By Rand Whitehall

If you are just starting out using the command line in Linux, knowing just a few key commands can take you a long way towards fluency in the cli (command line interface) environment. Most new linux users fear the dreaded command line and its archane text-based commands. But if you warm up to the command line slowly and patiently, you’ll start to see you can wield great power over your computer using cli tools. It is truly amazing how much you can do with the cli and how quickly and efficiently it can do things. Some tasks can be done with a few lines of commands in under a second that would take thousands of mouse clicks and hours to accomplish in a typical GUI (graphical user interface).

The ls command is very powerful and useful so we’ll start there, then take a look at the file command.

ls: The ls command lists the contents of a directory. Simply type ls and hit the enter key. You should see a list of the contents of your current directory.

Now, if you want to get a bit fancy, you can tell ls to show you file sizes as well by adding the -l switch like this: ls -l.

This will show you the contents of the directory and files size, file date, file time and file name.

Now, while you are looking at details of the files in your current directory, you may be wondering what type of files they are. For example, if my home directory had a file called joe, I would type file joe to find out what type of file it was.

The file named joe is a text file so the file command outputs: joe.txt UTF-8 Unicode English text.

I’ve also got a directory listed called bob. If I type file: bob, then file outputs: bob/ directory.

The file command can tell us about any type of file. Digging deeper into my filesystem I come across a file that I don’t know. What type of file is it? Run the file command. file: The output of the file command: Bourne-Again shell script text executable. Ahh, it’s a bash script.

What’s a bash script? It’s a list of cli commands strung together in a text file. A bash script is like a small program that can perform just about any number of tasks. Very powerful stuff once you get a few more commands under your belt.

Rand writes about Linux, old school safety razors and blue nitrile gloves! Check out Rand’s site all about latex free nitrile gloves, a great barrier against infection. Black Nitrile Gloves are also available and used often by tattoo artists, mechanics and industries where keeping dirt and grime free is important.