Teaching a Man to Fish

Nov 8, 2013 / By Yanick Champoux

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I like to think that I’m somewhat gifted at finding out, or coming up with li’ll useful tricks that improve a hacker’s workflow and help to optimize the pain-to-awesomeness ratio of our daily tasks.

I am, however, thoroughly rotten at leveraging them once they are done. Mind you it’s not like I’m the first one to suffer from this disorder — shoemakers, among others, are known to be especially prone to the syndrome for centuries. For me, it’s just that solving a problem is infinitely more engrossing than getting rid of that problem. But that’s terribly misplaced laziness…

And so, for the better part of this year I’ve tried to slow down and focus on getting my working environment just right, from the metal up. After years of getting by with Vim, I’ve bought the very good Practical Vim and am slowly working my way to unleashing its full potential. I also picked up the tmux book from the same editor, and began to use in earnest this rather nifty terminal multiplexer.

Now, sitting between the editor and the terminal is the shell itself. I’ve been using bash for years, but since I am on an improvement spree, I thought surely there is something better out there. And, surprise, surprise, there is. Or there are, to be exact: two main contenders quickly stood out, zsh and fish. Zsh is POSIX-compliant and would thus offer a relatively painless migration from bash, but I took a look at its autocompletion system and… let’s just say I won’t be able to scrape off all those brain cells from my ceiling. Fish, by opposition, is offering a friendlier system, but just slightly different than everything else. But you know me, I never could resist a black horse. So I decided to give this little fishie a try.

Unfortunately, this non-POSIXity quickly bit me in the rear. Perlbrew? Its latest versions are using a bash wrapper to do its magic without opening sub-shell upon sub-shell. A wiser man would have taken that as a sign to go the zsh way. But me? Challenge accepted.

All that to say, the pull request was sent earlier in the evening. And if you are eager to try it, or if the PR isn’t accepted (which is quite possible, fish is a rather marginal shell, after all), you can also grab the file from my environment repo and simply source it from your config.fish to have a working perlbrew, complete with some autocomplete goodness.

Enjoy!

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