The 'feHandyTools' subsystem
of the FE (Freedom Environment) system
! Note ! Some sections here may be touched up or revised occasionally
--- especially when there are new releases.
Also, some new screenshots or a video of an install may be added.
< Go to the 'FE HandyTools' Download Link and Instructions, below. >
( Skip the Introduction )
In 2009, I finally 'took the plunge' and migrated my mail, bookmarks, etc. from a (main) Microsoft Windows machine to a (main) Linux machine. I have documented reasons why I went to Linux, along with install notes, on an Ubuntu Install notes page
I have outlined, on the 'FE Nautilus Scripts' download page and on the FE 'xpg' utility download page, how I came to develop some utilities that I decided to release on a subsystem-by-subsystem basis --- to make sure at least some of my utilities are made available to the public.
Since I am not getting any younger (pushing the big 7 oh), I put 'the pedal to the metal' to get the next FE subsystem release --- 'feAppMenus' --- 'out the door' --- out my doorway to the Internet --- soon after the releases of 'FE Nautilus Scripts' and 'xpg'.
The 'feAppMenus' subsystem uses a 'make_chest.tk' Tk script to make toolchests to startup applications that are categorized into about 20-plus different toolchests. The 'feAppMenus' system is intended to provide a menu system that can quickly and easily be updated, and even totally, and I mean TOTALLY, re-configured, by the user.
The 'feAppMenus' subsystem, as distributed, provides user-configurable access to compiled, 'monolithic' programs like Seamonkey or Firefox (web browsers), Thunderbird (email client), Filezilla (FTP client), and about 100 other executables arranged in about 20-plus categories.
About a year after the release of 'feAppMenus', I started putting together some handy, 'small-scale' utilities, done primarily with Tcl-Tk scripts. Examples: the 'PlotQuik' utilities --- whose tkGUIs are seen in screenshots at the top of this page. (Hold your mouse over an image to see another image pop into its place.)
These 'PLOTtools' are accessible via an 'feHandyTools' toolchest --- image at the top left of this page. See the 'PLOTtools' 'drawer' in that toolchest.
The 'feHandyTools' subsystem uses its own copy of the 'make_chest.tk' script to make the toolchests of the 'feHandyTools' subsystem. And, like the 'feAppMenus' subsystem, the 'feHandyTools' subsystem uses 'chestdef' files to define the toolchests. The 'chestdef' files of the 'feHandyTools' subsystem are of the same format as the 'chestdef' files of the 'feAppMenus' subsystem.
I eventually intend to fill out a lot of categories that are seen as grayed-out in the toolchest image above. Many of the categories and tools in the 'feHandyTools' subsystem are similar to categories and tools in the 'feNautilusScripts' subsystem. In fact, the organization of the categories is almost identical in both systems, to make it easy to go from one to the other system.
The main difference between 'feNautilusScripts' and 'feHandyTools' is that, for the 'feNautilusScripts' utilities, the Nautilus file manager is used to navigate to files and then bring up a categories menu of scripts, to apply tool scripts to the selected files (or apply scripts to the current directory).
In contrast, the 'feHandyTools' subsystem provides the categories menu first, and then, when a tool is chosen, if a file or directory needs to be selected, a Tcl-Tk GUI will be invoked to get the directory or file name(s) from the user.
Along with this 'FE HandyTools' subsystem download page, here is an FE HandyTools subsystem description web page that discusses the features of the FE HandyTools subsystem in quite a bit of detail. There are many screenshots on that 'description' web page. Those 'feHandyTools' images include images of
You can see a relatively brief description of the FE HandyTools subsystem at the bottom of the FE Overview page.
The 'feHandyTools' description adds to the FE library of subsystem descriptions --- the previously released descriptions being
The 'feHandyTools' download file and install instructions are below.
There is an 'feHandyTools' help file --- called 'feHandyTools.hlp' --- in the 'helps' directory of the installation. That file is shown via the 'Help' button on any of the 'feHandyTools' 'toolchest' GUIs. (The FE 'xpg' text browser utility is used to show that plain-text help file.)
That help file has details on install options and how-to information on setting 'defaults/preferences' options.
Alternatively, for details on installation options and on 'defaults/preferences' options in several options files, see the 'feHandyTools' description web page mentioned above.
'FE HandyTools' DOWNLOAD LINK and Install Instructions :
The install file is a self-extracting shell script. It would be nice if we could simply name it with a '.sh' suffix. But it appears that most web browsers (or, actually, web servers) will assume that it is an all-text file, when, in fact, it has a gzipped tar file appended to the script portion of the file.
