I hate hearing people using 21st century or modern as reasons for inflating complexities. Without rein on complexity (whether it is hidden or not), the future is doomed, whatever you are building. While I am not saying we should avoid complexity at all cost, I am insisting that all complexity should be balanced with merits.
The merits of filenames with spaces is they read better in a GUI explorer. Whether that merit balances out all the complexity it brings is individual dependent. For me, that merit ranks very low and I avoid spaces in my filenames at all opportunities. For some, they need those filenames to be readable. And there are solutions. One solution, from those who don't code, seems to demand ("developers", paid or not) that every tool that deal with files should handle this additional complexity, regardless of their context and what they think. Another solution would be to add an additional pre-step of copying/renaming/linking/aliasing. With the latter solution, the complexity is confined.
I guess for some, it only matters with "I do work" or "they do work" rather than the big picture. That is fine. However given the context of you are working with Makefiles, then you are a developer at some level, you are supposed to do some work.
Users expect computers to work in a non-surprising ways.
It isn't natural to use dashes or underscore in file names. Training users to be afraid of spaces is just teaching them one more way that computers are scary and unpredictable.
Meanwhile over in Windows land, all tools have been expected to deal with spaces in them for what is approaching 20 years.
That is an excellent example that deserves a second look from a different aspect.
... it has trained a crop of computer users that are afraid of command lines and with an attitude of anything beneath the GUI interface is owned by and of someone else's problem. They are scared of computers more than ever. They are very scared of it and having it heavily disguised as an appliance is mandatory.
There is nothing beneath the Windows UI interface. The GUI is the primary subsystem of Windows, the command line is a separate subsystem. Windows has traditionally been built up around the Win32 API, which is GUI first.
It is of course possible to do things from the command line, and some advanced stuff may need the command line, but users should never need to drop out of the UI unless something has gone horribly wrong.
The Windows UI is incredibly powerful, with advanced diagnostic and logging capabilities, incredible performance monitoring tools, and system hooks everywhere that allow the entire UI to be modified and changed in almost any way imaginable.
The way Services work on Windows is not some (hotly debated) config files. It is through a UI. Management of hardware takes place through a UI. Pretty much everything short of running Ping has a UI around it.
I love the command line, if I am developing it is how I primarily work. And while doing so, younger devs look at me like I am crazy because they have customized the living daylights out of their UI tools (VS Code, Atom), to do amazing things that exceed what a command line can do, and of course those editors have a command line built in for when that is the best paradigm!
> and having it heavily disguised as an appliance is mandatory.
Something working so well that it becomes an appliance isn't a bad thing. It means the engineers who made it have put in so many fail safes and worked to make the code of high enough quality that it doesn't fall apart around itself all the time.
Heaven forbid I can upgrade my installed software and not have some random package break my entire system.
To clarify, beneath the GUI interface is the actual code that implements that interface.
> Something working so well that it becomes an appliance isn't a bad thing.
Not at all. I don't attempt to call or think my phone as an computer. Window's users, on the other hand, still call their PC computers. I guess that is ok if computers are appliances. It is just that there are still a big camp of people who use a computer as computer. That causes some confusions in the communication between.
It seems that 90% of computer use has moved into the web browser. Heck outside of writing code, almost everything I do is in a browser, and my code editor of choice happens to be built as fancy skinned web browser...
> To clarify, beneath the GUI interface is the actual code that implements that interface.
I'd say that everything moving onto the web has once again made the code underneath it all accessible to the end user, if they so choose.
(Ignoring server side)
This is an extremely (web) developer-centric viewpoint IMHO.
Try telling 3D modellers/sculptors, games programmers, audio engineers that 90% of their computer use has moved into a browser. They will look at you with a blank face since they all require traditional "fat" desktop apps to get their work done at professional level.
And those are just the examples I can find off the top of my head, I'm sure I could think of more.
Talking about 3D modelling, game programming and producers like they're the majority is a technologist-centric view.
Most computer use is by people who think the web is the internet and use 'inbox' as a verb.
So as stated that was the list of the top of my head. I just pulled from my personal list of hobbies, things that I use a computer for other than programming or automation.
Within 50 feet of me at work there are a whole bunch of electrical engineers who spend 90% of their time in some fat app for designing, I dunno, telco electrical stuff.
In the fishbowl next to that, are 50 network operations staff who spend 90% of their day in "fat" network monitoring applications.
I'm just pointing out if you look far enough there are plenty of people using apps outside a web browser for their daily work and hobbies.
