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.
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
- mc-skin-modarin-debian — Thin versions of the modarin theme
See also mc(1) § Skins.
The below section provides a short overview on usage of Midnight commander.
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
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 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 mc interface (with Use internal enabled in 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 mcedit(1)
- mcview - Text and hex viewer with goto marks and regex search
- mcdiff - Compares and edits two files in-place (
mc 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:
See also mc(1) § FILES.
extfs allows to easily create new virtual filesystems for mc. See
/usr/lib/mc/extfs.d/README for details.
Tips and tricks
Midnight commander can be run from a menu with the correct Desktop entry. For example:
[Desktop Entry] Type=Application Version=1.0 Name=Midnight Commander Comment=Visual file manager Exec=mc Icon=folder MimeType=inode/directory Terminal=true Categories=Utility;
Midnight Commander does not support a trash can by default.
Install the libtrashAUR package, and create an mc alias in the initialization file of your shell (e.g.,
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 INTERCEPT_RENAME = NO IGNORE_EXTENSIONS= o;exe;com UNCOVER_DIRS=/dev
Now files deleted by Midnight Commander (launched with mc) will be moved to the
- Applications launched from mc inherit
LD_PRELOAD, which may cause problems with some applications. 
GLOBAL_PROTECTION = YESset (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
alias mc=". /usr/lib/mc/mc-wrapper.sh"
This will alias
mc to the wrapper script.
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
Another simple workaround is to use the subshell (
Ctrl+o). This may however interfere with other terminal applications.
Ctrl+l to redraw the display. This only redraws, but does not refresh (
Ctrl+r) the file list.
mc reads the
MC_XDG_OPEN environment variable to open files, which defaults to xdg-open when unset. 
if mc is blocked until the resulting process ends, or the process exits together with mc, use
#!/bin/bash nohup xdg-open "$@" &
$ export MC_XDG_OPEN=~/bin/nohup-open
unset LD_PRELOADbefore xdg-open in the script.
Find file shows no results
If the Find file dialog (accessible with
Esc+?, or the MC menu) 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.
With certain terminal definitions such as
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
F20are bound to
[terminal:screen-256color] f1=\\eOP f2=\\eOQ f3=\\eOR f4=\\eOS f5=\\e[15~ f6=\\e[17~ f7=\\e[18~ f8=\\e[19~ f9=\\e[20~ f10=\\e[21~ f11=\\e[23~ f12=\\e[24~ f13=\\e[1\;2R f14=\\e[1\;2S f15=\\e[15\;2~ f16=\\e[17\;2~ f17=\\e[18\;2~ f18=\\e[19\;2~ f19=\\e[20\;2~ f20=\\e[21\;2~ complete=\\e^i backtab=\\e[Z backspace=^?
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.