Midnight Commander – feature rich full-screen text mode file manager

Midnight Commander is a user-friendly yet powerful open source text-mode file manager and visual shell, useful to novice and advanced users alike. It can be run on the OS console, or in xterm and other terminal emulators.

It provides a clear, user-friendly, and somewhat protected interface to a Unix system while making many frequent file operations more efficient and preserving the full power of the command prompt.

Midnight Commander allows users to manage files while making most of the screen and providing a clear representation of the filesystem, yet it’s simple enough to be run over a telnet or ssh session.

The screen of the Midnight Commander is divided into four parts. Almost all of the screen space is taken up by two directory panels. By default, the second bottommost line of the screen is the shell command line, and the bottom line shows the function key labels. The topmost line is the menu bar line.

The Midnight Commander provides a view of two directories at the same time. One of the panels is the current panel (a selection bar is in the current panel). Almost all operations take place on the current panel.

This package includes an editor called mcedit. mcedit’s features include syntax highlighting for certain languages, and works in both ASCII and hex modes.

The file manager has been in continuous development since 1994.

Features include:

  • Built in Virtual File System: manipulate remote file systems through the FTP and SMB protocols or over secure shell, browse contents of tar, ar, rpm, zip, cpio, lha and rar archives just like local files.
  • Almost all operations work with the virtual file system, enabling users to do complex tasks, like viewing files in archives on an FTP server.
  • Mouse support on most terminal emulators for X Window System as well as on the Linux console.
  • Learn Keys: Midnight Commander may be configured at run time to support any kind of input keys for a given terminal, making its operation possible even on most weird terminals.
  • Text and hex editors (hex editor is a part of the viewer).
    • The built-in file viewer, together with the context dependent actions is used to format man pages on the fly, coloring mail messages and more.
    • Built-in editor supports syntax highlighting and external actions, such as spell checking and formatting.
  • Hotlist allows users to keep a list of common visited locations, including remote sites and directories inside archives.
  • Command completion: By pressing Alt-Tab in any place where a filename or an executable are expected, Midnight Commander will complete the name. Pressing the Alt-Tab for a second time, will get a list box with all possible completions.
  • Subshell support: Run commands by a real shell interpreter. It interacts with bash, tcsh and zsh to provide you with all of the facilities available in the preferred shell.
  • Find file command can search for the file contents.
  • Background operations allow users to copy or move files from any virtual file system while they do other tasks (i.e., you can do background FTP copies).
  • Support for FTP proxy.
  • Recover deleted files from an ext2 or ext3 partition with the undelete file system. This is a low level file recovery function that can recover files deleted by any program on Linux.
  • External panelization: Run any arbitrary external command and Midnight Commander will display the output generated as a file listing that can be manipulated as a regular directory.
  • Emacs-like key bindings are used in all widgets.
  • Context dependent actions (open, view, edit) are available.
  • Unicode support. Native support for UTF-8 locales for Unicode.
  • Internationalization support – translations for 45 languages.
  • Cross-platform support.

Website: midnight-commander.org
Support: Documentation, FAQ
Developer: Miguel de Icaza and many contributors
License: GNU GPL v3

Midnight Commander
Click for full size image

Midnight Commander is written in C. Learn C with our recommended free books and free tutorials.

Return to Survey: Console Based File Managers | Return to File Managers Home Page | Return to Orthodox File Managers Home Page | Return to Console File Managers Home Page

Make a Donation
Click the button to make a donation via flattr. Donations help us to maintain and improve the site. You can also donate via PayPal.

Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. The collection covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There's tons of in-depth reviews, alternatives to Google, fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.
Share this article


  1. I’ve totally switched from a gui file-manager to Midnight Commander. Very intuitive and easy to learn, though transferring all my userscripts took a while due to its own internal syntax. But once that was done, its hard to imagine ever using anything else. Combine with sxiv in thumnail-mode and you have everything you need.

  2. It’s heartening how many GUI apps can be replaced with better CLI alternatives. I spend most of my day in the terminal, there are only a few GUI apps I use with any regularity.

Share your Thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.