Midnight Commander

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Midnight Commander is an orthodox (two-pane) file manager, supporting standard file operations, virtual filesystems, panelizing of external commands, and user menus. It also includes an internal viewer, editor, and visual diff tool.

As it is based on versatile text interfaces, such as Ncurses or S-Lang, it works on a regular console, inside an X Window terminal, over SSH connections and all kinds of remote shells.


Install the mc package, or mc-gitAUR for the development version.


  • mc-solarized-git — Solarized color scheme for Midnight Commander
https://github.com/nkulikov/mc-solarized-skin || mc-solarized-gitAUR
  • mc-skin-modarin-debian — Thin versions of the modarin theme
https://launchpad.net/debian/+source/mc/3:4.8.13-3 || mc-skin-modarin-debianAUR
  • mc-skin-candy — Candy color scheme (256color)
candy256.ini ||

See also Skins in mc(1).


The below section provides a short overview on usage of Midnight commander. References to mc(1) and the Help function (F1, available in every dialog) are made in this article as Section.

Tip: All hints are available in /usr/share/mc/hints/.


In prominent view are two vertical panes. Either can list directory contents, show a plain text preview, file details, or a directory tree (see Directory Tree). File operations are accessible through the function keys or the mouse. More options are visible in a dynamic user menu (F2) and option menu (F9). Keys above F12 (F13 up to F20) are accessible through Shift. Menu and dialog options have one letter highlighted - pressing this letter (or Alt+Letter inside a text entry) directly activates the respective option.

Below, a command line is visible, connected to a subshell. This shell is generally of the same type mc was launched from, and may be switched to at will (Ctrl-O), see The subshell support. On this command line, cd is interpreted by Midnight Commander, and not passed to the shell for execution. As such, special completion (such as from Zsh) is unavailable. Files in the pane interact with the command line; for example, Alt+Enter copies the name of a (selected) file to the command line.

Keybindings are generally similar to GNU Emacs. A more strict emacs keymap can be enabled (see Redefine hotkey bindings). New users may however use Lynx-like (arrow) keybindings (enabled in F9 > Options > Panel options) and mouse clicks for navigation.


These can be called via the mc interface (with Use internal enabled in F9 > Options > Configuration), or separately as symbolic links to the mc binary.

  • mcedit - Text and binary file editor, with regex replace, syntax highlighting, macros and shell piping, see man mcedit
  • mcview - Text and hex viewer with goto marks and regex search
  • mcdiff - Compares and edits two files in-place (C-x d)

Per mc instance, multiple modules can be run concurrently (Ctrl-`) (see Screen selector). External editors may be used instead, and parameters configured accordingly.


Most of the Midnight Commander settings can be changed from the menus. However, a small number of settings such as clipboard commands, codeset detection and parameters for external editors can only be changed from ~/.config/mc/ini. See Special Settings and following for a complete description of options.

Additionally, the following environment variables are respected: MC_SKIN, MC_KEYMAP, MC_XDG_OPEN, MC_COLOR_TABLE, MC_DATADIR, MC_HOME, KEYBOARD_KEY_TIMEOUT_US, PAGER, EDITOR, VIEWER.

See also Files.


extfs allows to easily create new virtual filesystems for mc. See /usr/lib/mc/extfs.d/README for details.

Tips and tricks

Start from the menu

Midnight commander can be run from a menu with the correct Desktop entry. For example:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Midnight Commander
Comment=Visual file manager

Trash support

Midnight Commander does not support a trash can by default.

Using libtrash

Install the libtrashAUR package, and create an mc alias in the initialization file of your shell (e.g., ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc):

alias mc='LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib/libtrash.so.3.3 mc'

To apply the changes, reopen your shell session or source the shell initialization file.

Default settings are defined in /etc/libtrash.conf.sys. You can overwrite these settings per-user in ~/.libtrash, for example:

TRASH_CAN = .Trash

Now files deleted by Midnight Commander (launched with mc) will be moved to the ~/.Trash directory.

  • Applications launched from mc inherit LD_PRELOAD, which may cause problems with some applications. [1]
  • With GLOBAL_PROTECTION = YES set (default), files deleted outside the home directory are moved to the trash, even if they are on a different partition. Depending on the file, this may cause a significant delay.

See also [2].


Exit to the current directory

On exit, the shell returns to the directory Midnight Commander was started from, instead of the last active directory. A wrapper script is included, which can be used by adding this line to your ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc:

source /usr/lib/mc/mc.sh

This will alias mc to the wrapper script.

Another simple workaround is to use the subshell (Ctrl+o). This may however interfere with other terminal applications.

Garbled screen

Press Ctrl+l to redraw the display. This only redraws, but does not refresh (Ctrl+r) the file list.

Opening files

mc reads the MC_XDG_OPEN environment variable to open files, which defaults to xdg-open when unset. [3]

if mc is blocked until the resulting process ends, or the process exits together with mc, use nohup &:

nohup xdg-open "$@" &

and set MC_XDG_OPEN accordingly:

export MC_XDG_OPEN=~/bin/nohup-open
Tip: When #Using libtrash, add unset LD_PRELOAD before xdg-open in the script.

Find file shows no results

If the Find file dialog (accessible with Alt+?) shows no results, check the current directory for symbolic links. Find file does not follow symbolic links, so use bind mounts (see mount(8)) instead, or the External panelize command.

Broken shortcuts

With certain terminal definitions such as screen-256color or xterm-termite, shortcuts such as Shift+F6 may not work or act as different combinations. To remedy his, assign the terminal sequences manually with the Learn keys dialog.

Settings will be stored in the ~/.config/mc/ini file, for example for screen-256color:

Note: The following example assumes F13–F20 are bound to Shift+F3Shift+F10.

No bold text in urxvt

If started under urxvt with the default TERM setting, text that is usually bold in many other terminals will not appear so. The root of the issue is because xterm couples bright text color with the bold attribute (thus, bright colors will always appear as bold in xterm).

urxvt does not have this limitation, which Slang (the library mc uses for text display by default) honors. Because Slang can decouple the bold attribute from bright colors on urxvt, mc would need to explicitly specify the bold attribute as appropriate (which it does not).

The solution is to configure mc to explicitly use bold colors as desired, e.g. by editing the default skin as follows:

mkdir ~/.local/share/mc/skins 
cp /usr/share/mc/skins/default.ini ~/.local/share/mc/skins/
sed -i -E 's/^(.* = (gray|brightred|brightgreen|yellow|brightblue|brightmagenta|brightcyan|white);.*)$/\0;bold/' ~/.local/share/mc/skins/default.ini

The above will create a copy of the default skin, but with all bright colors having an explicit bold attribute added.

Another common workaround is to set TERM=xterm, however this causes other issues due to mismatching termcap/terminfo, such as certain keys not working.

See also