Midnight Commander

From ArchWiki

Midnight Commander is a visual shell for Unix-like systems. It 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 mcview(1), editor mcedit(1), and visual diff tool mcdiff(1).

As it is based on versatile text interfaces — ncurses or S-Lang — it works on a regular console, inside an X Window terminal, over Secure Shell (SSH) connections, and all kinds of remote shells.

The documentation is still in draft state though.


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


Midnight Commander comes with multiple skins by default. You can set the skin in Options > Appearance.

Additional third-party skins can be installed separately:

  • 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

See also mc(1) § Skins.



In prominent view are two vertical panes. Either can list directory contents, show a plain text preview, file details, or a directory tree (see mc(1) § 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 Midnight Commander was launched from, and may be switched to at will (Ctrl+o), see mc(1) § 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 mc(1) § Redefine hotkey bindings). New users may however use Lynx-like (arrow) keybindings (enabled in Options > Panel options) and mouse clicks for navigation.

Mouse support for Linux virtual consoles can be enabled with General purpose mouse.


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

  • mcedit(1) — Text and binary file editor, with regex replace, syntax highlighting, macros and shell piping
  • mcview(1) — Text and hex viewer with goto marks and regex search
  • mcdiff(1) — Compares and edits two files in-place (Ctrl+x d)

Per Midnight Commander instance, multiple modules can be run concurrently and you can switch between them using Alt+`, see mc(1) § 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 mc(1) § 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 mc(1) § FILES.


extfs allows to easily create new virtual filesystems for Midnight Commander. 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 mc'

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

Default settings are defined in /etc/libtrash.conf.sys; the default trash directory is ~/Trash/. You can overwrite these settings per-user in ~/.libtrash, for example:

TRASH_CAN = .Trash

Now files deleted by Midnight Commander will be moved to the ~/.Trash/ directory.

  • Applications launched from Midnight Commander 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 this thread on the GNOME mailing list.


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:

alias mc=". /usr/lib/mc/mc-wrapper.sh"

For the fish shell use this wrapper: http://mc-wrapper.fish. Place it to ~/.config/fish/functions/mc.fish or execute the content inside fish shell and than run

funcsave mc 

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

Midnight Commander reads the MC_XDG_OPEN environment variable to open files, which defaults to xdg-open when unset.

If Midnight Commander 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+?, or Esc+?, or the F9 (menu) > Comand > Find file) 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 this, 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 F13F20 are bound to Shift+F3Shift+F10.

No bold text in rxvt-unicode

This article or section is a candidate for merging with rxvt-unicode.

Notes: If it is solely specific to rxvt-unicode — it should be merged there. If it is more common — the section should be renamed. (Discuss in Talk:Midnight Commander)

If started under rxvt-unicode 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).

rxvt-unicode does not have this limitation, which S-Lang (the library Midnight Commander uses for text display by default) honors. Because S-Lang can decouple the bold attribute from bright colors on rxvt-unicode, Midnight Commander would need to explicitly specify the bold attribute as appropriate, which it does not.

The solution is to configure Midnight Commander 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.

Xterm window title customization

Xterm window title format is hardcoded to mc [username@hostname]:current/path, also see the corresponding ticket.

mc(1) § Screen selector (Screen list) file manager (Panels:) entry format is hardcoded too.

mcdiff(1), mcedit(1) and mcview(1) do not change Xterm window title at all.