pms(1) Practical Music Search, an ncurses-based MPD client


pms [-?] [-v] [-d] [-h hostname ] [-c configfile ] [-p port ] [-P password ]


Practical Music Search aims to be a highly accessible and configurable client to the Music Player Daemon. It features key mapping, customized colors, a command-line mode, several modes of play, and an easy but powerful interface.


Show command-line options and exit
Print version and exit
Turn on debugging to stderr
-h hostname
Connect to MPD server hostname
-c configfile
Use configfile as an additional configuration file
-p port
Connect to port on MPD server
-P password
Specify password for the MPD server


Configuration is done in three parts: options, key bindings, and colors.

Options, bindings and colors can be set at runtime by entering command mode (default binding :) or can be preset in a configuration file.

Configuration files are loaded in a specific order in line (almost) with the XDG Base Directory Specification ( Possible directories are collected from the environment variables XDG_CONFIG_DIRS and XDG_CONFIG_HOME (the former defaults in PMS to /usr/local/etc/xdg:/etc/xdg rather than just /etc/xdg as in the spec, the latter defaults to $HOME/.config as in the spec).

Each path in order from lowest priority (the last entry in XDG_CONFIG_DIRS) to highest (XDG_CONFIG_HOME) is suffixed with /pms/rc and if this file exists it is loaded. Finally, if a configuration file was specified on the commandline this file is loaded.

Setting options

String, integer and enumerated options are set with
set option=value

Boolean options are set with

set option
and reset with
set nooption
They can be toggled with
set option!
set invoption

Values can be retrieved with

set option?

se is an alias for set and : can be used in place of =.

Setting bindings

Key bindings are set with
bind key command
and removed with
unbind key

key can be any single character, in addition to these special characters: up, down, left, right, pageup, pagedown, home, end, space, delete, insert, backspace, return, kpenter, tab. When unbinding, you can specify all as a parameter to remove all bindings.

map is an alias for bind, while unmap and unm are aliases for unbind.

Setting colors

Colors are defined with
color item foreground [background]

colour is an alias for color.

The hostname to connect to. Default: localhost
The port on the MPD server to connect to. Default: 6600
The password to give to the MPD server. Default: none
Optional path to the library's root. See !string below. If used, it should have a trailing slash. Default: empty string (nothing is prepended)
If set, the XTerm window title will be set to the specified string. Default: PMS: %playstate%%ifcursong% %artist% - %title%%endif%
If a connection is lost, this is how many seconds between each connection retry. Default: 30
How many log lines to keep in the console. A value of 0 keeps all lines. Default: 1024
Sets MPD connection timeout in seconds. Leave this lower than your MPD setting. Default: 30
debug (boolean)
Turn debugging mode on or off. Default: set
Choose between single or a boolean value. Default: off
MPD does not support manual progression within the playlist. A hack is necessary to stop when the song is done. If manual song progression is not working correctly, increase this value. Default: 1
This setting controls how many seconds from the current song ends until PMS automatically adds the next song to MPD's playlist. Default: 5
Set crossfade time in seconds. 0 turns crossfade off completely. Default: MPD's settings
Specify a shell command to run when the playlist finishes and playback stops. Default: none
addtoreturns (boolean)
If set, the add-to command will return focus to the original window. Else, the destination will be focused. Default: unset
followplayback (boolean)
If set, the cursor will go to the currently playing song and playlist when it changes. Default: unset
followwindow (boolean)
If set, playback will continue in the active window. Default: unset
followcursor (boolean)
If set, playback will follow cursor position. Default: unset
nextafteraction (boolean)
Move cursor to next item after the song is selected, unselected or added to a playlist. Default: set
The list which is activated and shown at program startup. This can be playlist, library or an arbitrary name of an existing playlist. Default: playlist
regexsearch (boolean)
Use regular expressions for search terms. Default: set
ignorecase (boolean)
Ignore case when sorting and searching. The alias ic can also be used. Default: set
Set scroll mode

The following modes are available:

The list only scrolls when the cursor is about to go off the top or bottom of the window. See the scrolloff option.
The cursor is always in the middle of the window except when it is near the top or bottom of the list. The spelling centred is also accepted.
The position of the cursor in the confines of the window is proportional to the position of the visible songs relative to the whole song list. Try it out to get a better idea of how it works.

