Linux Quick-Start Guide: Ask Your Computer

Joseph Syverson
Nov 18, 2019 · 2 min read
The manual page for… the Manual. Fun : )

Most questions you have about how to use your computer your computer would answer quickly and efficiently, if you only knew how to ask.

The quickest way to figure out what a program does is to type whatis <command>. Not always helpful! Example:

whatis git

If you want a quick overview about how to use a command, type <command> -h. If the option -h does not return directions, try <command> --help. Example:

git --help

Two commands provide more thorough explanations of a command. The first is man.

Type man <command>. Example:

man git

Once you’ve pulled up an article in the manual, you can close it by pressing Q. To search for a keyword in the article, type: /<query> and hit Enter. Every instance of the keyword will appear highlighted. Hit n to have the terminal window cycle through the instances, letting you hop around the page for exactly what you’re looking for.

To see every entry in the manual, type apropos ..

If you want to search the manual for something you don’t know how exactly to say, but have some keyword for, you can type apropos . | grep <keyword>. Example:

apropos . | grep git

Important note: some of the most used commands don’t apparently have manual pages. Why? They’re stored at the lowest possible level, built directly in to the BASh language. Example:

man cd

If there’s a command that you use a lot and you can’t find it in the manual, type man builtins for that command a full list of all the others.

Finally, there’s info. Programs, or “commands” as they’re called when operating a terminal, sometimes come with more information than that stored in the manual. info <command> will search a database for information about the command that has tagged along when the program was downloaded. I haven’t really used it.

info git

For resources beyond your computer, here’s a list of U R L’s:

  • These docs may contain the most thorough BASh programming / scripting documentation there is, plus a lot of other cool stuff
  • Arch is a moderately advanced Linux distribution favored by many Linux enthusiasts. Their community constantly updates a set of detailed and efficient docs that are an asset to the entire Linux community, not just Arch users
  • Stack Exchange offers several sites for getting Linux answers, but the most specialized is this one. Important note: ask the manual, then Google before taking up another’s time
  • Reddit also has a number of great subs supported by an awesome community of users. Here’s one of several good ones

The Linux Quick Start Guide: Directory

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