When a web browser asks for the file from the web server, if the file has the '.sh' suffix, the file will be downloaded in 'ascii' mode instead of 'binary' mode. The binary data in the file (the gzipped tar stuff) gets corrupted.
Web servers usually require a suffix on the file in an HTML page link, and the suffix is used by the web server to determine how to handle the file.
As a workaround, the '.sh' file is provided with a suffix of '.sh.exe' --- in hopes that the web-browser/web-server combo will think the file is a 'binary' file and download it in a 'binary' mode that does not corrupt the file.
This seems to work. The '.sh.exe' file downloaded fine for me, using the Seamonkey2 web browser on Ubuntu Linux --- on a little Acer netbook.
Right click here, on this link to the '.sh.exe' file, and, in the popup menu of your web browser, choose to save this self-extracting shell script in a download directory on your machine. (Your web browser will offer an option such as 'Save Link Target As ...'.)
For good measure (that is, as an alternative), the install file is also provided with the suffix '.sh.tar'. So if the '.sh.exe' file does not work for you (say, the web-server/web-browser 'dance' tries to do something 'funny' with files with a '.exe' suffix), right click here, on the '.sh.tar' file link, and, in the popup menu of your web browser, choose to save this self-extracting shell script in a download directory on your machine.
To see the quick version of installing 'feHandyTools', go to the SUMMARY section at the bottom of this web page.
Go to the FE Videos page to see the install videos for the several FE subsystems. The install procedure for each subsystem is similar --- namely, prepare and run a self-extracting script, in 3 quick steps. (There is no install video for 'feHandyTools', yet. See the install video for 'feAppMenus'. The install procedure is the same for both systems.)
NOTE: The '2011oct23' release of 'feHandyTools' is a 'partial' release --- corresponding to a 0.7, say, release of systems using that kind of release numbering system. When most of the grayed-out categories in the 'feHandyTools' toolchest are implemented, it can be said that those 'un-grayed' releases are similar to a 0.9 (or higher) release. By 2012, I hope to be able to call it a 1.x or 2.x release --- if I'm still functioning at 70.
Aiming for a 'mature' release :
The 'HandyTools' FE subsystem installation has been set up so that the startup scripts of the many 'toolchests' within it will automatically figure out the install directory from the full name of the startup script being used to start these utilities.
This auto-setting of the install directory should work even if one goes to an feHandyTools 'scripts' directory, in a terminal window, and starts a script via a command like './feHandyTools' or './fe_plot_tools.sh' --- for example, when testing changes to the 'chestdef' startup scripts --- or changes to the 'make_chest.tk' script that those scripts call to make the GUI 'toolchests'. In the terminal window, you will be able to see programmer-supplied debug messages and shell interpreter messages, including error messages that may be generated from changes that you may make to the installation files.
I am trying to avoid having me (the installation files preparer) or the user hardcode the install directory name (fully-qualified) into the many possible startup scripts --- especially since there could be 30 or more startup scripts in the FE HandyTools subsystem.
Another advantage of this strategy is that the FE subsystem would still work, even if the user renamed the install directory (from 'feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd' to 'feHandyTools', say) or moved it to another location. (The main requirement is that the SUB-directory structure of the FE subsystem, and the subdirectory names and filenames, be preserved.)
The install steps, in detail :
Your home directory or the 'Desktop' directory of your home directory will do, as the download directory. BUT ...
To keep an organized directory structure, you may find it better to make a directory named 'DOWNLOADS', for example, in your Home directory. Then save ALL your 'third party' application install files there, from then on.
By 'third party', I mean applications that are NOT distributed via a monolithic package management system of your Linux/Unix system --- like the FE apps are not.
Seamonkey2 (a Mozilla.org web browser, son of Netscape) is another example of such an app. In mid-2010, it was not available in the 'Ubuntu Software Center' nor in the 'Synaptic Package Manager'.
I downloaded the Seamonkey2 Linux install file from the Seamonkey website into my $HOME/DOWNLOADS directory --- and I installed it into a $HOME/apps directory that I created for apps that I want to preserve during Linux upgrades. I preserve the apps simply by not overlaying my home directory (and backing up my home directory as a precaution).
I have also installed the SciTE text editor --- 'gscite' --- in my $HOME/apps directory, in a 'gscite_2.27' subdirectory.
Similarly, the 'feHandyTools' subsystem will install into a subdirectory of $HOME/apps.
