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Once you’ve switched to your chosen Linux distribution and gotten to grips with the user interface, you should be happy to continue. But what if you want extra functionality? What if clicking a mouse over a few menus isn’t delivering the power user experience you desire?

The answer, of course, is to embrace the command line. But as easy as it is to launch a terminal window (usually CTRL + ALT + T) or log out of the desktop to switch to the main command line, it can be difficult to remember each and every command that you need.

Here are the websites and books you need to become a command line master.

What Is the Command Line?

“Command line” is a generic term given text-based user interfaces. Windows has two (Command Prompt and Windows PowerShell Command Prompt vs. Windows PowerShell: What's the Difference? Command Prompt vs. Windows PowerShell: What's the Difference? Windows users can get by without using either the Command Prompt or PowerShell. But with Windows 10 and new features around the corner, maybe it's about time we learned. Read More ), as does macOS. In Linux, the command line is commonly referred to as

  • the command line,
  • the terminal (essentially an emulation of a classic PC terminal),
  • the console (another name for terminal),
  • a shell (a command line environment), or
  • bash.

Top Websites and Books to Transform You into a Linux Command Line Hero muo linux nautilus terminal ln

This latter name is an acronym of Bourne Again SHell, and is what appears on most Linux operating systems when the terminal is launched. A shell is essentially a program or environment that supports text-based commands.

So what can you do to learn these commands? You can practice, and spend lots of time in the shell. To help you, embrace books and websites that will help you to hone your ability in the terminal. Here are some suggestions.

Great Websites to Learn the Command Line

First, we’ll take a look at five great websites intended to help you learn more bash commands.

Top Websites and Books to Transform You into a Linux Command Line Hero muo linux commandline bashguide

1. The Bash Guide

Written mostly by Maarten Billemont, The Bash Guide — appropriately enough — is an open source collection of guides and exercises that you can use to get to grips with the command line.

Starting with the basics of what bash is, the different modes (interactive and non-interactive), and how it came to be, this site offers a comprehensive background to help you understand the mechanics of the command line.

2. The Linux Cookbook

The online version of the printed book of the same name, The Linux Cookbook is by Michael Stutz. This web-based version is in old-fashioned, unstyled, plain HTML, and as such doesn’t offer an easy read. It does, however, have a search feature, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding what you’re looking for.

Its sheer size and depth gives it a well-earned spot in this list. However, for an up-to-date version, you’ll need to head to Amazon.

3. Ryan’s Tutorials

You’ve got two reasons to check out Ryan’s Tutorials. First, there’s the Linux Tutorial section, which is split into 13 sections and aims to give you a series of tutorials to work through in order to develop your understanding of the command line.

In addition, there’s a Bash Scripting section, which explains the basic programming you can do in the command line. This covers variables, if statements, loops, and functions. If these are unfamiliar to you, worry not — they’re reasonably straightforward!

4. openSUSE User Guide

Hosted on the University of Cambridge’s IT Support website, the openSUSE 9.0 manual is an in-depth, searchable guide with a big chapter dedicated to the command line. Within moments of visiting this resource, you’ll be finding out about pipes and learning how to create an archive. Naturally, some prior knowledge is required!

Essentially an HTML manual, this is a pretty plain-looking site, but with a wealth of information that you can use to upgrade your command line knowledge.

5. Right Here at MakeUseOf!

Top Websites and Books to Transform You into a Linux Command Line Hero muo linux commandline muo

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our own contributions to the world of command line help. Over the years, MakeUseOf has produced numerous tutorials demonstrating how to use the command line. These include everything from shutting down your PC 5 Ways to Shut Down Your Linux Computer From the Command Line 5 Ways to Shut Down Your Linux Computer From the Command Line No operating system is perfect. Linux is no exception, and you'll need to restart at some point. But how? There are several shutdown commands available to Linux users. Read More to mounting disks and partitions Mounting Hard Disks and Partitions Using the Linux Command Line Mounting Hard Disks and Partitions Using the Linux Command Line Looking to get more from the Linux terminal? Learning how to manually mount and unmount your hard disks is a great place to start. Modern Linux distributions make this much easier and intuitive than ever. Read More .

So, feel free to bookmark our Linux section along with the other sites listed above.

Books with Command Line Knowledge You Should Read

It isn’t just websites where you’ll find a handy bunch of Linux commands to grab or immerse yourself in. These three books will prove particularly useful in developing your bash knowledge.

1. Command Line Kung Fu

With a full title of “Command Line Kung Fu: Bash Scripting Tricks, Linux Shell Programming Tips, and Bash One-liners, this book by Jason Cannon is surprisingly straightforward. Happily, it starts with some useful commands (such as sudo !! to run the last command as root), and finishes with observing command output.

Command Line Kung Fu: Bash Scripting Tricks, Linux Shell Programming Tips, and Bash One-liners Command Line Kung Fu: Bash Scripting Tricks, Linux Shell Programming Tips, and Bash One-liners Command Line Kung Fu Bash Scripting Tricks Linux Shell Programming Tips and Bash One Liners Buy Now At Amazon $14.05

On the way, it stops at every vital command, giving you context and background. These are crucial aspects of learning, and stop things from becoming dry. Better still is Cannon’s commentary throughout, which focuses on using the terminal as a tool.

2. The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

Courtesy of William E Shotts, this 2012 title is a great way into the command line. Although it styles itself as an “introduction,” this volume actually goes far deeper. Indeed, it could easily sit as a complete reference to the command line.

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction No Starch Press Buy Now At Amazon $37.95

On the downside, this book is a bit heavy going. The layout is good at highlighting commands and their variations, but — useful examples aside — it can be a tough read. Occasionally entire pages are given over to text without a hint of a command.

