GNU bug report logs - #25553
How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things (other, than 'du'?

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Package: coreutils; Severity: wishlist; Reported by: L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>; dated Fri, 27 Jan 2017 06:36:02 UTC; Maintainer for coreutils is bug-coreutils@HIDDEN.

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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things
 (other, than 'du'?
To: L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>
References: <588AEA17.5060702@HIDDEN>
 <a73c8729-b2b4-cc08-c8b2-11b97aa27e87@HIDDEN>
 <588C0315.1070305@HIDDEN>
 <1ad50f72-abf6-56c5-c94d-db9777ff5383@HIDDEN>
 <588D1F04.9070109@HIDDEN>
 <d8562f90-1aef-3f8c-77ea-9b42acc86926@HIDDEN>
 <588D87EE.5000108@HIDDEN>
From: Paul Eggert <eggert@HIDDEN>
Organization: UCLA Computer Science Department
Message-ID: <d222efd6-5614-3ac7-6b7b-d8ba0294ace6@HIDDEN>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2017 15:56:33 -0800
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On 01/28/2017 10:13 PM, L A Walsh wrote:
>
>
>     This is already a problem

Of course. All I am saying is that we should not make it worse.

> you skirted the issue of using system-wide and per-user
> config files which might also be used for similar purpose.

That's even worse. Coreutils doesn't do that now, thank goodness.

> How can I send ls's default output through a filter
> and have it be the same as to a TTY?

'ls -C'.

> you didn't mention how the output would be re-encoded for a user's
> tab settings on output

That could be the job of 'expand'. The user's tab settings can be 
specified as arguments to 'expand'. If 'expand' doesn't have the desired 
functionality now, perhaps we should improve 'expand'. But we should not 
be modifying every program to do expansion; just 'expand'. That's the 
software tools design philosophy.




Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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From: L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>
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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things (other, 
 than 'du'?
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Paul Eggert wrote:
> L A Walsh wrote:
>>     The idea would be to have it be transparent. Adding
>> on various output filters is hardly transparent.
> 
> Nor is having behavior depend on environment variables.
---
	The behavior isn't dependent on environment variables.
The behavior is selected by the run-time switch values.

	The run-time switch, like ls's --color flag get color
values from LS_COLORS (which came from the user's TERM settings).
There, you have core utils relying on a 2nd ENV var to cache the
results of the 1st (TERM) env var.



>>     As for env-vars.  What problems are you envisioning.
> 
> Shell scripts might stop working because the environment variables are 
> not set up in the usual or desired way.
---
	This is already a problem with functions and aliases as well
as PATH differences.  Though, for that matter, scripts *RELY* 
on environment variables already.  This usage could conceivable be
no different than the case of 'ls' altering its screen output if
output is not used in a script.  How would that not address your concern?


> This is a common problem with 
> other environment variables. In the past, we've relied on the 
> environment too often for relatively-unimportant things. We should not 
> repeat this mistake.
----
	I've never had the problem, but what mistakes are you claiming
were made by use of environment variables for TERMinal settings, character
set settings or language settings?  In fact, doesn't gnu make heavy use
of LC_specific variables -- and would fail miserably in localization if
those variables were disallowed?

	You can't argue that there are no valid uses for ENV vars.
At the same time, you skirted the issue of using system-wide and per-user
config files which might also be used for similar purpose.



>>     As for 'expand' handling the job -- how would
>> expand convert tabstops from 'du' into the tabstops used by
>> an arbitrary terminal?  For that matter, since directory and
>> file sizes often exceed 8-characters forcing du's output to not align, 
>> how can a user have 'du' align it's columns
>> automatically, as my additions can do?
> 
> Send du's output to a file,
----

	And if the program doesn't generate the same output
to a file as to a 'TTY'?  However, this is for TTY-output 
devices -- it's not intended for inter-program communications.
In fact, as you point out, that should likely be excluded by default.  

	You mention 'ls' -- as an example of another tab-using
program.  How can I send ls's default output through a filter
and have it be the same as to a TTY?  By default -- one can't.
The same happens for users of Gnu's libc.  It, also dumps output 
to a terminal that, by default, is not redirectable. 



> look for the longest number in the file, and 
> adjust column width accordingly. Whatever tabstops you like, you can 
> tell to 'expand'. Expanding tabs is the job of 'expand', not of every 
> program that outputs tabs.
----
	Expanding tabs, for *some* gnu programs, could be done w/expand, 
but you didn't mention how the output would be re-encoded for a user's
tab settings on output, not to mention how you would redirect
'ls's output through a filter or to a file to any effect.








Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.
Severity set to 'wishlist' from 'normal' Request was from Paul Eggert <eggert@HIDDEN> to control <at> debbugs.gnu.org. Full text available.

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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things
 (other, than 'du'?
To: L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>
References: <588AEA17.5060702@HIDDEN>
 <a73c8729-b2b4-cc08-c8b2-11b97aa27e87@HIDDEN>
 <588C0315.1070305@HIDDEN>
 <1ad50f72-abf6-56c5-c94d-db9777ff5383@HIDDEN>
 <588D1F04.9070109@HIDDEN>
From: Paul Eggert <eggert@HIDDEN>
Organization: UCLA Computer Science Department
Message-ID: <d8562f90-1aef-3f8c-77ea-9b42acc86926@HIDDEN>
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L A Walsh wrote:
>     The idea would be to have it be transparent. Adding
> on various output filters is hardly transparent.

Nor is having behavior depend on environment variables.

>     As for env-vars.  What problems are you envisioning.

