Basic Ubuntu commands and Terminal shortcuts

If you are Ubuntu newbie, then this post about basic Ubuntu commands is going to help you to get familiar with the Terminal emulator.

As we all know, Ubuntu is one of the most customizable Linux distribution available today. In fact, when we heard Linux, the first thing came to our would-be Ubuntu. Almost every Linux enthusiast start with Ubuntu when they enter the Linux world, as it’s one of the chosen Linux distros for beginners.

And this post is for those Ubuntu beginners. Here we are going to list some important basic Ubuntu commands every beginner must know.

I think Ubuntu’s incredible flexibility is due mainly to its powerful shell, which is at the core of all Linux variants. Through the user-friendly “Terminal” interface, you can easily interact with this shell using a wide variety of commands.

Ubuntu uses BASH as its default shell and there are a lot of bash commands — that confuses every Ubuntu beginners. But you don’t have to learn all these bash commands if you want to familiar with Ubuntu Terminal in your early Linux days. Else you only have to understand basic Ubuntu commands which will help you to do some basic operations. Unlike CMD commands on Windows, here on Ubuntu and other Linux distros we use commands to do most of our tasks.

So to do this task easier, here are the most basic starters Ubuntu commands and some Terminal shortcuts, that will help you to execute commands more quickly, to ease up your Linux journey.

Basic Ubuntu Commands for Beginner

1. sudo

sudo (SuperUser DO) Linux command allows you to run programs or other commands with administrative privileges, just like “Run as administrator” in Windows. This is useful when, for example, you need to modify files in a directory that your user wouldn’t normally have access to.

2. apt-get

apt-get is the one of the most important Ubuntu commands every beginner must know. It is used to install, update, upgrade and remove any package. apt-get basically works on a database of available packages. Here is the list of different apt-get commands:

  • sudo apt-get update

apt-get update with super user privileges is the first command you need to run in any Linux system after a fresh install. This command updates the database and let your system know if there are newer packages available or not.

  • sudo apt-get upgrade

After updating the package database, next step is to to upgrade the installed packages. For upgrading all the packages with available updates you can use this command.

And if you like to upgrade a particular package, the you should tweak the above command a little:

sudo apt-get upgrade <package-name>. Replace the <package-name> with your desired package.

  • sudo apt-get install

If you know the name of the package, then you can easily install a program using this command:

sudo apt-get install <package-name>. Replace the <package-name> with your desired package.

If you are not sure about the package name, the you can type a few letters and press tab and it will suggest all the packages available with those letters. Thanks for auto-completion feature.

3. ls

ls (list) command lists all files and folders in your current working directory. You can also specify paths to other directories if you want to view their contents.

4. cd

cd (change director”) Linux command also known as chdir used to change the current working directory. It’s one of the most used basic Ubuntu commands. Using this command is easy, just type cd followed by the the folder name. You can use full paths to folders or simply the name of a folder within the directory you are currently working. Some common uses are:

  • cd /  – Takes you to the root directory.
  • cd .. – Takes you up one directory level.
  • cd –  – Takes you to the previous directory.

Here are some examples to how to use cd command in Ubuntu:

Example 1: cd home – open home folder in current directory.

Example 2: cd Linux\ Drive – open Linux Drive named folder in directory. Here you can see I use backslash because the folder name has spaces so for each space you use “backslash+space”. Like, if your folder name is “am a programmer” then the cd command will be, “cd am\ a\ programmer”.

5. pwd

pwd (print working directory) Ubuntu command displays the full pathname of the current working directory.

6. cp

cp (copy) Linux command allows you to copy a file. You should specify both the file you want to be copied and the location you want it copied to – for example, cp xyz /home/myfiles would copy the file “xyz” to the directory “/home/myfiles.

7. mv

mv (move) command allows you to move files. You can also rename files by moving them to the directory they are currently in, but under a new name. The usage is the same as cp – for example mv xyz /home/myfiles would move the file “xyz” to the directory “/home/myfiles.

8. rm

rm (remove) command removes the specified file.

  • rmdir (“remove directory”) – Removes an empty directory.
  • rm -r (“remove recursively”) – Removes a directory along with its content.

9. mkdir

mkdir (make directory) command allows you to create a new directory. You can specify where you want the directory created – if you do not do so, it will be created in your current working directory.

10. history

history command displays all of your previous commands up to the history limit.

11. df

df (display filesystem) command displays information about the disk space usage of all mounted filesystems.

12. du

du (directory usage) command displays the size of a directory and all of its subdirectories.

13. free

free – Displays the amount of free space available on the system.

14. uname -a

uname -a – Provides a wide range of basic information about the system.

15. top

top – Displays the processes using the most system resources at any given time. “q” can be used to exit.

16. man

man command displays a “manual page”. Manual pages are usually very detailed, and it’s recommended that you read the man pages for any command you are unfamiliar with. Some uses are :

  • man man – Provides information about the manual itself.
  • man intro – Displays a brief introduction to Linux commands.

17. info

Similar to man, but often provides more detailed or precise information.

18. <command name> -h or <command name> –help

This command is a third alternative to get help. While not as detailed as the info or man pages, this will provide a quick overview of the command and its uses.

Ubuntu Terminal Shortcuts:

To further ease up your skill, these Ubuntu Terminal keyboard shortcuts would help.

Ubuntu Terminal Shortcuts Function
Ctrl + Shift + T Open new tab on current terminal
Ctrl + Shift + W Close the current tab
Ctrl + A Move cursor to beginning of line
Ctrl + E Move cursor to end of line
Ctrl + U Clears the entire current line
Ctrl + K Clears the command from the cursor right
Ctrl + W Delete the word before the cursor
Ctrl + R Allows you to search your history for commands matching what you have typed
Ctrl + C Kill the current process
Ctrl + Z Suspend the current process by sending the signal SIGSTOP
Ctrl + L Clears the terminal output
Alt + F Move forward one word
Alt + B Move backward one word
Ctrl + Shift + C Copy the highlighted command to the clipboard
Ctrl + Shift + V or Shift + Insert Paste the contents of the clipboard
Up/Down Arrow keys To scroll through your command history, allowing you to quickly execute the same command multiple times
TAB Used to complete the command you are typing. If more than one command is possible, you can press it multiple times to scroll through the possible completions. If a very wide number of commands are possible, it can output a list of all possible completions.

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