A minimalist fuzzy finder – fzf

I am constantly trying to simplify my life. This process includes my digital life as well. Gone are the days when my desktop screen used to be full of shortcuts to various folders I would be working upon. Now, when I open my computer, it greets me with just a nice wallpaper. There are no icons anywhere. Earlier, I used to have the dock (a bar of icons of your favorite apps) at the bottom of the desktop. Now, it has disappeared too and has become a sidebar containing very few icons (file browser,  a shortcut for opening list of apps, and some minimized documents). It shows up gracefully only when I press the window key or hover the mouse there. (I have to keep it for the sake of people who want to do something on my laptop and are irritated by seeing just a screen with wallpaper.)

How do I open a program on your computer? How do I find a folder or file on which I want to work?  I use desktop search via the window key of my computer to do some of these tasks. Yet, I used to end up doing it in the traditional way for some tasks: open a program from a menu, opening the folder by going through the whole hierarchy, and then opening the relevant file. The window key doesn’t always work because it is linked to a program that may not recognize all of the programs or files. The desktop search may not find the file you are looking for or may be too slow.

I solved this problem by using the  zsh terminal along with fzf to fuzzy search for files, folders, and history on my computer. You can think of this approach as a super hack that replaces your window key or any other search app you are using.

I open my terminal (guake) by pressing the F12 key. Then, I do a fuzzy search along with a fzf shortcut to find or launch what I need. There are three main key-bindings for fzf. To search a folder, press alt+c; to search a file, press ctrl+t; and to search a command, press ctrl+r.

What is the fuzzy search? Suppose I need a file called “Fuzzy finder fzf.txt”. I will simply type “Fuzzy”. The fzf script will automatically list all files with the word “Fuzzy” for me to select from. If the list is small, I select the right file by arrow key and press enter to open it. Otherwise, I narrow down the search by typing another word, say “fzf” or “txt”. The idea behind fuzzy search is that I can type any unique set of letters present in the file name and I end up with the file at my fingertips. So, I can find the file “Fuzzy  finder fzf.txt” by simply typing “z z z” if it is the only file whose name contains four z’s.

For a more detailed description, see the post by Ryan Selk. You can download fzf and learn more about it from its GitHub repository by Junegunn Choi.


Life without smartphone

It has been more than one year that I have not used my smartphone.

I was a smartphone addict for more than three years of my life. One day, my phone broke down. After initial shock was over, I realised that I don’t need it anymore and didn’t repair it. This realisation was not sudden. My phone had impaired my life, relationships, communication, and productivity. It took an accident to initiate a change I was not willing on my own.  It was difficult to drop something I have associated with my identity. The association was so strong that I had made my phone part of the way I do various things.It dictated my life from the moment I would wake up to its alarm. I had to struggle to put it off before sleeping. Sometimes, I used it even during sleep to record my sleep quality. It told me how much I walked every day. Often, I used it as a portable scanner. Once, I dropped it from a height of about one meter and used its sensors to record the free fall (there is an app for that!). This allowed me to measure the acceleration due to gravity, an experiment I had not done in my school. The list is endless.

Now, I am using Nokia 130 that cost me Rs. 1500 last year. (I wonder that you can own a smartphone with this cost in few years. The rates of smartphones are going down as the market is growing. Yet, nobody cares about simple feature phones. They still cost too much.) I use my simple and reliable phone to make and attend calls and to send text messages. Also, I receive messages from my banks and other service providers on it. Occasionally, I use it as an alarm clock. Often, I use it as a clock as I do not wear a wrist watch and as I prefer not to have clocks on the walls. It excels at these tasks. It’s battery often lasts for a week. What a peaceful life! I don’t wish for more.

Yes, I do not miss my smartphone. I realized that I did not really need the 7 times 24 hour connectivity it was providing me. It was not an empowerment but a hindrance to productivity. However, it gave an illusion of empowerment. Though, it was like an office on fingertips, yet I could not do any real work as it was too small and naive for that. Or my real work is much more complex than a smartphone can handle. In other words, I finally discovered that my smartphone is too dumb for me.

I only miss my smartphone once or twice every month when I have to make some utility bill payments or book an urgent train ticket when I do not have internet connectivity. Yet , I discovered that it is good not to have everything you need. In exceptional situations, I can borrow a smartphone from someone around me to do this. In return, I give the person undivided attention: something I didn’t give during the days of my smartphone addiction.