[FoRK] Should Exist: a new UNIX shell

Lucas Gonze <lucas.gonze at gmail.com> on Sun Jun 3 08:39:36 PDT 2007

The biggest thing the shell needs is discoverability.  A shell
experience is like sensory deprivation -- you are there with a
blinking cursor, figure it out.  There are no indications of the

For example, when the "less" utility was in the process of replacing
the "more" utility, there was no intrinsic way for "more" users to
find out that this new thing was available.  "less" was just another
unknown executable in $PATH.  People learned through outside means,
like casual conversation  Personally, I learned about "less" when I
happened to be watching a friend working in a shell window.

Search doesn't have that problem.  Discoverability is a core part of
the experience.  Searching for "5*3" may give you "15", but it may
also give you instances of the term "5*3", and from there you can find
new patterns.

On 6/2/07, Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> wrote:
> Venture philanthropy --- giving away the ideas... ;-)
> --
> UNIX needs a new shell.
> It's an embarrassment that Monad (aka msh, aka PowerShell) now
> represents the shell state-of-the-art --- the current crop of UNIX
> shells is far too long in the tooth.  Jettison POSIX compatibility,
> it's an albatross at this point.  A new shell should have:
>    * much saner quoting rules, scoping, and more consistent syntax
> overall (cf. fish, es)
>    * higher-order functions and first-class blocks / closures (cf. es)
>    * data structures and a rich set of literal syntaxes for (lots of)
> common data types (cf. rebol)
>    * the ability to pass data structures through pipes (cf. Monad)
>    * a module system, with on-the-fly code replacement (cf. Erlang)
>    * decent math abilities
>    * (perhaps) lightweight concurrency in-the-shell (cf. Erlang)
>    * much more reflection / introspection (cf. es)
>    * more orthogonality (cf. fish)
>    * more usability focus (cf. fish - but lose the UI, leave that
> elsewhere!)
>    * a portable and higher-level set of abstractions than just libc
> (cf. AT&T's astlib)
>    * possibly also dialects / extensible meta-syntax (cf. rebol)
>    * json as universal marshalling syntax, maybe + atoms?
> Inspirations:  Monad, es, Inferno's sh, rc, ksh, fish (both the
> Perlish research shell of that name and the "Friendly Interactive
> Shell"), rebol, awk, tcl;  also Plan 9 / Plan B, AT&T Research's
> astlib work and 3DFS, the JXTA *idea* (if not execution) and Erlang
> to a lesser degree.
> jb
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