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Using the command line in linux – part 1

I know many people get intimidated with a black screen, white text and blinking cursor. No mouse, not knowing where to start…. well, I’m going to spend a bit of time in this article trying to help show you how to survive the command line in linux. For starters, don’t think that linux is a command line only operating system. In some installs, the administrator may not want a gui, but there are some VERY functional and full featured graphical interfaces for linux. For me though, if you know what you want to accomplish, the command line can be a much more efficient way to “get the job done” for many tasks.


Ok, so let’s start…. we’ve either opened up a console window (konsole if you use KDE), or we have a fullscreen console open. IF we’re staring at a full screen console you may need to log in… type your username and press return (no mouse for clicking ok here…) and then type your password (likely it won’t “echo” or print on the screen as you type.) Press ok when you’ve typed that in. So now you have a very spartan looking $ prompt and blinking cursor… now what?

For starters, if you’ve never been at a command prompt before… you might type help and press enter. You’ll likely see a list of commands – when I do that… I see a lot of commands but near the top it says….

Type `help name’ to find out more about the function `name’.
Use `info bash’ to find out more about the shell in general.
Use `man -k’ or `info’ to find out more about commands not in this list.

Ok… so we can see some basic commands and have an idea of how to get a bit more information (help history for instance would give help on the history command.)

There’s also a hint in the above at other ways that we might find help (on a great many programs) The man and info commands. If the text has scrolled down too quickly to read, you might use shift-pageup to “scroll” back and see what you missed. Of course, if you’re using a console window you should be able to use the mouse to scroll.

For the most part when you have a console, the mouse is not used. If you need to move the cursor left or right, try the arrow keys and of course, as we saw for login, the enter key is like pressing the ok button with a mouse….

To log out, simply type exit (and press enter)

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Posted by on January 16, 2006.

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Categories: Basics, Computers, Linux, Tech Support

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