Asking questions and reporting bugs in GNU Midnight Commander

This document gives some tips how to ask questions and report bugs in the mailing lists for GNU Midnight Commander. This document is intentionally terse, as it mostly deals with the issues specific to the project and its development team. For more generic instructions, please see the links at the end of this document.

Mention the version of GNU Midnight Commander. Don't assume that you don't need it if you mentioned it before. People who can really help you may not have time to check your old e-mails and even then they don't know if you are talking of the same version. Don't assume that the version of your OS or distribution is sufficient - not everybody has time to investigate which version of GNU Midnight Commander is included with your system.

To find out the version of GNU Midnight Commander, run mc --version on the command line. You will see several strings of output. If unsure, quote the whole output of the mc --version command - it gives developers the idea not just of the version, but also of the configuration of your copy of GNU Midnight Commander.

Please note that the reports and questions not mentioning the version of GNU Midnight Commander at all are very unlikely to get a response that would be useful for you!

If you can easily upgrade to the latest released version of GNU Midnight Commander, please do so and check if the problem persists. Problems already fixed in the latest version are hardly interesting to anybody.

Whenever the problem affects the keyboard input or the screen output, mention what kind of terminal you are using (e.g. Linux console, xterm or putty). Also report the value of the TERM environment variable. You can find this value by running "echo $TERM" is any shell.

When reporting a problem, make sure that three things are clear from your message:

  1. what you do
  2. what you get
  3. what you expect to get

There are two mailing lists for the project - and The former is for users, the later is for developers. If you are ready to discuss how to fix the problem in the future versions, the developers' list is preferred. Otherwise, use the list for users. Do not post questions to both lists. Cross-posting is allowed only for developers to make announcements.

Both mailing lists are archived. The links to the archives can be found on the homepage of the project,

Keep in mind that the archives exist so that people can browse them. You can do it too, to see if your question has been answered.

Give informative subjects to your messages. Subjects like "one thing" or "bug" don't give the readers the idea what your message is about. People looking for messages about a particular topic will likely miss your message or even the whole thread.

Don't send messages in HTML or in both text and HTML. Some mail readers don't treat HTML in a safe way, so it's the responsibility of the list maintainer to filter out HTML e-mail even if it's not spam. If plain text is not sufficient to express your ideas, use screenshots and attach them, or better yet, put them on your website (if you have one) and send a link to the image.

Don't move discussion to private e-mail, unless there are serious reasons (e.g. you discuss security problems that can be exploited). Even simple questions and answers belong to the mailing list, so that the subscribers and readers of the archives can see the complete answer. Note that developers are likely to write better replies for a wider audience.

Just because somebody answers you, it doesn't mean that you've got a free consultant and that you can send 5 or 10 messages a day to the mailing list. At some point (usually when becomes obvious that you don't do your own research), the person answering your questions will stop, and other subscribers are unlikely to continue answering your questions.

The above text mostly covers issues particularly relevant to the GNU Midnight Commander. There are more detailed documents applicable to other projects as well. It is recommended that you spend some time and read those documents. Your chances to get useful answers will increase. You chances to be treated like an annoyance will decrease. Those documents are worth every minute you spend reading them.

How To Ask Questions The Smart Way, by Eric Raymond and Rick Moen:

How to Report Bugs Effectively, by Simon Tatham

How to Reply to Messages on Usenet or the Art of Quoting, by Erik Hensema

Configuring Mail Clients to Send Plain ASCII Text