In my nearly 25 career in IT I have never heard people use 'inbox' as a verb (as in 'inbox me?'). Sure some people must say it sometimes, but I think this is overstated and another example of programmer cliche or hyperbole.
I think most of those people dont use general purpose computers anymore
I'm talking about overall computer use. For certain professional fields, yes, apps still matter. But I'd take a guess that the majority of screen time with computers now days involves a web browser.
Heck as a programmer (not web), I am probably 50% in browser looking things up.
At most offices, computers are used for web browsing, and Microsoft Office.
I should have put web in square brackets eg. [web] to indicate "optional". You seem to fall into the category I was describing.
Use an IDE (other than Atom), eg. Visual Studio, Eclipse, IntelliJ? All fat apps.
Use VMware workstation or Virtualbox? Fat apps.
> At most offices, computers are used for web browsing, and Microsoft Office.
So is that 90% web browsing and 10% MS Office? BTW, Office365 is still fat application (or suite of them) last time I looked.
Yes there is .. Microsoft!
For instance if you have a dir named "user" it will show up in your GUI as "User". In fact User, USER, user are all the same for you because MS transliterate on the fly. Did you know that you cannot access some directory because MS prevent it .. event with the 'dir' command from the DOS prompt .. only an 'ls' non-MS command can do that.
> Windows has traditionally been built up around the Win32 API, which is GUI first.
What did I just read?
And I cut my teeth as a developer on DOS, Sun OS (pre-Solaris), and HP-UX, and early Linux back in the day.
Just to clarify on what we think as problem could differ:
C:\Users\hzhou>ls new 2.txt
ls: new: No such file or directory
ls: 2.txt: No such file or directory
I actually didn't know that dir supported multiple globs for filenames! I've never had a need for that.
Directory of C:\Users\fred
12/14/2017 04:44 PM 1,556 new 2.txt
1 File(s) 1,556 bytes
0 Dir(s) 75,989,876,736 bytes free
C:\Users\fred>dir new 2.txt
Volume in drive C has no label.
Volume Serial Number is BA05-C445
File Not Found
Ah I see, you have a file "new 2.txt", I was a bit confused.
Not sure what you mean by only 1 level of quoting being a problem, sorry.
This is highly ironical, given this thread.
Some people seems to advocate for programs to be better than humans at globbing filenames.
Outside of Make which has long and boring historical reasons for not supporting spaces well, just about every program is fine with spaces.
$ take this list of transactions and for each group of duplicate names show me the name and total dollar amount spent, sorted from highest to lowest
$ I think I have a SQL command for that. Are you feeling lucky? [y/n] y
$ Was this what you were looking for? [y/n]
A similar trend is happening in electronic communication: from letter to email, to text, to emoji's. The text is just one historical communication way and there's no reason it should be of any real interest to modern communicator as long as we have emojis ... wait, we've been there before.
The GUI, which can include arbitrary number of text boxes for command line style entry, is a superset of what the command line can do.
There is such a thing as a cluttered graphical interface, and some complexity cannot just be abstracted away.
> The GUI, which can include arbitrary number of text boxes for command line style entry, is a superset of what the command line can do.
That would be like saying that because I am able to write "First open this app by clicking on the upper-left icon, then click File, new File", would mean that text is a superset of the GUI because it can describe visual cues. An abstraction can always replace another, it does not mean it is a superset of it.
Take the source code for your GUI application, this is pure text. In the early days, there was shell code that would describe terminal GUI of sort to configure the linux kernel. This shell code is still commands read token per token with matching behavior. Because an abstraction can be traded for another (which could be argued to be a founding principle of computer science), does not mean that one is a superset of the other.
"Users" is a very broad category with a bunch of partitioning.
The particular subgroup in question are authors of build automation systems for medium to large scale software projects. They (we) have a rather different perspective on "surprising".
For desktop software, a build automation system needs to handle files that are included in the installer, installed on user’s machines, and in some cases be discoverable by end users of the software.
I would be very surprised if my build system wouldn’t support spaces in file names.
Developers are used to not using spaces: oneStupidClass or AnotherStillStupidClass or others_do_it_like_this or bIhatehungariannotation or daxpy .
As you can see it is not that bad and it has been a widely used practice for decades.
Since you are comparing specifically to windows land, perhaps it is their focus on using spaces in file names that made them always be worst than unix like systems in terms of stability, sequrity or performance.
But to use that as evidence of why spaces should not be supported in filenames is putting the cart before the horse.
