[clug] Unix 'utility' naming conventions

steve jenkin sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au
Sat Sep 15 00:58:41 GMT 2007

I quoted the Unix convention of system commands, which I think someone
hadn't heard of...

It took me a while to find the right terms to google... (e.g.
'utility' not 'command')
I was unable to find an explicit reference to the 'non english words'

The GNU take:

> You may notice that many commands are abbreviations. The tradition
> of Unix-like systems dictates that commands take this form. Since
> the user is expected to type many commands into the shell, the
> commands are kept succinct so that fewer keystrokes are required.
> The side effect, of course, is many command names that are confusing
> at first sight.

Brian Kernighan in "Advanced Editing on UNIX" makes an oblique reference:

> In any case, the way to do it is with the cp com-
> mand. (cp stands for ‘copy’; the system is big on
> short command names, which are appreciated by
> heavy users, but sometimes a strain for novices.)

SUN's guidance for OpenSolaris [CLIP Companion - command line interface]

> 4.2: Utility names
> Guidance
> The name of a utility should uniquely identify the utility and
> give some reasonable hint as to what it does. As a designer, you should
> strive to find a balance between clarity (e.g.
> sun-penta-processor-performance-tuner) ease of typing (e.g. sp), and
> memorability.
> Note that utility names and subcommands longer than 9 characters
> or with hyphens violate the CLIP guidelines.

Definition in the Unix Standard:

> Guideline 1:
> Utility names should be between two and nine characters, inclusive.

> Guideline 2:
> Utility names should include lowercase letters (the lower character
> classification) and digits only from the portable character set.

Steve Jenkin, Info Tech, Systems and Design Specialist.
0412 786 915 (+61 412 786 915)
PO Box 48, Kippax ACT 2615, AUSTRALIA

sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au http://members.tip.net.au/~sjenkin

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