Thursday, March 19, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The Growth of Command Line Options

Dan Luu (tweet):

We can see that the number of command line options has dramatically increased over time; entries tend to get darker going to the right (more options) and there are no cases where entries get lighter (fewer options).

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If structured data or objects were passed around, formatting could be left to a final formatting pass. But, with plain text, the formatting and the content are intermingled; because formatting can only be done by parsing the content out, it's common for commands to add formatting options for convenience.

[…]

Over time, more convenience options have been added. For example, to pick a command that originally has zero options, mv can move and create a backup (three options; two are different ways to specify a backup, one of which takes an argument and the other of which takes zero explicit arguments and reads an implicit argument from the VERSION_CONTROL environment variable; one option allows overriding the default backup suffix). mv now also has options to never overwrite and to only overwrite if the file is newer.

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