Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Conventional wisdom isn’t always right.
There are a lot of things easier to do with a command line then with a graphical user interface. That’s not to say doing things with a command line is intuitive – no, you will need to learn how to use the tools – but it is easier – that is to say, quick and simple to remember. A powerful, easy-to-use command line is a huge part of what makes Linux so powerful.
Don’t believe me? Check out the list below for things I feel are easier with a Linux command line than with a GUI. I highlighted 7 things easier to do in Ubuntu than Windows; consider this article an extension of that one as we explore the power of the Linux command line.
Quickly Check Memory Usage
Sure, you could find out what program is using up your memory using the Gnome System Monitor by clicking “System,” then “Administration,” then “System Monitor,” then clicking the “Processes” tab, then clicking the “Memory” column. You could, but that process took 17 words to explain.
If you’ve got a command line open all you need to do is type “top” and you’ve got the same list.
Kill Any Program
If a certain program is acting up and causing you trouble you can always kill it from the Linux command line. Just type “killall” followed by the name of the program you’re trying to kill.
For example, if Firefox is acting up (as Firefox will do from time to time) simply type “killall firefox” and it should kill the application completely.
In the rare circumstances that this doesn’t work you can always type “xkill” and then click on the window that won’t close; this will completely close a given window immediately.
Every time I fix a Windows computer I end up wishing I could make use of xkill at least once.
Install A Program (Or Several)
When it comes to installing software you simply can’t beat the command line. How to do this varies from system to system, so I’ll just focus on Ubuntu here for the sake of simplicity, but know that the same concepts can be applied for any distro. Check your distro’s documentation for more information.
Ubuntu/Debian types realize the wonders of apt-get. This command line program makes installing programs a snap; for example, installing the SNES emulator ZSNES is as easy as typing “sudo apt-get install zsnes“.
What does all that mean? Well, “sudo” just means you’re typing the command as an administrator. “Apt-get” is the name of the program you can use to install and remove software. The word “install” is telling “apt-get” what to do, and the word “zsnes” is the name of the package needed to install zsnes.
You can use this same command to install several programs at once. Let’s say you wanted to install Dosbox, ZSNES and mednafen all at once (you retro-gaming addict you.) Type “sudo apt-get install dosbox zsnes mednafen” and you’re good to go.
Update Your Software
When the “Update Your Software” window pops up in Ubuntu I hardly ever use it. Instead, I open up a command line and type “sudo apt-get upgrade” and install everything that way. I find this is a great deal easier than clicking the “Update” button on the window, waiting for the prompt, typing your password and then dealing with the windows popping up and bugging me.
Instead, I type “sudo apt-get upgrade” and have all my updates install in a single window. This leaves me alone and allows me to get back to my work.
Add A PPA [Ubuntu]
Personal Package Archives (PPAs) are a great way for Ubuntu users to keep a particular piece of software on the bleeding edge; read more about them here. Since the release of Ubuntu 9.10 adding a PPA is as simple as typing a single command.
For example. let’s say you wanted the bleeding-edge version of Gwibber (the social networking program that allows Ubuntu to unite all your inboxes). To add the PPA that makes this possible you need only type “sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwibber-daily/ppa“.
This simple command can be used for any PPA; you’ll find the particular command on a given PPA’s home page.
There you have it: just a few things that are easier to do from the command line than they are from a GUI. This is of course a little subjective, but I think if you learn to do these things from the command line you’ll never really want to go back to the GUI way of doing them.
There are more such things, of course, and I’m counting on you smart Linux types to point them out in the comments below. I’m also expecting ignorant comments about how the existence of the command line is proof that Linux is inferior to Windows (preferably in all-caps).