January 27, 2011

Midnight Commander Notes

Midnight commander is a popular file manager available from repositories in almost all major Linux distributions. Many new users find it difficult to work on servers only from command line so midnight commander is a welcomed help. Here are some tips and notes how to use this tool together with my most used shortcuts that I used to give users that never worked with it before. As always for a complete list of keyboard shortcuts and much more man mc or info mc should work.


Usage tips

To start midnight commander simply type mc.

[podlevak@55cent:~]$ mc


If you want the panels pointing to some specific directories append a path (or two) after the mc:

[podlevak@55cent:~]$ mc /etc/httpd/ /var/log/


To go back to command line you don't have to quit midnight commander with F10 - on most shells, here bash is used, ctrl-z will put mc into background and it can be put back to foreground with fg command.

[podlevak@55cent:~]$ mc /etc/httpd/ /var/log/

[1]+  Stopped                 /usr/bin/mc -P "$MC_PWD_FILE" "$@"

[podlevak@55cent:~]$ fg

Another way is using the ctrl-o shortcut for hiding the panels; to show them press ctrl-o again.


Midnight commander comes with an integrated editor and viewer - you can use them also directly:

[podlevak@55cent:~]$ mcview /etc/hosts

[podlevak@55cent:~]$ mcedit new_file



I've divided the shortcuts into three groups according to their usage. A little note on how to use them:

  1. when using a shortcut like ctrl-r, hold down the control key and then press the r key
  2. for shortcut like ctrl-x-o hold down the control key and then press the x key, let go and press the o key

File manipulation and shell commands

  • ctrl-x-c change permissions
  • ctrl-x-o change owner
  • ctrl-x-s create symlink
  • ctrl-x-ctrl-s edit symlink
  • esc-tab completion, like tab in shell
  • alt-s search in active panel, after pressing keys just write
  • alt-p previous entered command
  • alt-n next entered command
  • ctrl-space show directory size
  • ctrl-x-i shows file / directory info, press again to return to panel
  • ctrl-x-q quick view - view content of files in a preview window (F7 for search works), press again to return to panel

Displaying content

  • ctrl-o turn off/hide the panels, 2x turns them on
  • ctrl-r rescan (refresh active panel)
  • ctrl-u flip panels
  • alt-o open path in other panel
  • ctrl- frequently used directories, directory hot-list


  • Insert select single file
  • * (asterisk) select all files, 2x un-selects if all files were selected, or inverts selection if files were selected (using a mask or insert)
  • + (plus) select mask, regular expression can be used
  • - (minus) un-select mask, regular expression can be used
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