Command Line Completion

Tagged as tachikoma
Written on 2018-07-17 21:50:04

One part of the lack of cohesion on *nix systems is the hack of command line completion via e.g. Bash or ZSH modules. I can think of roughly three ways in the *nix paradigm to have a more cohesive pattern here:

  1. Give full control to the command line program and invoke it with a special handler to parse and generate appropriate output for command line completion.

  2. Give partial control and generate a script like description of the completion, e.g. as a Bash- or ZSH-specific script.

  3. Which is pretty similar, generate a static description on request.

All of these use the program, the thing that's being invoked, as the central mechanism of how to do completion. No extra files are required to be put anywhere and the description can always be in sync with what the program actually does later on. The downside might very well be that the program is invoked multiple times.

Therefore perhaps also

  1. Invoke the program in a special mode and keep it alive while it handles command line completion. Once finished and the user wants to invoke it, it would simply use the already existing in-memory structures and continue.

Of course I can see the downsides here too, though in the interest of having a more interwoven system I'd argue that the benefit might be worth it overall, in particular for programs whose arguments are a little bit more like a DSL than just simple file arguments. Notably though any shell features would not be available in variant 4, instead the program would have to call back or replicate the required functionality, making it somewhat less appealing?


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