idea for a command-building GUI idea strongly reminds me of the way SPSS works.

In short: if done well this approach offers users the best of both worlds.

Aghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

As someone who tends to mess with things I thought I'd give this a go.

After a bit of messing I've managed to get a page which displays 2 buttons "V" and "Add" and a selection box. However as far as I can tell by random clicking etc. it doesn't do anything!!!!!!!

Did you think about creating something to help with javascript?

Now I'm not a vindictive person so there'll be no shootings but if I meet any of you when I'm eating a beefburger you may suffer a nasty grease staining to your designer clothes.

PS. Why not just offer a complete html page/file which runs?

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