Acme - The Do It All Application
The acme text editor is arguably the main user application for Plan 9, it doubles as the systems file manager, terminal, mail reader and more. It can even be used as a fully fledged window manager, by replacing rio with acme in your $home/lib/profile (but I don’t recommend it - you will not be able to run any other programs - then again, why would you want to?).
Let’s do a whirlwind tour of acme: The first blue row contains commands for the entire acme window, such as Exit, if you middle-click this button, acme will exit. Dump will create a file called acme.dump, this can be used to save a particular window arrangement, and restored with acme -l acme.dump. Putall will save all modified text files.
If you middle-click Newcol a new column will appear. The column has it’s own row of commands, in the second blue row. Delcol will delete the column. Cut, Paste and Snarf (eg. “Copy”), will do text manipulations. But it’s easier to use mouse chords for this: Left and middle-click to Cut, Left and right-click to Paste, and finally Left and middle-click, then right-click to Snarf, or Copy. The mouse chords are awkward to explain, but try it out, it will feel very intuitive with a little practice.
Middle-clicking New will create a new window in the column. Again, it too, will have it’s own row of commands. Del will delete the window. The window is initially empty, try writing some random text into it. You will see that a new command appears, Undo (it’s meaning should be obvious). After typing in some text, you can also hit the Esc key to mark the recently added text, hitting Esc again, will cut the text. How do we save our file? First we need to give it a name: Click on the far left side of the menu, left of Del, and type /usr/glenda/testfile (glenda is the default user in Plan 9, and /usr/glenda is the default home directory). Yet another command will appear, Put, middle click it to save your work. That was a lot of typing! Isn’t there an easier way to do this? Sure, remember that Plan 9 allows you to copy paste pretty much anything. Find the directory you want in a terminal, with Ctrl-f auto-completion and everything, then print the directory name with pwd, and just copy paste that into the acme window, and append your new filename. Easier yet, run touch testfile; B testfile from a terminal and the file will be opened for you in acme.
By now you will have noticed a very unique feature of acme, it’s menus are pure text. The “buttons” are just regular words. To illustrate: Type Del (case sensitive!) somewhere in the yellow text window, then middle click it. The window will disappear. Del is just a command, same as echo or cat. Another test: Type echo hi there and middle click, and drag, so that the red mark covers all three words. hi there will be printed in a new window.
You can use the Look command to search for words in the window. Type monkey a couple of times in the yellow text window, now type Look monkey in the blue window menu, and middle click and drag, to mark the two words. The first occurrence of monkey will be highlighted, run the command again, and the second occurrence will be highlighted, and so on. An easier method however would be to just right-click the word monkey, anywhere in the text, the next occurrence of the word will be highlighted, and the mouse pointer will be moved there. Just right-click again to see the next occurrence of the word, and so on.
The Zerox command in the column menu will duplicate a window, this is very useful if you are editing a long file, and you need to see or edit different parts of the file at the same time, any changes made in one window will appear in the other. Sort will sort the column windows by name, it does not sort the content of the windows. To do that, mark the text, type |sort in the window menu, and middle-click it. As you can see, you can freely use arbitrary Plan 9 commands to manipulate the text in acme.
If you want to do search and replace operations, use the Edit command. This command is a back end for the sam text editor, which uses much the same text editing commands as ed (which again is similar to sed or vi). For example, double click one of the monkey words to highlight it, then type Edit s/monkey/chimpanzee/, and middle click and drag to execute this command. The highlighted word will be changed to chimpanzee. To change all the occurrences of monkey, type Edit ,s/monkey/chimpanzee/g (in vi this would be :%s/monkey/chimpanzee/g).
Side note: Although the above ed style substitution works in sam, sam is not a line-based editor like ed, and a more proper sam command for the above would be: Edit ,x/monkey/c/chimpanzee/ (that is: for each /monkey/ change to /chimpanzee/). To read the sam tutorial, run: page /sys/doc/sam/sam.tut.out
acme lacks many built-in features that a UNIX user might expect, but you can create much of this functionality simply by piping the text through standard utilities. Here are some examples:
Edit = print current line number Edit ,|sort -r reverse sort the file Edit ,|grep -n . add line numbers Edit ,s/^.*: //g remove line numbers Edit s/^/ /g indent text Edit s/^ //g unindent text Edit s/^/#/g comment out lines of code Edit s/^#//g uncomment lines of code Edit ,|wc -c file word count Edit ,|fmt nicely format the file Edit ,|cb beautify C source code Edit s/./-/g underline after copying a line |tr A-Z a-z lowercase text |tr a-z A-Z uppercase text |tr a-zA-Z n-za-mN-ZA-M rot13 text
Open a New window and type in the filename /usr/glenda to the far left, then type Get to the far right, right of Look, and middle click it. The contents of the /usr/glenda directory will fill the window. If you right-click on a directory in this window, the contents of that directory will be opened in a new window. To do operations on files, just type a command and execute; for example type rm before testfile, and middle click the two words to remove this file. If you right-click a text file, the contents of that file will be opened for editing in acme.
Exactly what happens when you right-click something in acme, depends on the word you click. For example clicking on the word /usr/glenda/pictures/cirno.png, will open this picture in the image viewer page, and clicking jazz.mp3, will start playing the audio file with play. Provided of course that the files in question exist on your system. The last example also assumes that the jazz.mp3 file is located in the same directory as the one you launched acme from, if not you need to specify a correct file path. The actual work of connecting the right words to the right programs is handled by plumber, which we will talk about later, but for now it’s enough to know that right clicking a filename anywhere in acme will usually just “do the right thing” (you’ll note though that actions are evaluated for words, not files).
Each window has a dark blue square to the far left of the menu, you can click and drag this box to resize or move the window to another column. The columns themselves also have a dark blue square, click and drag this to resize or move the column.
You can also right-click on the dark blue window square, to hide all the column windows except that one, left-click on it to bring the windows back. Left-clicking on the square will increase the window size a little, middle-clicking will maximize the window.
Left-clicking on the scroll bar will scroll upwards, right-clicking downwards. Clicking towards the bottom of the scroll bar will scroll a lot, clicking towards the top will only scroll a little. Middle clicking will transport you directly to that portion of the file. Play around and experiment with these mouse actions, pretty soon you will get the hang of it. Other Plan 9 applications with scroll bars work the same way (in 9front at least).