The goal of software is not to perpetuate whatever mistakes have been made in the past. It's to solve problems for human beings.
And human beings have been using spaces to delimit words since long before computers existed.
mv old-file new-file
So the question is whether you will favor naturalness on the command line or in the GUI. It's no surprise that a Unix build tool favors the command line.
Then this problem goes away entirely and you instead have the problem of not being allowed to have "this_file" and "this file" in the same directory. A problem which probably doesn't matter.
The words and sentences are inside the file. The filenames are identifiers to the files. Identifiers' purpose is mainly to identify, rather than to communicate.
On the other hand, we could imagine a user interface that users don't see (actual) filenames at all.
The identifier assigned to me at birth contains two spaces. Most people use one of the shorthand forms, but still.
That is, I think it is safe to say that we expect we can include spaces in the names of things. The movie is named "Star Wars", after all. That seems natural.
For people, though, we have grown used to someone having multiple parts of their name separated by a space. If given out of order, a comma.
Even in the "naming things" category. We are used to having to put quotes around names that have spaces. Or otherwise using a convention like Capitalized Identifiers to show something goes together. Probably isn't a clearcut rule.
No. But my name does.
> For people, though, we have grown used to someone having multiple parts of their name separated by a space. If given out of order, a comma.
And I wasn't saying this isn't allowed. What we are used to is not the total of what is allowed. The fringes are full of mistakes, though. At some point, you make a statistical choice.
A real world possibility.
If a user can’t paste any byte sequence, and expect it to work, then the tool is broken. I handle these cases.
When writing a shell script or makefile to deal with repetitive tasks if is easier to assume some things.
Even bash lets you escape unusual filenames for when you need them. Make will always explode your strings, and doesn't even attempt to let you escape them. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect a time-tested Unix tool dealing with files to actually handle all possible files.
Perfectly reasonable if spaces in filenames are a hard req.
In lots of scenarios they are not, and I prefer to assume that filenames have no spaces, and stick to make.
> touch "with<Ctrl+v><Tab>tab"
What about real world is, it is complicated.
Though I still feel it's a bit of "choose your poison". In any language, certain symbols will have special meaning. You pretty much have to pick which ones, and come up with rules about how to let their natural meaning bleed through.
With unix shells, one such character is the space, and there's a number of rules about how to let their natural meaning bleed through - but they're all somewhat awkward, and they all need special care.
Most programming languages manage to get this right. You have a quoting syntax with an escape character that lets you express the quotes, the escape character, and any arbitrary character (as a byte sequence, as a Unicode codepoint in some encoding, etc.) as well. Now you can do everything. Why not do this?
I'm not going to say this won't be a pain if you decide to write out every file name possible, because it will be, inevitably. But you can supply alternative syntaxes by way of more convenient (if limiting) shorthand - Python has its r"""...""" notation, for example, allowing you to express the majority of interesting strings without needing to escape anything.
You might argue that I've just punted the problem on to the text editor and the filing system. You'd be quite right.
I have recently decided to stop using $ in passwords (defined by me) for that same reason: of course they are valid char, but they are such a big pain to support in usual contexts that it is simply not worth it.
(Thanks for correcting the nul reference)
But I'm going to go back to my original point. What I do have an opinion about is how reasonable it is for tools not to support a character that is valid in file names, when that character is straightforward to support with everyday, well known syntax.
And when that character is ' ', the standard English word separator, as straightforwardly supported by approximately ever kind of quoting or escaping syntax ever, my opinion about a lack of support is: it's crap.
Now do the same, assuming that the password can have a dollar in it.
You can do it. It is not as easy, readable or maintanable. Avoid it if you can.
Somehow we started with a single dollar in a string, and now I am dealing with sql, here docs, and TDD?
There is a place for everything in life: for small helper makefiles, which I write simply to support me in my workflow and even to remember some interesting commands that I need to run for a certain project, I can assure you that making some simple assumptions helps me staying halfway sane.
Extra complication to avoid if possible.
You can accept that or you can keep tilting at windmills.
In every branch of science, reality wins. If your model can’t accomodate reality it’s either completely wrong or it needs adjustments, at least.
Exactly. To separate things. Which, incidentally, happens to also be precisely what make, and the traditional UNIX shells do :-)
The problem isn't that space in itself is a particularly difficult character. The problem is that its meaning is overloaded and ambiguous. No matter what you do, computers will have difficulty with ambiguity. You'll always have the problem that the separator is special, but hey, I'd be all for using 0x1C instead ;)
What it sounds like is that the Unix shell syntax was established how it was, everyone built on it with all of its syntactical conveniences, and suddenly there's 100% buy-in to the idea that a computer just can't handle a filename with spaces in a shell.
