A flexible, command-line pager

Customizing most

In addition to the viewing and navigation features, most also has extensive customization options. In several instances, these options are set by modifying environmental variables. For example, by default, most displays with the foreground and background colors set in your terminal. However, if you set most as your default pager in your environments, the command can display results in color, including on man pages. Enter the commands:

PAGER=most
export PAGER

These two commands apply only to the current terminal or tab. To set colors permanently, you must set up a configuration file (see below).

If you want to turn off colors, run most -C, or open another terminal with t.

Similarly, if you press the E or e key while viewing a file in most, you can open the file in a text editor. The text editor is defined by adding its name to the definition of the MOST_EDITOR or SLANG_EDITOR variable, using the same structure as in defining most as your system's default pager. If no editor is defined, then most uses Vim, assuming it is installed.

Perhaps even more useful, you can modify most's default options by modifying the MOST_SWITCHES variable. For example, if you want to view all of a line longer than most's display, you could enter:

define MOST_SWITCHES "-w"

As you might expect, you can override any default using options added at the command prompt.

Other permanent behavioral changes can be made by creating a configuration file. By default, most does not install with a configuration file, and many users won't likely miss one. However, if you want to configure keybindings or set colors permanently, you can create a system configuration file named /etc/most.conf, or a personal configuration file named .mostrc in your home directory.

Before you change an existing keybinding, check the man page to see whether it is already in use. If it is, start the file with a command like:

unsetkey "^KEYSTROKE"

The circumflex (^) stands for the Ctrl key, which is the command key that most uses for keybindings. Put the custom keybindings below all the unsetkey entries in this format:

setkey "PURPOSE" "^KEYSTROKE"

For example, setkey "up" "^P" will move the cursor up when Ctrl+P is pressed. I have yet to find a list of most's purposes, but mostly they seem to be common sense.

A configuration file can also be used to set permanent colors using standard ANSI color codes with the command:

color OBJECT-NAME FOREGROUND-COLOR BACKGROUND-COLOR

OBJECT-NAME can be filled in with status (for the status line), underline, overstrike, or normal (anything else) (Figure 3).

Figure 3: A man page displayed using most with colors enabled.

The Default Linux Should Have

most was first released in 1999. While many major distributions carry it, it is not installed by default, and I have to wonder why. Part of the reason may be timing. The more popular less was released when the basic commands were still being developed, so it was easily accepted. By contrast, by 1999, Unix and Linux users were set in their ways, so most has had a harder time gaining acceptance.

Or, possibly, less is good enough for most purposes. After all, how often do users add options to less when piping another command through it?

However, if you make more demanding use of a pager, or simply like to do your computing in your own way, most's advantages should be more than enough to convince you that less, like more, has survived past its prime.

The Author

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist and a freelance writer and editor specializing in free and open source software. In addition to his writing projects, he also teaches live and e-learning courses. In his spare time, Bruce writes about Northwest coast art. You can read more of his work at http://brucebyfield.wordpress.com

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