Again, to see the quick version of installing the 'feHandyTools' subsystem, go to the brief SUMMARY section at the bottom of this web page. Installation details follow.
Preparing the downloaded '.sh' install file for execution :
First, rename the file --- remove the '.exe' or '.tar' suffix.
If you are positioned at your download directory with the Nautilus file manager, simply right click on the install file, choose 'Rename' in the popup menu, and use the Backspace or Delete key to remove the last 4 characters from the filename.
If you are in a terminal window, positioned at the download directory, you can use the 'mv' (rename) Linux/Unix command in a form like this :
mv whatever.sh.exe whatever.sh
Altnernatively, in a terminal window, when you are positioned in the directory in which you put the '.sh' install file, issue the 'chmod 755' command on the filename of the self-extracting script. The format :
chmod 755 whatever.sh
Content of the '.sh' file :
While you are in that terminal window, you can check out the script lines of the file by issuing the 'head -250' command against the file. You will see about 245 lines of script text (with lots of comment lines) --- and then some gobbledy-gook characters in the terminal window. That gobbledy-gook is the starting contents of the gzipped tar file that contains the 'feHandyTools' installation files.
The self-extracting script is a combination of text lines and binary data. If you try to view the install script with a text editor, like 'gedit', it will not view the file, because the editor detects the binary data and thinks it is dealing with a binary file. The authors of 'gedit' do not allow you to try to display the file --- partly because 'lines' in (some) binary data files are thousands of bytes long.
As an interesting note (at least I think so), the FE 'xpg' utility is not as finicky as 'gedit'. If a binary file is not too large (in some sense or another), 'xpg' WILL show the binary file.
Of course, most of the bytes in the file show as gobbledy-gook characters in the 'xpg' text area. But you CAN read strings of human-readable text in the binary file.
In particular, you can use 'xpg' on the 'feHandyTools' self-extracting script file. It will bring that combined text-and-binary file up quickly with no complaints (no error messages). You can see the text of the script at the top of the file.
In fact, if you scroll down to the part of the file where the binary data starts, the 'xpg' window should not complain or go bye-bye --- even if you scroll to the bottom of that binary data. Similarly, for some of the other FE self-extracting script files --- like the ones for the 'FE Nautilus Scripts' releases, you should be able to scroll through the entire self-extracting script file, with 'xpg'.
How to execute the '.sh' install script :
If you are still in a terminal, positioned at the download directory that contains the self-extracting script file, say after doing the 'head' command on the '.sh' file, you could execute the '.sh' script right there via the command line. (See a mouse-click method, below.)
Enter a command of the form
That is, type a dot and slash, then type (or 'mouse-paste') the '.sh' filename and press Enter.
You will see some output from the execution of the script, including
An alternative to running the install script by typing its name
If you are positioned at the '.sh' install script (that is, positioned in your download directory) with a GUI file manager like Nautilus, you could double-click on the '.sh' file --- after making sure that it has execute permission, as described above --- and choose the option to 'Run in a terminal'. You will see the messages described above appearing in the terminal that pops up.
If the terminal window just flashes and does not stay open (or the installation goes so fast that the terminal window does not even flash), navigate to the '$HOME/apps' directory, and see if the 'feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd' directory was created.
Check whether the 'scripts' subdirectory of that directory was created, containing the 'feHandyTools' script. And check the 'tkGUIs' subdirectory of the install directory, which should contain the 'make_chest.tk' file. If those directories and files exist, then the installation probably went OK.
Where the application files 'land' : (via a safer-than-most install strategy)
When the self-extracting shell script file executes, it automatically puts a set of directories in a '$HOME/apps/feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd' directory --- that is, under your home directory --- where yyyymmmdd represents a release date.
Note that you do not have to change to 'root' to do the install. In fact, I never like having to switch to 'root' to do an install.
When I have to supply the root password to do an install, I am being put in the position of having to trust the people who put the install package together that they are not going to use that all powerful permission to do serious damage to the root-owned directories and files on my machine.
And I am trusting that they are NOT going to install key-loggers or Linux/Unix viruses/trojan-horses on my machine, hidden in that massive directory structure. Or, 'they' could install a 'hidden' program that sends data to an organization (or person), over the Internet, or do some other useless-to-me thing, whenever their program is 'triggered', hidden among all those directories (and when I have my connection to the Internet on).
