[Short Tip] Accessing tabular nushell output for non-nushell commands

After I learned how subshells can be executed within nushell I was confident that I could handle that part. But few minutes ago I run into an error I didn’t really understand:

❯ rpm -qf (which dwebp)
error: Type Error
   ┌─ shell:24:16
   │
24 │ rpm -qf (which dwebp)
   │                ^^^^^ Expected string, found row

I thought the parameter was provided somehow in the wrong way, and put it into quotes: "dwebp". But it didn’t help. I tested around more with sub-shells, some of them worked while others didn’t. The error message was misleading for me, letting me think that there is a difference in how the argument is interpreted:

❯ rpm -qi (echo rpm)
Name        : rpm
Version     : 4.16.1.3
Release     : 1.fc34
[...]

❯ echo (which dwebp)
───┬───────┬────────────────┬─────────
 # │  arg  │      path      │ builtin 
───┼───────┼────────────────┼─────────
 0 │ dwebp │ /usr/bin/dwebp │ false   
───┴───────┴────────────────┴─────────

It took me a while until I understood what I was looking at – and to make the error message make sense: the builtin nushell command which can give back multiple results, thus returning a table. The builting nushell command echo returns a string!

Thus the right way to execute my query is to get the content of the cell of the table I am looking at via get:

❯ rpm -qf (which dwebp|get path|nth 0)
libwebp-tools-1.2.1-1.fc34.x86_64

Note that nth 0 is not strictly necessary here since there is only one item in the table anyway. But it might help as a reference for future examples.

You don’t have to use pipe, btw., there is an even shorter way available:

❯ rpm -qf (which dwebp|nth 0).path
libwebp-tools-1.2.1-1.fc34.x86_64

[Short Tip] Output/redirect content to a file in Nushell

And another short tip about Nushell – I promise that those will be less frequent the more I get used to it.

My current problem was: how do I redirect content to a file like echo hello > foo.txt and echo world >> foo.txt? The typical approach didn’t work:

❯ echo "hello" > foo.txt
───┬─────────
 0 │ hello   
 1 │ >       
 2 │ foo.txt 
───┴─────────

Yeah, certainly not what I had in mind. Instead, I had to rethink the approach here. What is what we want to do here? First we output content and need to save it to a file. The connection is a pipe, as usual in Nushell:

❯ echo hello | save foo.txt
❯ open foo.txt
hello

That worked! Second, we want to append something. So we need to open the file, append something, and save it again. In between all steps we need pipes – Nushell, after all:

❯ open foo.txt | append "world"| save --raw foo.txt
❯ open foo.txt
hello
world

Note that save needs the --raw flag here: it tries to be smart to guess in what format we want to save it, and for some reason in my case it didn’t save the new lines without the flag.

And that’s it. It is not as short as I would like it to be compared to Bash and others. On the other hand it is way more flexible (it can also handle structured data this way like json) and it is not like I use redirection all the time.