Shell scripts might stop working because the environment variables are not set 
up in the usual or desired way. This is a common problem with other environment 
variables. In the past, we've relied on the environment too often for 
relatively-unimportant things. We should not repeat this mistake.

>     As for 'expand' handling the job -- how would
> expand convert tabstops from 'du' into the tabstops used by
> an arbitrary terminal?  For that matter, since directory and
> file sizes often exceed 8-characters forcing du's output to not align, how can a
> user have 'du' align it's columns
> automatically, as my additions can do?

Send du's output to a file, look for the longest number in the file, and adjust 
column width accordingly. Whatever tabstops you like, you can tell to 'expand'. 
Expanding tabs is the job of 'expand', not of every program that outputs tabs.




Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.

Message received at submit <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things (other, 
 than 'du'?
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Paul Eggert wrote:
> L A Walsh wrote:
>> I'm working on some loose ends, but basically,
>> First, it would default to providing no change.  ;-)
>>
>> Through use of a switch it can expand the tabs to spaces
>> using a default of every 8th column (after 1) (using a
>> switch value of 'ExpandTo').
>>
>> And with 2 env vars, TTY_TABSIZE & TTY_TABSET
>> it can re-entabulate the output to use the user's tabsize as related 
>> through the
>> env vars.
> 
> It sounds like this could be done via 'du | expand', so why change 'du'?
> 
> Also, environment variables cause too many problems. If new 
> functionality is needed here (which is not yet clear), it should be via 
> new options.
---
	The idea would be to have it be transparent. Adding
on various output filters is hardly transparent.  So would you 
care to show me how you would invoke expand to change 'du's 
tab-output to that on my output device (terminal seems a bit of
a misnomer these days), but it is a tty-type window compatible
with xterm, the linux console, vt100's/vt102's as well some 
standards.

	As for env-vars.  What problems are you envisioning.
As I mentioned, both env-vars and program options are required --
they serve different purposes.  Alternatively, you could have
settings files (i.e. /etc/gnurc & "~/.gnurc") that could store
settings designed to apply across multiple tools, but like the
ENV settings I'm conceiving of would be like the envvar "TERM"
or an LC_CTYPE to describe the output device's character encoding.

	Indeed, in this case, TTY_TAB settings are specific
to a person's terminal -- just like TERM and LC_CTYPE

	What type of problems outweighing the benefits 
do you see with env vars like TERM and LC_CTYPE.

	As for 'expand' handling the job -- how would
expand convert tabstops from 'du' into the tabstops used by
an arbitrary terminal?  For that matter, since directory and
file sizes often exceed 8-characters forcing du's output 
to not align, how can a user have 'du' align it's columns
automatically, as my additions can do?









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bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things
 (other, than 'du'?
To: L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>
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L A Walsh wrote:
> I'm working on some loose ends, but basically,
> First, it would default to providing no change.  ;-)
>
> Through use of a switch it can expand the tabs to spaces
> using a default of every 8th column (after 1) (using a
> switch value of 'ExpandTo').
>
> And with 2 env vars, TTY_TABSIZE & TTY_TABSET
> it can re-entabulate the output to use the user's tabsize as related through the
> env vars.

It sounds like this could be done via 'du | expand', so why change 'du'?

Also, environment variables cause too many problems. If new functionality is 
needed here (which is not yet clear), it should be via new options.




Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.

Message received at 25553 <at> debbugs.gnu.org:


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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things (other, 
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Paul Eggert wrote:
> L A Walsh wrote:
>> Are there other utils that rely on tabs to align
>> output as much as 'du'?
> 
> Sure. 'ls', 'fmt', 'cut', 'cat', 'pr',....
> 
>> What would be objections to fixing 'du' or others
>> that rely on such?
> 
> It would depend on the proposed change.
----
I'm working on some loose ends, but basically, 

First, it would default to providing no change.  ;-)

Through use of a switch it can expand the tabs to spaces
using a default of every 8th column (after 1) (using a
switch value of 'ExpandTo').

And with 2 env vars, TTY_TABSIZE & TTY_TABSET
it can re-entabulate the output to use the user's 
tabsize as related through the env vars.

The env vars cause no change in program behavior unless
the switch specifies 'AlignTo'.

I developed the 'tabout' feature in a 'tabout.c+h' file
and added it to 'du' -- but noted it was not the best way
to test, so wrote a driver-program, 'retab', to allow focus
testing on the retabbing code that does the retabbing on
files or stdin and sends the result to stdout.

...that's a rough description...

Will let you know as I finish off some loose ends and code
refactoring/tidying...







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bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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Subject: Re: bug#25553: How many coreutils rely on tabs to align things
 (other, than 'du'?
To: L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>, 25553 <at> debbugs.gnu.org
References: <588AEA17.5060702@HIDDEN>
From: Paul Eggert <eggert@HIDDEN>
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L A Walsh wrote:
> Are there other utils that rely on tabs to align
> output as much as 'du'?

Sure. 'ls', 'fmt', 'cut', 'cat', 'pr',....

> What would be objections to fixing 'du' or others
> that rely on such?

It would depend on the proposed change.




Information forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.

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Are there other utils that rely on tabs to align
output as much as 'du'?

What would be objections to fixing 'du' or others
that rely on such?







Acknowledgement sent to L A Walsh <coreutils@HIDDEN>:
New bug report received and forwarded. Copy sent to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN. Full text available.
Report forwarded to bug-coreutils@HIDDEN:
bug#25553; Package coreutils. Full text available.
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