Day-to-Day Tools

I have a ton of little programs I use on a day-to-day basis just to make my life easier. I figured it would be fun to share them so other people could either copy them or be inspired to make there own. I have blogged about some of these tools before and will link to the appropriate full posts when applicable.

Note that these are in somewhat arbitrary order such that the things are grouped near related items. There are even more that I left out which you can see at github.

πŸ”— Desktop Tools

πŸ”— Unicode Selection

The following four tools, taken together, allow me to select a unicode character by name, which then gets placed in my copy buffer, and then I can paste it. It may sound silly but it’s pretty handy for certain characters. I’d like to get XCompose working at some point to bolster this but this works better for less commonly typed characters. I use this a handful of times a day.

  • prints all unicode characters (by name.)

  • prepend-emoji-hist ( | prefix-emoji-hist ~/.uni_history) prints out the deduplicated lines from the passed file, converting characters to unicode names, and then printing out the lines from STDIN, filtering out what’s already been printed. In short: it prepends the history.

  • showuni shows a dmenu of unicode characters (by name) and stores selection into ~/.uni_history.

  • store-hist (echo -n "foo" | store-hist ~/.history) is basically tee -a but only writes a single line and always adds a newline. Only used with showuni at the moment, but might bake it into the others to allow preferring recent selections.

An honorary member of the tools above is shrug, which copies Β―\_(ツ)_/Β― to my copy buffer. I should figure out how to merge it into something above.

πŸ”— showdm

Show dmenu, to select program to run (eg firefox.) I use this a few times a day.

πŸ”— showsession

Show dmenu of vim sessions to resume. (More details here and to a lesser extent here.) I use this a few times a day.

πŸ”— screenshot-to-text

Prompts the user to make a partial screen selection with the mouse, and then runs OCR on the screenshot and places the results in the copy buffer. For best results make text of size 16 or higher. It is absurd that I have no post for this. Used maybe once a month but I get really stoked every time.

πŸ”— scenery

Randomly show a different background from the ~/Dropbox/Pictures/wallpaper directory, every 25 minutes. I sorta think this is stupid and want to stop using it, but every time I go to delete it I can’t bring myself to.

πŸ”— type-clipboard

This tool fixes the annoying problem of websites blocking paste. It simply types out whatever is in the clipboard. Lifesaver.

πŸ”— xclip

An xclip wrapper that uses a less bizarre default selection buffer.

πŸ”— Custom URI Handlers

The following four tools are custom URI handlers. I wrote all about these a while back. I use these fairly often with my personal reference system.

And the following two exists almost solely to support the email-handler, though I could see writing some program to make a CLI fogbugz handler.

  • xdg-open is a fork of xdg-open that adds support for Terminal=true support.
  • xdg-terminal is a terminal wrapper run by the above.

πŸ”— file-manager

Runs my choice of file manager. For some reason I periodically forget the completely arbitrary string: pcmanfm. Used maybe once a week when I forget that string.

πŸ”— lock-now

Runs screen locker. Used constantly.

πŸ”— Docker Tools

πŸ”— docker-pstree

Print the pstree of the passed container. Read all about this here and to a lesser extent here. I rarely use this but when I do it’s really handly. docker-root-pids prints the root pids of the passed container and was written to support docker-pstree and mentioned in the inital blog post.


Run the obscurely named container. I could and maybe should write a whole blog post about this. The short version is that this exists solely so that awesomewm won’t block on the network when showing my weather widgets. Runs automatically when I start my X session.

πŸ”— Generic Wrappers

πŸ”— replace-unzip

Reimplementation of unzip. Leaves out .DS_Store and other OS cruft, wraps output files in a directory if no root directory was created. Another tool that probably deserves it’s own post.

πŸ”— wrap-tar

Wraps tar to encourage me to not use muscle memory for longer command flags.

πŸ”— Git Tools

πŸ”— gg

Like ag but using git grep. Not in the habit of using this yet.

πŸ”— git

See complete post here.

πŸ”— git-amend-file-split

Splits most recent commit into a separate commit per file. I used this when I had to manually clean up a boatload of git history.

πŸ”— git-revert-whitespace-changes

Remove whitespace only changes from the current checkout. This is from back when I had hooks to automatically fix whitespace on save.

πŸ”— Mail Tools

I have written too much about these already.

πŸ”— Address File Management

  • addrdedup deduplicates addresses based on the mutt address format.
  • addrlookup-fast uses grep to quickly search a preformatted address file.
  • addrs is a newish tool that also probably should have it’s own blog post. It builds an address file based on a glob of emails, ordered by “frecency.” I use an algorithm from Mozilla. What I like best about this is that I generate the list in the background; the actual realtime lookup is done simply using addrlookup-fast.
  • sync-addresses creates fresh mutt address file using tools above. Carefully written to not clobber the existing address file, which was fun for me.

πŸ”— email-fix-in-reply-to

Complicated; read about it here.

πŸ”— live-email

List and view emails directly via IMAP. live-email -h for more details. Has bugs because python.

πŸ”— mail-picture

Creates resized copies of all passed filenames to 1024x768 and initiates a new email containing them via mutt. I used to use this a lot when sharing baby pictures with my family. Now I just text them the pictures.

