They may think it’s too difficult or too much to remember. But once a user becomes accustomed to using the command line interface, it soon becomes the preferred method in many tasks. Not only is it much quicker to accomplish just about any given task at the command line, it opens a whole new world of possibilities. It allows the user to begin to understand how an operating system is structured and functions. It gives the user very powerful tools to do the things graphical interfaces will never be able to reproduce. And best of all, it’s just fun.
There are several shells, the interface between the user and the system, with their own set of built-in functions and commands. The most popular is probably Bash, which is an improved clone of the Unix Borne Shell. Not only does Bash include lots of handy built-in commands, but a user can execute (or fork) a multitude of other application executables from within it.
There is a short list of commands that one can learn to get started. With this short list, you can begin to build your toolbox and with the help of a few good reference sites, become a command line master yourself. Not only will this enable you to feel comfortable running just about any Linux distribution available, but every programmer working today began with that first command.
But how might one go about trying to use the dreaded command line? Once open, the user stares at the prompt wondering what to do first. They know folks work from the command line all day every day, but what do you do? Fortunately, you’re not on your own. There are a plethora of sites with all the information you’ll need to take you from beginner to advanced user or anywhere in between.
One of the best places to get started is LinuxCommand. This site gently introduces the first time user what a shell is and how to use it. Then, if desired, it will instruct the user on how to write their first shell scripts.
The homepage of this site is very relaxing. It merely shows an image of a terminal and reassures the user “Don’t worry, we’ll show you what to do.” Its Table of Contents addresses usage in an task oriented manner. Instead of listing the command and explaining what it does, it lists an operation one might want to perform.
For example, the first thing any user might want to learn is navigation. With a reference to the graphical hierarchy, it begins the user with the first babysteps of moving around their system with the command line.
Then one is taken on a tour of the Linux filesystem hierarchy and shown how to manipulate files such as renaming, moving, or deleting, and permissions. Once you learn this beginning information, you are already on your way to fixing a Linux system on which the Graphical User Interface is broken.
Next the site gets more involved walking the user through writing shell scripts, first easy then more and more complicated. If you finish this latter section, you are already almost a master.
O’Reilly’s Linux Command Directory
O’Reilly’s Linux Command Directory is a wonderful quick reference chart-like guide. This page lists not only the built-in commands, but also many little utilities commonly included in all Linux distributions. This is great for the beginner or even more advanced users as the listed commands are links to full information as to what the command is and how to use it.
While this information may be available right on your system as Main pages, it comes in handy for those who forgot the command or perhaps doesn’t know which to use. For example, you’d like the current system date and time, so you visit this page and see the command
. This must be it, so you click on it and find out that
is actually used to measure the elasped time of a given process. So, you know that isn’t it. Then you scroll down and spot
. Ah yes, that’s the one. What was that command to quickly check to see if a certain word or phrase is in a file? Oh yes, you remember now that you see the command
By clicking it you’ll find all sorts of ways it can be manipulated to output just what you need. A favorite activity is just reading through the list for unfamiliar or forgotten commands and learning what they do. This is just a particularly handy site to bookmark.
The Linux Cookbook
The Linux Cookbook fits in somewhere between LinuxCommand’s Learning the Shell and Writing Shell Scripts. It takes the user from logging in to as deep as they want to go.
However, its best resource is its intermediate instruction. After learning a few commands one might want to know how to edit a file and the cookbook features introductions to common text editors. It also tells a user things such as how to change their password, listing directories in color, and how to understand help files and documentation.
Later, it instructs on how to configure the X Windows System, how to start X, and all other aspects of using X. Then it even goes further into using the graphical interface and includes things like audio, printing, networking, and communications. It basically gives the user a full overview of using Linux.
This site is the online version of a hard copy book sold in many stores and featured on Amazon. Once you complete this book and the LinuxCommand.org instruction, you’ll be a Linux Kung Fu Master.
Do you have any favourite websites for mastering the Linux command line? If so, let us know about them in the comments.
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