Use These Alternatives Commands to Improve Your Command Line Productivity

Most modern Linux distributions include a selection of command-line utilities that allow you to perform some basic tasks. And in most cases, these utilities are sufficient for sometimes crude or simplistic. However, for repetitive tasks, you can do better with the following commands, many of which are merely an apt-get install away!

“htop” (instead of “top”)

The traditional tool for managing processes from the command line is “top“. This command shows a table displaying the processes consuming the most RAM. Instead of “top”, you can use “htop” which comes with some other nice features that “top” doesn’t have, namely, hotkeys to take actions such as directly killing a process (this is F9, as you can see in the figure below).


You can install this from a package manager, or with:

sudo apt-get install htop

“ncdu” (instead of “du”)

In the event your disk is reaching capacity, you can use the standard “du” command prints a list of all folders (and their sub-folders) from your current directory downwards, and prints this as an enormous list that often is longer than your terminal buffer. A more interactive way to see this information is to use the “ncdu” program.

The ncdu program provides an ncurses-based interface to “du”. It displays the same information, but in a more intuitive way (the figure below shows columns for how much space it’s occupying in megabytes, a graphical representation of that as a bar graph, and directory/file name). It also allows you to navigate among the different folders using the arrow keys, using the Enter key to make a selection.

The “ncdu” program is available on Ubuntu using the following command:

sudo apt-get install ncdu

“vfu” (instead of “cd”, “ls”, “cp” & “mv”)

While basic navigation and file operation commands are essential Linux skills to have, there are times when it’s just easier to do things graphically. As an alternative to the tried-and-true command for moving between (“cd”), viewing the contents of (“ls”), and moving/copying files into and out of (“cp”/”mv”) directories on the system, check out “vfu“.

This is a text-mode file manager that allows you to move through the filesystem using the arrow keys, along with Enter to go down into a directory, and Backspace to move one level up, and also provides tools move/copy, change ownership, permissions, and a host of other functions.


You can install “vfu” from the standard Ubuntu repositories with the following command:

sudo apt-get install vfu

Although Linux comes with many adequate utilities, don’t be afraid to go out in search of improved ones. You never know what you might find.

Let us know if you know of any alternative command that are not in this list.

Aaron Peters

Aaron is an interactive business analyst, information architect, and project manager who has been using Linux since the days of Caldera. A KDE and Android fanboy, he'll sit down and install anything at any time, just to see if he can make it work. He has a special interest in integration of Linux desktops with other systems, such as Android, small business applications and webapps, and even paper.

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