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Simplifying --help

From: Thomas Spear
Subject: Simplifying --help
Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2018 07:07:20 -0500


I was referred here to submit ideas to enhance the GNU coding standards.

I had an idea to simplify the command line options by hiding less frequently used options in the --help output, specifically with the intent being to make it easier for new users to learn the command line. I think that it would be acceptable if a user wants to see full help output, then give them a --help-full option (or they can consult the manual)

As a short example:

How many times have we all had to explain to a user that grep can take a filename or path as an argument, so they don't have to do "cat file|grep 'string'"? Countless, right? 

That's because the 'grep --help' output has too much information. --help should be simple. It should detail the most commonly used options (-i for grep, -l for ls, etc) and any places that it can take a filename, and tell the user that more help is available in this new option --help-full (whatever it ultimately gets named) or in the manual.

Sure, once someone gets the basics down for a given command, it becomes easier to understand the more advanced command line options. But if the goal of the standards is to make GNU software easier to learn, then shouldn't we try to accomplish that by making it easier to digest the documentation?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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