Beyond Compare is an excellent tool for comparing files and folders. I use it most often during software development.
My weapon of choice for file operations is Far Manager so I decided to make launching Beyond Compare fast and painless. After some experimentation I settled on creating bc.cmd in C:\Program Files\Far Manager folder:
Now I can compare files from Far Manager by typing
bc file1.txt file2.txt
Usually I use Ctrl+F shortcut to insert full path to the selected file in Far Manager.
My next idea was to use some keyboard shortcut to compare Far Manager’s left and right panels. Both Far Manager and Beyond Compare have 2 panels so it’s natural to open and compare folders:
Here’s how to set it up:
Press Ctrl+. to start recording a macro
Type bc, then space, then press Ctrl+[ to insert path to the left folder, then space again, then Ctrl+]
Press Enter. This should launch Beyond Compare. Close it and go back to Far Manager.
Press Ctrl+. to stop recording the macro
Press Ctrl+B to assign a hotkey:
Voila! Now you can press Ctrl+B to launch Beyond Compare and compare folders that you have open in Far Manager. Normally Ctrl+B turns on and off the key bar at the bottom of the window but I never do it. You can still turn it off by opening Options menu, then Interface settings:
Don’t forget to save settings by pressing Ctrl+F9. Happy comparing!
Far Manager has powerful suppport for command history. ConEmu author even suggests using Far Manager with panels turned off instead of standard command prompt.
Ctrl+E gives you previous command entered. You can press it multiple times to get older entries. Ctrl+X moves you forward in the history.
Press Alt+F8 to view command history in the list:
You can execute a command from the list by pressing Enter. If you want to edit a command press Ctrl+Enter.
All shortcuts available in command history list:
Re-execute a command
Re-execute a command in a new window
Re-execute a command as administrator
Copy a command to the command line
Clear the commands history
Lock/unlock a history item
Delete the current history item
Ctrl+C or Ctrl+Ins
Copy the text of the current command to clipboard
Another useful shortcut is Ctrl+Alt+F – it lets you to search in the list by filtering it down. This shortcut is totally non-obvious and not documented anywhere so I was happy when I discovered it. It also works in folder history (Alt+F12).
One of the strongest features of Far Manager is the ability to start any program or script from command prompt. You can type anything there, just like in standard command prompt. Ctrl+Enter shortcut greatly helps here – it inserts selected file name to command prompt (Ctrl+F inserts full path).
If you launch a console program all program output will be displayed in Far window. Terrific! After program finishes you can view console output by pressing Ctrl+O.
There is a problem however: you can’t scroll up if program output is long. Only last 25 or so lines of text are visible. Anything before that is lost forever.
Far has a clever little known trick to view all program output. Add view:< before the command and all console output will be intercepted and redirected to internal viewer. For example:
You can even redirect output to Far editor by using
This is nice but not ideal. You have to remember to add view:< before starting a console program or script. If a program takes long time to execute you won’t see any progress until it finishes. Also any interactive prompt in program screws the whole process.
ConEmu to the Rescue
ConEmu is a console emulator. It has lots of great enhancements to standard Windows command prompt. It works by intercepting all console output and displaying it in its own window.
ConEmu is also a close friend with Far Manager. After installing ConEmu you can open Far Manager inside ConEmu window:
Once Far Manager is inside ConEmu tab you can scroll console output by switching to so called alternative mode.
This mode hides Far panels and ‘freezes’ console. Ctrl+Up scrolls up, Ctrl+Down scrolls down. Scrolling with a mouse wheel also works.
But that’s not all. You can also assign Ctrl+O to view console output in Far viewer. To do this locate CtrlO_View.reg in ConEmu folder and execute it.
Occasionally I want to edit plain HTML file in Visual Studio. You know, those files with .htm or .html extension. Normally pressing Enter in Far Manager opens them in a browser. This is what I want most of the time, so let’s keep it.
Idea: let’s use F4 key to open file in Visual Studio.
Here’s how to achieve it:
* Open Commands menu, select File associations.
* Add new association, enter *.htm;*.html as a mask. Enter this command for F4:
"C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\Common7\IDE\devenv.exe" /edit "!.!"
Change path to devenv.exe if you have different version of Visual Studio.
Note the /edit parameter. It makes Visual Studio to re-use existing window if it is alredy running. Visual Studio is not exactly a lightweight editor so let’s be efficient here.
What if you want to open HTML file in internal Far editor? Simple: press Alft+F4.
OccasionallyÂ I launch a program from Far Manager that takes very long to complete. Normally you can use Ctrl+Alt+Tab to “detach” Far from a running process. Technical note #27 explains this well:
If a long-running process (for example, archiving) was run in a FAR console, and for some reasons this very instance of FAR is needed (an editor in the background) or it is undesirable to run a new instance ofFAR, pressing this key combination will create a new console for FAR where it will continue running as if the process has already ended, and the process will continue working in the old console.
Unfortunately this doesn’t work on Windows 7. Instead of detaching you get Windows task switcher:
Interestingly the switcher is in “sticky” mode. It doesn’t disappear when you release keys. You can use arrow keys to select a window.
The fix is easy:
Start regedit, open HKCU\Software\far2\System key.
CreateÂ ConsoleDetachKey string value, set it to some keyboard shortcut. I use CtrlAltX.
Restart Far Manager
To test it try executing this command from Far:
ping google.com -t
Press Ctrl+Alt+X to get back to Far without stopping pings.
In Far Manager 1.70 you could browse folders with mouse wheel. Rotating wheel would scroll up and down. Middle-click would open a folder. But version 2.0 disables middle-click. Boo! Never take away features from users.
Fortunately it’s very easy to restore this functionality:
Launch [C:\Program Files\Far2\Addons\Macros\MiddleClickAsEnter.reg]. If you don’t have this folder re-install Far and add Addons Â» Macros feature.