./cmd do-something-with --force file with spaces
./cmd do-something-with --force 'file with spaces'
./do something with cmd --force 'file with spaces'
And if that's not ideal, then `./'do something with' cmd …` should be good enough right?
Nope. You don't space out each word when speaking. If you were speaking about writing systems, not all writing systems use spaces as word delimiters. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_(punctuation)
So human beings should stop using allowed file names because it's too hard for you?
It's perfectly fine for a rule to have multiple targets, e.g.
output.txt error.txt: source
build source > output.txt 2> error.txt
I've even worked with variables with spaces and special characters.
I don't see why filenames are so much more special, except a lot of old tools never got updated to world beyond ASCII
I don't understand why one would think that make would be a good tool for this...
> Demanding the support of spaces in filenames significantly complicates code as simple space delimination no longer works and other delimination schemes are much more error prone -- forgetting balancing quotes, any one?
Yes this is a limitation of make, but not a million other tools out there.
Make is not a panacea, no tool is - pressing a tool into a job it is un-suited for because you understand it is "Not good" (trade mark and copy right pending).
This is the classic case of having a hammer and a screw -
Why not? To me, it sounds like a perfect use of Make. You have a number of files that should be processed somehow (presumably by invoking a certain tool for each and every file) and produce another set of files.
Whether it's C-files to compiled binaries, or some source files to PDF:s, make seems very well suited for the job. Except yeah, perhaps, spaces.
Given that make isn't working well in this case due to spaces, I would personally probably use something like find and sed in a bash script to just get all the files and convert them to pdf. (Obviously this won't work if your system doesn't have these tools though...)
Even this merit is debatable. Is foo bar two things or one? I know foo-bar is one.
It all depend of domain convention. Make align on variable naming convention .. that is all
No. He's right, you're wrong, hzhou321. We want spaces in filenames. We even want UTF-8 if possible. We don't want crude tools that cannot handle the most basic names. You can argue all you want, this is a very very basic demand that could be met with very very basic tools but make is just too crude.
People like you are exactly the cancer in the developer community that argues away reasonable demands like spaces in filenames and perpetuates the garbage legacy tools we have.
EDIT: Ok, now I got it. Boy that was a wild ride.
Edit: rewording and typos.
h = "hello" .. utf8.char(160) .. "world"
f = io.open("Makefile","w")
f = io.open(h .. ".c","w")
Set up your compose key on linux(Top right corner settings->system settings->keyboards->shortcut->typing->Compose key(choose an appropriate one)).
Whenever you need to type breaking space instead type (compose key + spacebar + spacebar). This puts a non-breaking space there instead. That's it.
3. Create file -> sudo nano hello(compose key + spacebar + spacebar)world.c
4. Paste the code to execute.
5. Makefile-> hello(compose key + space + space)world:
7. ./hello world (pressing tab will recognise the executable automatically).
NOTE: Don't do this ever in any production code or just ever. This hack can take up hours to resolve and a lot of frustration which could have better been spent on fixing something meaningful. This is a frowned upon practice. The only cool part is that your directory can have two files with whose name look exactly the same.
Being incapable of handling spaces is a bug that's been marked Minor since 2002 - https://savannah.gnu.org/bugs/?712
(plus I find double quotation marks easier to read and write than escaping every space in a path)
Edit: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/66800/promising-alternat... (they aren't really clones tho)
Specifically, a python configure script using the ninja_syntax.py module. This seems like it's a bit more complicated, but has a lot of nice attributes.
File names with spaces should just work (unlike make). The amount of hidden complexity is very low (unlike make or SCons); all the complexity lives in your configure script. It's driven by a real, non-arcane language (unlike make). Targets are automatically rebuilt when their rules/dependencies change (unlike make).
It's more difficult to install than make, but only marginally.
And what the heck happened on 31 dec 1999 that the world became a different place where suddenly people realised: there were these space things, quite useful they were, why don't we tuck them into every file name and URL and who knows what?
People have better things to do than dealing with these things.
Then that's a shortcoming which should be addressed with the tools, because humans everywhere use spaces in filenames.
For every command-line tool I make (Windows & Linux), I ensure it handles such trivial use-cases. I can't see why such a simple task is seemingly impossible to get done in GNU coreutils.