Adding History to fpp (Facebook PathPicker)

I’ve been a fan of fpp (Facebook PathPicker) since I first heard about it. I had long been looking for something like this and had even considered writing it myself. Fortunately someone else spared me the work and did a much better job than I would have.

It’s no exaggeration to say that I use this utility every day at $work. In fact I use it many times per hour. It’s part of my normal workflow now. For example, I like to pipe the output of git status to fpp and then pick and choose some unit tests I’ve edited and then run them. I may need to do this many times over the course of a day. The problem is that fpp doesn’t have a proper built in history. Having to go through this process of picking through the output of a git status many times per day is a bit of a time sink. It’s still maybe faster than what I would have done before, but it feels like jumping through hoops. I want to be able to replay any command I’ve just run. It should be easy, right?

As it happens, there’s already a file which fpp creates after each run. It’s found in ~/.fpp/ and it’s executable. So, my first attempt at solving this problem was to add a shell alias: alias redo='sh ~/.fpp/'. This lets me re-run the _very last_ command which I’ve just run via fpp. I now have instant replay.

However, if I’ve used fpp for something else in the meantime, the results of that command replace whatever was in ~/.fpp/ I can’t magically get back to the penultimate command which I ran, since it’s now lost forever. After playing with this for a few hours, I realized that I really do need to be able to replay my entire history, since I want to be able to pick an arbitrary command and re-run it. Having to remember exactly what I did last before running redo was getting to be frustrating.

As part of the process, I found an open Github issue for fpp history. After I commented it on it, @pcottle made the following very helpful suggestion, which was to alias fpp and wrap it with my own history logic. That seemed like a good idea. So let’s look at what we have to work with.

On my machines, ~/.fpp/ generally looks something like this, where the _second last_ line in the file contains the line which I want to re-execute. (There’s a blank line which starts the file, but my syntax highlighter seems to be stripping it away here).

I figured I could pretty easily grab this line from ~/.fpp/ and log it to my own history file. I’d then add a little functionality to make it all easier to work with. I had thought about doing this in Perl, but just keeping everything in my .bashrc file felt like it was going to be the most portable solution. I didn’t want to have to do anything more complicated than updating and sourcing my dot files in order to get this to work.

The code which I came up with does the following:

  • Appends the second last line of ~/.fpp/ to my own history file every time fpp is run
  • Adds a --redo flag, which execs the last line of the history file, when there are no accompanying arguments
  • Adds a --history flag which will print the contents of this history file to the screen, with accompanying line numbers
  • Execs an arbitrary line from the history file if --redo is supplied with a positive integer. (The integers correspond to the line numbers provided by fpp --history). So, fpp --redo 10 execs line 10 from fpp --history. It’s a bit like !10 to get to command 10 after running history in your shell.
  • Execs an abitrary line from the history file (moving backwards) if --redo is supplied with a negative integer. ie fpp --redo -1 execs the last line in the file. fpp --redo -2 execs the second last line etc

I’m not by any stretch an expert in shell scripting, so I did a lot of searching on StackOverflow, copy/pasting and bugging my colleagues at $work. Eventually and quite happily I’ve come up with an incantation which suits my needs.

This is what I added to my .bashrc. Usage is contained inline, in the comments.

This will get out of date over time, so the canonical version should always be found in my dot-files repo.

If you’d like to see something like this built into fpp itself, it wouldn’t hurt to bump the issue I mentioned above. I hope someone finds this helpful.