[I, and my wife, have been a victim of these several things on MS Windows. I now setup separate 'admin' and 'user' accounts on MS Windows, similar to 'root' and 'user' on Linux/Unix. This, at least, makes one aware of when a web page or email is trying to install a program unbeknownst to the 'user' --- because an error message will appear when the 'user' does not have 'admin' access to Windows system directories and ProgramFiles directories, where viruses and trojan horses are typically installed.]
Do you hear that HP, Microsoft, Google, and a large number of software vendors? Cut the nonsense out! At least prompt us, before taking liberties with our computers. For example, let us decide whether we want your programs to start up as part of our computer's boot up process. Maybe we don't want your 'stuff' shoved in our faces every time we log on --- or every time we start up an app in which your personal-data-collecting stuff has been included as an intrusive plugin. (Hear that, Mozilla Firefox and Google and Yahoo??)
So rest easy. This install does not require you to open yourself to damage like mangling of your root-owned directories --- or commandeering of root-owned processes. No 'root' access/permission/password is required. And nothing is added to your computer's startup processes. YOU are the one who decides when the 'feHandyTools' components are run.
For some simplicity, this install does not ask for an install directory. It simply makes an 'apps' directory in your home directory, if you do not have one. And it makes a directory called 'feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd' under the 'apps' directory.
Having apps like this in your home directory can be a real boon at Linux OS upgrade time. If you follow the procedure of preserving your home directory (as a separate disk partition) during a Linux OS upgrade, then you do not have to re-install the FE 'HandyTools' subsystem installation files, after your Linux upgrade.
Since these installation files are not in a system directory like '/usr', they will not be wiped out in a Linux system upgrade.
And even if you allow the Linux OS upgrade to wipe out your home directory, if you simply drag your 'apps' directory onto a USB stick (or some other storage device) before the Linux upgrade, you can simply drag it back to your home directory after the Linux upgrade is complete.
Size of the installation :
After installation, the 'feHandyTools' files occupy on the order of 15 Megabytes of disk space. The 2011oct23 self-extracting install script is 4,915,649 bytes in size. About 98% of that is the compressed installation files.
The installation files, after extraction from the compressed file that was appended to the self-extracting install script, expand to about 10 to 15 megabytes in size. These are small sizes compared to applications like GIMP or Firefox.
The installation would be a lot smaller, but I have included about 100 Tcl-Tk 'demo' scripts --- in the 'PROGRAMMINGtools' toolchest of 'feHandyTools'. These scripts, when run, give an idea of the surprising things that can be done with the Tcl-Tk scripting language. And the code is handy to have as reference when looking for example code to implement actions and GUI formats like those seen in running the demo scripts.
I contend that you can get a lot of bang, for zero bucks, from this relatively small set of small (script) files.
The sub-directories of the FE 'HandyTools' install :
The install directories go under the 'feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd' directory --- fullname $HOME/apps/feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd.
It is a simple, 'almost-flat' directory structure --- only one level of directories (except for the 'images' directory --- which contains a 'bullets' directory ; and except for the 'scripts' and 'tkGUIs' directories which contain subdirectories corresponding to the toolchests --- AUDIOtools, FILESlists, FINDlists, PLOTtools, SPACElists, TERMtools, ... ).
The directory names are
With the exception of the 'chestdef_scripts' and 'chestdefs' directories (which will contain about 30 files each), there are less than 10 or 20 files in most of these directories and subdirectories. The main file for the user to be aware of is the main startup script 'feHandyTools' in the 'scripts' directory.
Running 'feHandyTools' :
If you want to make an 'alias' for the 'feHandyTools' startup script in your '.bashrc' or '.bash_aliases' file, you can use a statement like
which does not contain the 'yyyymmmdd' release identifier. Hence you will not need to change this alias for future releases.
"$HOME/apps/bin/feHandyTools" is a link to
where 'yyyymmmdd' represents the release identifier.
You can also make a desktop icon for 'feHandyTools', if you wish --- in the usual way for your desktop environment (say Gnome or KDE).
For Gnome 2, you can right-click on the desktop and choose 'Create Launcher ...'.
In the 'Create Launcher' window that pops up, in the 'Name:' field enter a name like 'feHandyTools', and in the 'Command:' field, enter the name
Note that there is a 'Browse...' option, so you do not have to key in the fully-qualified name of the startup script. You can simply navigate to the 'bin' directory of $HOME/apps, and click on the 'feHandyTools' filename.
Then click 'OK'. (If you want to use a different icon from the standard Gnome launcher icon --- a platform on a spring --- click on that launcher icon in the upper left of the 'Create Launcher' window and choose a different icon, before you press OK.)
