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January, 2010:

To Help or Not to Help

I use command line utilities frequently, and my fingers tend to be faster than my brain.  My fingers have already decided on the options to enter before I remember what the options are.  This works great for find or grep, but I always forget the correct options for cut, sort, or uniq. 

I get the correct options by reading the help message output.  My fingers race ahead, and enter the help switch with the least number of keystrokes:

  $ uniq –h

uniq: invalid option — h
Try `uniq –help’ for more information.

Uh-oh, I got it wrong.  Thankfully, the message tells me exactly what I did wrong, but I am left wondering why it couldn’t just display the help message in the first place.  The output told me I should have typed (it seems rather smugly), so why not throw a guy a bone.

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