πŸ”— Postfix Monitoring

  • postqueue-checker just executes postqueue-notify every ten minutes. Would use cron but couldn’t figure out how to get X11 notifications to work from cron.
  • postqueue-notify finds out if I have enqueued emails that are over five minutes old. It’s sad that I need this, but I have some weird problems with postfix where it will continue to resolve gmail’s smtp servers as IPv6 addresses even when I am in a location that only supports IPv4 traffic. I was grimly delighted that this helped me out the day I wrote it and the following day.

πŸ”— top-post

An attempt at generically trimming emails for brief responses to very long emails. Currently unused and very flakey.

πŸ”— Misc Tools

πŸ”— ascii-ify

Silly filter that removes all non-ASCII characters, and replaces a couple UTF-8 characters with ascii versions.

πŸ”— backlight

I used to use xbacklight to dim my laptop’s screen, but it has a weird delay caused by dbus or something, so I wrote backlight, which is way less generic but is instant and simple.

πŸ”— clock

This silly thing goes in my prompt and prints the unicode character that represents the clock face for the current time. Simply to remind me that time is fleeting and not to waste it.

πŸ”— clocks

My personal, digital, wall of clocks. Used a few times a week.

πŸ”— csv2json

The actual inspiration for this post. I have been using Athena a lot lately and the output is CSV, but I don’t have great commandline tools for CSV. This simply converts the CSV to JSON using the first line as the keys.

πŸ”— diff-hunk-list

Tool to assist in iterating over chunks of a diff in vim.

πŸ”— dog

Like cat, but better; works with directories too. Strangely preΓ«xists my knowledge that cat actually used to work with directories.

πŸ”— expand-url

Filter that reads lines prefixed with $ntabs and newline separated links; writes title of page prefixed with $n tabs and link prefixed with $n + 1 tabs. Used fairly often with my personal filing system.

πŸ”— fn

Create persistent functions by actually writing scripts. Example usage:

fn count-users 'wc -l < /etc/passwd'

I can’t believe I don’t use this more.

πŸ”— fressh

Awesome tool to ensure I have dotfiles wherever I go. Read about it here. Used multiple times a day.

πŸ”— fx

Firefox wrapper that reads from standard in instead of requiring a filename. Used fairly often.

πŸ”— graph-by-date

Graphs time series data by parsing CSV from standard in.

πŸ”— group-by-date

Creates time series data (likely used with the above graph-by-date) by counting lines and grouping them by a given date format.

πŸ”— minotaur

Watches a list of directories defined in the json document in the file in the first argument, and restarts the runit service by sending SIGTERM, SIGCONT, and telling the supervisor to start the service. I have a version of this at work that is more generically useful. I sorta wanna rewrite it in Go since a tool like this feels weird and bloated in Perl.

πŸ”— netrc-password

netrc-password [email protected]

Gets a password from your netrc file. (Login is optional.)

πŸ”— paste_edit

Creates a temporary file containing the contents of the copy buffer, allows the user to edit it with gvim, and the submits the contents to a pastebin via nopaste. Rarely used; not sure why.

πŸ”— perl-browse

Pass a module name (eg File::Find) and shows it in vim. To browse as if you were in a web browser, press gf over other modules (like File::Basename) and to go back press CTRL-O. I use this fairly often. I really like it.

πŸ”— plain

Strips formatting from any text in the copy buffer. Not used that often.

πŸ”— pomotimer

pomotimer 2.5m

Handy terminal based timer especially for The Pomodoro Technique. Allows pausing, resuming, and aborting the timer entirely. If a blink(1) is running and the blink1-tool is installed, will pomotimer will slowly decrease light from bright red to black, ending with 5 green blinks.

πŸ”— rand

One indexed random number picker. Handy.

πŸ”— screen-res

Prints the screen resolution. I used to use this when I used rdesktop to connect to windows. Still handy sometimes.

πŸ”— skip

$ perl -E'say for 1..10' | skip 9

Skips the passed amount of lines.

πŸ”— Perl Tools

πŸ”— abc

$ abc LWP::UserAgent '$ua = A->new; say length $ua->get("")->content'

Runs passed perl script, with the leading tokens being loaded and aliased as A, B, C, etc.

πŸ”— compile-mkit

compile-mkit ./mkit/password-reset '{ username frew link http://test }'

Compile and render an mkit to STDOUT. Takes path of mkit and JSONY doc as the data. I don’t use this since we don’t (yet?) use mkit at my current job.

πŸ”— Work Tools

Almost none of the code for work runs on my actual laptop, but I like to make it feel local, so I have a bunch of little wrapper scripts for commonly run commands to run inside of my sandbox. More importantly is run-d, which runs a command (as in run-d ls ~) inside of my sandbox as my user with lots of env vars set. Closely related is run-s, which runs the command over ssh instead of execing directly, so that the command has access to my ssh-agent.

(The following includes affiliate links.)

This post is already too long, but I absolutely have to mention The Unix Programming Environment. My friend and coworker Mark Jason Dominus gave me his copy and it has been great. I wish that they made books like this nowadays. It’s a solid survey of Unix tech and a surprising amount of it still applies, thirty four years later.

Even ignoring the specifics, the viewpoint of improving your environment instead of living with the pain of what the vendor shipped you is something that resonates deeply with me (which is hopefully obvious at this point.) I might write a whole post about this book at some point, but even if I don’t consider this post a spiritual followup of that book.

I hope some of the tools above inspire you to make your own tools or soften the edges of some of the things you use on a daily basis.

Posted Fri, Apr 7, 2017

If you're interested in being notified when new posts are published, you can subscribe here; you'll get an email once a week at the most.