For KDE, you can right-click on the desktop and choose 'CreateNew -> Link to Application'. In the 'General' panel that pops up, fill in a short name, like 'feHandyTools', which will appear on the screen under your desktop icon. (You can click on the default gear-icon in the panel, and choose a different icon from a large array of icons.)
Then click on the 'Application' panel and click on the 'Browse' button to find the 'feHandyTools' script that is to be associated with the icon.
to find (and select) filename "feHandyTools".
After you have your desktop icon (for Gnome, KDE, or whatever) :
You can click on the 'feHandyTools' icon to bring up the starting 'FE Handy Tools' chest-of-drawers --- which looks like the image at the upper left of this web page.
You can also make feHandyTools available via a 'quick-launch' icon on the Gnome panel across the top of the desktop.
Simply right-click on the top Gnome 2.x panel and use 'Add to Panel ...'. I leave the rest of the steps as an exercise. The steps are similar to those for making an icon on the Gnome 'desktop'.
SUMMARY of the Install Steps :
The detailed install description above may sound like a lot, but the install takes only a few steps after downloading the self-extracting install file to your computer :
and all three of these steps can be done in Nautilus or some other capable GUI file manager. That is, the install can be done with mostly mouse clicks --- rather than using the command line. (The only keyboard use would be the Backspace or Delete key to remove the suffix.)
When you double-click on the '.sh' file, there is no need for a progress bar. The install occurs within a couple of seconds.
Go to the FE Videos page to see the install videos for the several FE subsystems. The install procedure for each subsystem is similar --- namely, prepare and run a self-extracting script.
For more info on the nature and features of the 'feHandyTools' subsystem, and 'licensing' info, please see the FE 'HandyTools' subsystem description page. Or, see the 'feHandyTools.hlp' text file in the 'helps' directory of the 'feHandyTools' installation. That file is shown via the 'Help' button at the bottom of each of the 'feHandyTools' toolchest GUIs.
On upgrading to new releases :
If you install a new release of the 'FE HandyTools' system to replace an older release, you should not have to remove the old release --- although that is easy to do --- simply remove the $HOME/apps/feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd directory, where yyyymmmdd is the release ID of the old version.
You do not have to remember to change the alias that you may have set for the feHandyTools startup command --- nor do you have to remember to change the script name for the desktop icon (or quick-launch panel icon) that you may use to start the feHandyTools system.
The self-extracting install script makes a link from the 'feHandyTools' startup script to a release-ID-independent file,
$HOME/apps/bin/feHandyTools .By using that soft-link, instead of a fully-qualified name like
$HOME/apps/feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd/scripts/feHandyTools,where $HOME represents your home directory name, we do not have to remember to make changes to command aliases or desktop icon properties.
For example, I edited an Ubuntu '.bash_aliases' file in my home directory and set an alias like
alias feht="$HOME/apps/bin/feHandyTools"instead of
NOTE: By using
alias feht="$HOME/apps/bin/feHandyTools"which does not contain a yyyymmmdd qualifier, one does not have to change the alias with each new release.
For an existing 'feHandyTools' Gnome Desktop icon, you can right-click on the 'feHandyTools' desktop icon and, in the popup menu that appears, choose 'Properties' at the bottom. In the 'feHandyTools Properties' panel that appears, there is a 'Basic' sub-panel with a 'Command:' entry field. In that entry field, make sure it contains a string of the form
rather than /home/userid/apps/feHandyTools_yyyymmmdd/scripts/feHandyTools.
NOTE: With this icon install method, which does not contain a yyyymmmdd qualifier, one does not have to change the command name associated with the icon, for each new release.
If you added 'feHandyTools' as a quick-launch icon in the Gnome panel at the top of the screen, you could use the same technique to avoid having to update the properties of that quick-launch-panel icon with new releases of feHandyTools.
We are now ready to use the new installation, via desktop (or panel) icon or via command alias.
Just in case there is some deficiency in the latest release of the 'feHandyTools' system, here are some previous install files --- self-extracting scripts.
You can right-click on any of these links and use 'Save Link Target As ...' (or the equivalent) to save the file in your downloads directory. Then use the 3 simple 'Summary' steps described above to install the (older) 'feHandyTools' system.
"FE . . . . Software to make Mole-Hills out of Mountains."
Bottom of the FE 'HandyTools' subsystem Download page.
FE = Freedom Environment
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Page created 2011 Jul 31. Changed 2014 May 01.