Default: normal

When scroll is set to normal, try to keep this many songs above and below the cursor at all times. The alias so can also be used. Default: 0
Set song progression mode to manual, linear or random. In manual progression mode playback will stop at the end of each song. Default: linear
Set how many seconds before resetting the statusbar text. Default: 3
sort=field [field [...]]
Fields by which to sort the library. You can specify multiple fields, separated by whitespace. See FIELDS below. Default: track disc album albumartistsort
columns=column [column [...]]
Columns to show in the list. See FIELDS below. Default: artist track title album length
Status strings. Defaults: ??, |>, ||, [] or, when Unicode is available, single characters which I can't figure out how to print in this manpage.
mouse (boolean)
If set, the mouse is active. Mouse support is incomplete and the slightly hacky mousewheel support available with standard versions of ncurses is less than ideal, but the actions below have been implemented.

Mouse actions:

Click to toggle play/pause, doubleclick to stop, mousewheel down to skip to the next track, mousewheel up to skip to the previous track, control-mousewheel to turn volume up or down
header ('Playlist', 'Library' etc)
Click or scroll mousewheel down to switch to the next window, doubleclick or scroll mousewheel up to switch to the previous window
Click to place the cursor, control-click or click right button to place cursor and toggle selection, doubleclick to place cursor and play, tripleclick to place cursor and add to playlist (if there is a selection, the selection will be added and the song clicked will just be selected), scroll mousewheel to scroll the list up and down
Click to enter command mode

Default: unset

topbarspace (boolean)
Whether or not to leave an extra space at the end of fixed-width columns. Default: set
topbarvisible (boolean)
If set, the topbar is visible. Default: set
topbarborders (boolean)
Whether or not to draw borders on the topbar window. Default: unset
columnspace (boolean)
Whether or not to leave a blank row between the topbar and the playlist windows. Default: set
topbarclear (boolean)
Start out with an empty topbar. Default: unset
Modify what is displayed in the topbar. The spelling centre is also accepted. See TOPBAR below for format syntax, available fields and defaults.
Available variables to put in the topbar:
librarysize, listsize, queuesize, livequeuesize, time_elapsed, time_remaining, progresspercentage, progressbar, playstate, volume, repeat, repeatshort, random, randomshort, mute, muteshort, manual, manualshort, bitrate, samplerate, bits, channels

All FIELDS below can also be used.

Conditionals (if-else) are supported. Currently available conditionals:
ifcursong, ifplaying, ifpaused, ifstopped

See the defaults below for how conditionals are used.

The topbar syntax allows free customization of the top area of the display. The best way to understand the syntax is to take a look at the defaults:

set topbar1.left=%time_elapsed% %playstate% %time%%ifcursong% (%progresspercentage%%%)%endif%

set topbar1.right=Vol: %volume%%% Mode: %muteshort%%repeatshort%%randomshort%%manualshort%
set> %title% <==%else%No current song%endif%
set topbar3.left=%listsize%
set (%year%)%endif%
set topbar3.right=Q: %livequeuesize%
Available fields are:
num, file, artist, artistsort, albumartist, albumartistsort, title, album, track, trackshort, time, date, year, name, genrecomment
Items available for coloring:
background, foreground, statusbar, error, position, borders, headers, title, current, cursor, selection, lastlist, playinglist, fields.* topbar.foreground, topbar.time_elapsed, topbar.time_remaining, topbar.progresspercentage, topbar.progressbar, topbar.repeat, topbar.random, topbar.mute, topbar.repeatshort, topbar.randomshort, topbar.muteshort, topbar.librarysize, topbar.listsize, topbar.queuesize, topbar.livequeuesize, topbar.playstate, topbar.fields.*

Replace the wildcard * with any of the FIELDS described above.

The following colors can be used only as foreground colors:
gray, brightred, brightgreen, yellow, brightblue, brightmagenta, brightcyan
The following colors can be used either for background or foreground colors:
black, red, green, brown, blue, magenta, cyan, brightgray

The special color trans can only be used as a background color, and provides a transparent background.

The alternative spelling grey can be used in the place of gray, and light can be used in place of bright.


Play the song under the cursor
Add the selected song(s) to the playlist

If a playlist is selected in windowlist mode, that list is appended to the playlist.

Add the selected song(s) to a chosen playlist
Play the next song from the playlist or library based on current play mode
Play the next song from playlist or library, regardless of play mode
Play previous song
Pause playback or play if playback was paused; do nothing if playback is stopped
Stop playback
Rotate mode of playback through linear, random from playlist and manual (stop when each track finishes)
Toggle playback

Play from the current song if playback was stopped or paused, otherwise pause.

volume [string]
Set volume

string can be delta (+/-value, for instance +4) or absolute value (0~100). If run without any parameters, return the current volume.

