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Re: Feature Request: Removal of '-f' Short Option in 'rm' Command

From: Bernhard Voelker
Subject: Re: Feature Request: Removal of '-f' Short Option in 'rm' Command
Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2023 20:05:24 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla Thunderbird

On 9/25/23 08:12, Owen Chia wrote:
Dear GNU Coreutils Team,

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to propose a feature request 
regarding the 'rm' command in GNU Coreutils. Specifically, I would like to 
suggest the removal of the '-f' short option, while retaining the '--force' 
long option.

The rationale behind this proposal stems from the observation that the '-f' 
short option has led to numerous accidental deletions due to its ease of use 
and associated muscle memory. By removing the short option and encouraging the 
use of the longer '--force' option, we can mitigate such unintended 
consequences and promote safer usage of the 'rm' command.

Besides - what Arsen mentioned already - that POSIX requires -f, I think 
there's a
misunderstanding about how -f works.

From `rm --help`:

  -f, --force           ignore nonexistent files and arguments, never prompt

What ignoring nonexistent files means is clear, but when would rm(1) prompt?

E.g. it does not prompt when deletion easily works.
The following delete a 4-level directory hierarchy with 40 directories
and 81 files:

  $ mkdir -p testdir/a{1..3}/b{1..3}/c{1..3}
  $ touch testdir/a{1..3}/b{1..3}/c{1..3}/file{1..3}
  $ rm -r testdir -v 2>&1 | wc -l

But rm(1) would prompt if e.g. a file in the tree is read-only.

Furthermore, even if we removed the -f option (and thus violate POSIX),
the request is not feasible.  Millions of scripts are using -f.
Should uses of `rm -f` fail with "invalid option" and render all those
scripts invalid?  No.
Or should it silently be ignored ... but all the script rely on '-f' e.g. for
nonexistent files?  No.

It is nearly impossible to change such well-known and often used options which
exist since almost half a century.

Have a nice day,

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