Mac OS X and Midnight Commander: The Missing “Insert” Key

I do a lot of work at a Unix command line interface on the MacBook Pro. One of the very handy things I use pretty much all the time is the GNU Midnight Commander (mc) application. This is a text-mode file manager interface that sets up two panels that can show two different directories, and provides most of the file operations one needs to get things done.

One thing that I’ve missed for some time is an “Insert” key, which I have under Windows, FreeBSD, or Linux, but the MacBook keyboard doesn’t have one. In mc, “Insert” tags individual entries for group operations. I had done some Googling before without success, but this morning hit paydirt: <ctrl>-T will tag an individual entry in mc. That made cleaning up after some of the automated processes I’ve been running much more pleasant.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

84 thoughts on “Mac OS X and Midnight Commander: The Missing “Insert” Key

  • 2008/08/08 at 8:50 am

    Thanks, MUCH appreciated ;-)

  • 2008/08/11 at 6:21 pm

    Wow, today is my day – I was googling for Insert key last 2 years since I moved to Mac everywhere on my work and home…. Thank you very much!

  • 2008/09/02 at 10:48 am

    Man, I have been looking sooo much for this thing!
    This is one of the missing pieces to make OS X and Macbook Pro perfect. ;-)

    Thanks, Thanks, Thanks, Thanks, Thanks! ;-)

  • 2008/09/17 at 12:48 pm

    Many thanks man!!

  • 2008/11/06 at 5:20 am

    Many thanks man. This missing key was nagging at me quite a while…..;-)

  • 2008/12/12 at 3:31 am

    Wow! Thanks a million! I was searching for this for long time. :-)

  • 2008/12/20 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks :) . That helped a lot :)
    i’ve just moved to a mac a couple of months ago, and that was really a missing key :) …

  • 2009/01/02 at 3:02 pm

    thanks alot dude

  • 2009/01/29 at 4:08 pm

    For some reason finding out specific things about mc is almost as hard as finding things about screen (which may be because both programs are almost ungoogleable).

  • 2009/01/30 at 3:50 am

    Thank you very much, i have been searching for insert key for a long time. It helps alot on MC under linux, its a life saver and a timer saver.

    You just made my day.

  • 2009/04/21 at 6:55 am


  • 2009/07/31 at 10:58 am

    man, you’re my hero!!!!

    i converted to apple in 2004 and also use mc a lot. the missing insert key was the most annoying thing ever.

    about every 2 months i googled again and again. found nothing. since today ;)

    you REALLY made my day. thank you very very much!

    best regards

  • 2009/08/02 at 12:19 pm

    Exactly what I was looking for – thanks for posting this tip!

  • 2009/08/11 at 12:37 pm

    thanks heaps!!!

  • 2009/11/18 at 5:04 am

    Many thanks !! I was looking for this.

  • 2009/11/26 at 9:43 am

    thanks a lot!

  • 2010/01/18 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks a lot!

    Ironically I’ll use it in my last days of owning a mac, to save my data.

  • 2010/02/07 at 1:24 pm

    Man, you have saved my day! I was tearing my hair out…

  • 2010/02/07 at 9:25 pm

    It had me tearing my hair out, which is why I tracked it down. I’m glad that others have been able to benefit.

  • 2010/02/11 at 2:22 am

    Thanks much for this info! I went as far as trying to make mc “learn” the weird “enter” key (between the arrow keys and the right-cmd) as insert, but it keeps pressing enter…..

    Oh well, ctrl-t is an easy price to pay vs well, anything else!

  • 2010/04/16 at 8:42 am

    Thank you so much! :)

  • 2010/05/05 at 2:34 pm

    many thanks, i was looking at my keyboard.. thinking-. and now where is the Ins key ? lol

  • 2010/05/21 at 3:38 am

    Thanks man !
    I am googling for it like 30 min and started to get desperate…

    Thanks again !

  • 2010/07/14 at 10:56 pm

    Sos muy groso pibe, sabelo!


    Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • 2010/08/24 at 3:52 am

    hey there,
    thanks for that hint. i have been looking for the insert key several times. as i worked with mc today on a macbook again, i eventually found your page.

  • 2010/11/11 at 1:41 pm


    I too looked for a way to simulate / remap insert key on mac just to select files in MC, and it haven’t crossed my mind to look for alternative keys in MC.


  • 2010/11/28 at 1:14 pm

    after this article macbook be perfect!
    A lot of thanks!!!!

  • 2011/01/20 at 6:06 pm

    10x, been looking for this for a few days now :)

  • 2011/02/15 at 9:22 pm

    The “insert” key is NOT Ctrl-t on a Mac!
    The reason Ctrl-t works for tagging files, is because it is another command for this action according to the manual:

    Right mouse click also tags/untags individual files.

    The mouse, of course, is not supported in the regular, but it is fully supported in xterm or uxterm that come with X11. I prefer using uxterm simply because it has Unicode UTF-8 support.

    X11 comes on the install DVD as an additional/optional install.

    Midnight Commander looks a lot better in X11’s xterm/uxterm.

    There is a newer version of MC, as a Rudix package for Mac:

    Going back to the “insert” key, in MC editor (mcedit) “Copy to clipfile” is C-Ins, and “Paste from clipfile” is S-Ins. Unfortunately, CTRL-t does not function as the “insert” key for these two commands.

  • 2011/02/15 at 9:26 pm

    I want to add that iTerm ( also has full mouse support. However, mc in iTerm looks just as ugly as in the That’s why I use X11/uxterm.

  • 2011/02/16 at 7:40 am

    Vlad, thanks for the additional information. I did not intend to imply that “ctrl-t” operated outside of mc for any “insert”-like functionality.

  • 2011/02/16 at 9:35 am

    Yes, I know you did not mean that. It is a substitute key for this particular command.
    Unfortunately, as I said, in mcedit, there is no way of using shortcuts for Copy/Cut to/Paste from clipfile, because of the missing true “Insert” key.

  • 2011/03/05 at 4:45 am

    Thank you :)
    Very helpful. (i’m back to using mc normal)

  • 2011/03/10 at 2:18 am

    5 Stars, Was looking for it for a while …

  • 2011/05/09 at 9:17 am

    Finallly, man u saved my live

  • 2011/07/14 at 6:21 am

    Ok, that hint just saved me 20 hours of work. Thanks a bunch!

  • 2011/08/09 at 8:55 am

    Finally, Its mad how hard to find such an important key for Midnight Commander. I use it to select some files. Finally!

  • 2011/09/19 at 8:42 am

    Thanks a lot!

  • 2011/11/16 at 12:09 pm

    BTW, did anyone find the Pattern selection shortcut?

  • 2011/11/26 at 9:04 pm

    Super great tip!!!!

  • 2012/03/14 at 12:11 pm

    I risked my email address and event entered a captcha just to say – thank you :-)

  • 2012/03/23 at 1:24 am

    Many many thanks!!!!

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