Toggle mute
crossfade [integer]
Set crossfade time in seconds. If no integer is given, or integer is 0, toggle crossfade. If set to a negative value, turn crossfade off.
seek integer
Seek integer seconds (can be negative) in the playing song.
Rotate repeat mode through none, repeat one and repeat list

Adding and playing
Play all songs from the album of the song under the cursor
Play all songs from the selected artist
play-random [n]
Play one or n random songs from the library or visible list.
Add all songs from the selected album to playlist
Add all songs from the currently visible list to playlist

If part of the album already is at the bottom of the playlist the remainder is added.

Add all songs from the selected artist to the playlist
add-random [n]
Add one or n random songs from the visible list to the playlist.
Remove selected song from playlist

Playlist management
create string
Create a new empty playlist with given name
save string
Saves the current list view into a new playlist file with given filename
delete-list [string]
Permanently delete the named playlist if given or else the current playlist
Activate currently viewed list for playback
Crop the current playlist to the currently playing song
Crop the current playlist to the selected songs, or song under cursor
Clear the playlist
Shuffle the playlist
move integer
Move the selected songs by the given offset

A positive offset moves songs down; a negative offset moves songs up.

update [string]
Ask MPD to update the music library. string can be a file in the music library, or one of this, thisdir, current or currentdir.
select [string]
unselect [string]
toggle-select [string]
Select, unselect or toggle selection of songs matching a search term

If no parameter is given, the song under the cursor is affected.

Unselect all songs in the playlist

Show info in the status bar about the current song
Show current key bindings
Enter command mode, where you can enter configuration options or perform other commands (including those which are not mapped to any key)
change-window enum
Change the active window to playlist, library or windowlist
Move to the next window
Move to the previous window
Switch to the previously viewed window
Force screen redraw
Reload the configuration file
Show version information
clear-topbar [integer]
Clear out all contents of the topbar or, if a parameter is given, only that line
Run a shell command

Some vim-like placeholders are available:

The current song's file path, not escaped in any way
The currently highlighted song's file path, not escaped in any way
The file path of each of the songs in the current selection or, if there is no selection, each song in the currently visible list. Each path is enclosed in double quotes.


!echo % | xclip
Copy the current song's file path to the X clipboard
!rox-filer $(dirname #)
Browse the directory containing the currently highlighted song with Rox-filer
!transcribe ##
Open the selected songs (or, with no selection, all songs on the playlist) in Transcribe
!cp ## /media/removabledrive
Copy the selected songs (or, with no selection, all songs on the playlist) to a USB stick or portable media player

All paths are prefixed with the string in the config variable libraryroot.

quit, q
Exit PMS

Movement and search
Move the cursor up

In command or quick-find mode move to the previous item in command or search history.

Move the cursor down.

In command or quick-find mode move to the next item in command or search history.

Move the cursor one half screen up
Move the cursor one half screen down
Move the cursor one screen up
Move the cursor one screen down
Move the cursor to the start of the list
Move the cursor to the end of the list
Scroll the list up one line (only acts differently from move-up if scroll is set to normal)
Scroll the list down one line (only acts differently from move-up if scroll is set to normal)
Scroll the list such that the cursor is centered (only has an effect when scroll is set to normal)
Enter filter mode: type to filter the current view for songs. Songs that don't match are removed from the view. Use the clear-filters command to return to the original view.
Clear all filters from the current playlist.
Enter quick-find mode: type to jump to next matched song
Find the next search result from the last quick-find
Find the previous search result from the last quick-find
next-of string
Parameter should be a field name (see FIELDS above) - jump to the next track in the list for which the field differs
prev-of string
Parameter should be a field name (see FIELDS above) - jump up the list to the first (topmost) of a set of tracks which have in common the next differing value of the given field

To put that another way, the cursor moves up until the given field changes, then keeps going until just before it would change again.

Jumps to the current playing song, if any
Jump to a random song in the playlist


/etc/xdg/pms/rc, /usr/local/xdg/pms/rc, ~/.config/pms/rc
Default paths to configuration files, loaded in this order (see the configuration section above)


Used to generate the default path to the configuration file if XDG_CONFIG_HOME is not set or empty
The prefix for the user-specific configuration file
Prefixes for system-wide configuration files
Specifies the host which MPD runs on
Specifies the port on which MPD listens
Specifies a password to send to MPD on connection


Written by Kim Tore Jensen <[email protected]> with help from Bart Nagel <[email protected]>.

The newest version can be obtained at <>.