You can also access much of the contents of this book via the website www.linuxcommand.org.

3. Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible

Finally is this book from Richard Blum and Christine Bresnahan, part of the vast Wiley range of IT-related guide books. The third edition was published in 2015, and considers itself the “ultimate roadmap to direct communication with your system.” Standing at 816 pages, this is no inaccurate boast!

Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible Linux Command Line and Shell Scripting Bible Wiley Buy Now At Amazon $29.24

While the other two books in this list feature a sample of bash scripting, Blum & Bresnahan take this a step further. Here, you’ll find everything you need to develop a deep understanding of the command line and shell scripting. While it’s recommended that you read through in order, this volume also makes a good reference book.

Or, Just Use the Terminal!

Each time you get stuck using the Linux terminal, you can request help. This might be by simply typing help for general instructions, or it might be by including a switch (typically -h) at the end of a program-related command. The resulting screens of information should show you where you’re going wrong.

Top Websites and Books to Transform You into a Linux Command Line Hero muo linux commandline help

With so many ways to get a handle on the command line in Linux, it’s a surprise more people aren’t adept. But if you want full control over your Linux PC, the command line continues to be where the real power is held. With practice, it can be faster than dragging a mouse pointer across the screen.

Do you have expert knowledge of the terminal? How did you get to grips with it? Any tips to share with Linux newcomers? Tell us in the comments.

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  1. Jadu Saikia
    December 29, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    'The linux cookbook' and Mendel Cooper's 'Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide' are really useful. The IBM linux tutorials are also a good resource.

    // Jadu
    http://unstableme.blogspot.com/search/label/Bash

  2. hapihakr
    November 21, 2009 at 2:25 am

    IBM has a great set of tutorials to prepare for the Linux Professional Institute Certification (LPIC). They start with the basics and work through the higher levels of mastery. Might be a little too much for some, but if you really want to master Linux, then work your way through the tutorials. One Caveat... you do have to register on DeveloperWorks to gain access to the tutorials. Check it out: http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/linux/lpi/

    • Susan Linton
      November 21, 2009 at 1:33 pm

      Yeah, they do have some really in-depth articles there. It may be obvious, but they employ some of the most knowledgeable experts in the business there. Those articles are some of the most respected in Linux circles. I agree with you. Thanks for mentioning it.

  3. Susan Linton
    November 17, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    When I first realized that I could make the switch to Linux I still felt a bit lost and confused. So, I found this great introduction much like that Linux Cookbook and read it practically start to finish, word for word.

    Not only did it allow me to feel more comfortable and to use Linux more proficiently, but it enabled me to understand those cryptic man pages and those hard core users who attempted to help others. To this day I still strongly believe that reading that guide was the best thing I ever did for myself.

    • greg nam
      June 1, 2016 at 5:47 pm

      What is the name of this guide that helped you so much?
      Thx.

      • ronan
        June 7, 2016 at 3:17 pm

        7 years later man lol, she says it in the comment: The Linux Cookbook

  4. Dann
    November 17, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    A great way to learn the command line is to use a great 'newbie' friendly distro such as ubuntu, which comes with a great forum database as well as command auto-completion, a large selection of manual pages, as well as performing easy but repetitive tasks on it. (updating, upgrading commands, using command line text editors for configuration files, etc.)

    Another great way to learn the command line, but notsomuch for new users, is learning to compile your own programs. Or better yet, read up on gentoo or arch tutorials and see how things are built. (even if you don't actually install it).
    For users who really want to learn it quick, installing gentoo in a virtual machine is probably a very useful and safe way to learn.

  5. julio
    November 17, 2009 at 5:06 pm

    Command line sucks! those who use it are nerds low life people and basically they hate microsoft because they invented the GUI. GROWN up linux does not even meet the standards for everyday computing! the terminal makes it even worse! i think linux is the worse piece of software ever created i am sayin this cuz of the stupid low life terminal that every fat geek with fat glasses has to use. truth hurts i know

    • Linux Affic
      November 17, 2009 at 5:14 pm

      Open a dictionary. Look up "Ignorant" .. Ohh look there's a picture of 11 year old julio taking up the entire page.

      Fact: Linux is faster, more stable, more customizable, and just plain better in every single conceivable way.

    • David
      November 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm

      Who invented the Gui??
      Wrong it wasn't Microsoft
      Like all there other good ideas they "borrowed" it from someone else.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_graphical_user_interface

    • jymm
      May 3, 2015 at 11:10 am

      I use Linux, and NEVER use the terminal.

  6. Susan Linton
    November 16, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    commandlinekungfu is probably fun for those already scripting. and the tldp is a good reference, but it's kinda hard for new learners to navigate.

    • JBu92
      November 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm

      Well yeah, CMF is definitely for those who already have the basics down, as I said, but as this post is about how to become a Master...

  7. MiST
    November 16, 2009 at 6:54 pm
  8. Gerry
    November 16, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Forgot the granddaddy of them all: The Linux Documentation Project

  9. JBu92
    November 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    howabout CommandLineFu(.com)?
    it's not like a database, but once you've got the basics down, it's interesting to poke around there for odd tips like these-
    replacing text strings in multiple files
    finding cover art for an album
    listening to BBC radio
    (all these from the front page today)
    usually they post several new command strings a day

  10. Noah
    November 16, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Yep, I don't need websites, never had - easy peasy -
    "man command" or "command -h | less"

    • CT
      December 26, 2009 at 6:02 am

      man command?

      Sure... especially since it's so intuitive. I'm not saying it's not useful, rather that it's not very user friendly.