How to Easily Remember Linux Commands

Remember Commands On Linux

The command line can be daunting for new Linux users. Part of that is remembering the multitude of commands available. After all, in order to use the command line effectively, you need to know the commands.

Unfortunately, there’s no getting around the fact that you need to learn the commands, but there are some tools that can help you out when you’re getting started.


Linux Bash History Commands

The first thing you can use to remember commands that you’ve already used is your own command line history. Most Linux shells, including the most common default, Bash, create a history file that lists your past commands. For Bash, you can find it at “/home/<username>/.bash_history.”

It’s a plain text file, so you can open it in any text editor and loop back through or even search.


There’s actually a command that helps you find other commands. It’s called “apropos,” and it helps you find the appropriate command to complete the action you search or. For example, if you need to know the command to list the contents of a directory, you can run the following command:

Linux Apropos

There’s a catch, though. It’s very literal. Add an “s” to “directory,” and try again.

It doesn’t work. What apropos does is search through a list of commands and the accompanying descriptions. If your search doesn’t match the description, it won’t pick up the command as a result.

There is something else you can do. By using the -a flag, you can add together search terms in a more flexible way. Try this command:

Linux Apropos -a Flag

You’d think it’d turn up something, like grep? Instead, you get nothing. Again, apropos is being too literal. Now, try separating the words and using the -a flag.

Suddenly, you have many of the results that you’d expect.

apropos is a great tool, but you always need to be aware of its quirks.


Linux ZSH Autocomplete

ZSH isn’t really a tool for remembering commands. It’s actually an alternative shell. You can substitute ZSH for Bash and use it as your command line shell. ZSH includes an autocorrect feature that catches you if you enter in a command wrong or misspell something. If you enable it, it’ll ask you if you meant something close. You can continue to use the command line as you normally would with ZSH, but you get an extra safety net and some other really nice features, too. The easiest way to get the most of ZSH is with Oh-My-ZSH.

Cheat Sheet

The last, and probably simplest, option is to use a cheat sheet. There are plenty available online like this one that you can use to look up commands quickly.


You can actually even find them in image form and set one as your desktop wallpaper for quick reference.

This isn’t the best solution for actually remembering the commands, but when you’re starting out, it can save you from doing a search online every time you don’t remember a command.

Rely on these methods when you’re learning, and eventually you’ll find yourself referring to them less and less. No one remembers everything, so don’t feel bad if you occasionally forget or run into something you haven’t seen before. That’s what these resources and, of course, the Internet are there for.

Nick Congleton Nick Congleton

Nick is a freelance tech. journalist, Linux enthusiast, and a long time PC gamer.


  1. “Unfortunately, there‚Äôs no getting around the fact that you need to learn the commands”
    Fortunately, that statement is not true. One can happily use Linux without ever resorting to the use of command line. Knowing the commands helps but is not absolutively necessary. To paraphrase the Kix cereal commercial “Silly boy, Linux is not just for geeks”

    1. 18.11.2017

      No, dragonmouth, with some command line commands life could be difficult for you.
      It is available to know some command line commands – the above and nano, chmod apt-get are worth at least a look at.

  2. My comment is riddles with errors caused by my new spelling checker and – worse -me hitting submit without an adequate check:
    Here a redo with the SC switched firmly off.

    No, dragonmouth, without some command line commands life could be difficult for you.
    It is available to know some command line commands – the above and nano, chmod, apt-get are worth at least a look at. Learning is fun so grab a book/cheat sheet/tutorial and bash (pardon the pun) away.

    1. “without some command line commands life could be difficult for you”
      Not really. Just like Windows can be used perfectly well without resorting to CLI, so can Linux. The mythical “average user” will use a GUI editor instead of nano, GUI package manager instead of apt-get, will not be messing around with permission via chmod. (S)he will not need to know the command history or similar commands (apropos) if (s)he never uses CLI. Command line is for users like you and me who like to tinker with their O/S and get under its hood.

      1. Agree. My wife is very non-techo and she can use Linux and Mac having never touched a commandline.

  3. Have you ever learned a new word in your native language? Have you ever typed an email? Have you ever done so using that new word and using proper grammar? Did that seem like part of your everyday life?

    Using the command line in linux is much like that. It’s just not that hard and you might learn a little while you’re at it.

    One -can- happily use linux without ever “resorting” to the us of command line. The same is true of Android, IOS and Windows and in the pure GUI realm it makes little difference which you choose. If you want to get all the benefits of leaving the big corporate operating systems behind, do your self a favor and learn to use the command line -some of the time-. I -almost- never fire up linux without starting the graphical user interface. But I -completely- never fire up the GUI without starting a command line window.

    Yeah, I’m a linux geek now. But when I started learning linux, I used the command line exclusively and that was just fine (Caveat: I did so on a spare computer that I could afford to wreck, although that never happened).

  4. I’m gonna have to agree with DragonMouth on this one. my mother who’s 70+ had a laptop given to her a while back, it was running Windows XP (that’s how OLD it is!!) Notice I say “is” and not “was”? She’s still using that laptop to this day, IIRC this laptop was given to her in 2011, and it ran Win XP. That is….until it crashed (AGAIN!)….both my Mom and I were fed up with the OS, so I installed Linux Mint on her laptop, and she’s been using it ever since. (2011….remember!!?) She’s not EVER had to use the CLI for ANYTHING, at ANYTIME. Since Linux Mint provides an updater with a GUI. And she even knows how to handle the issues that pop up from time to time…(like when she’s prompted regarding a file and whether or not she wants to keep the original or install the developer’s version? etc.) so no. It is NOT necessary to learn ANY command line whatsoever in order to use Linux. Does it make sense to learn it? Yes. Definitely. Will it make you just a bit more handy when dealing with Linux? Most certainly, people will turn to you when they have issues, and with each situation you troubleshoot and resolve, you become more proficient with both the various flavors of Linux and the command line. But is it ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY to learn the command line in order to use Linux. No….No its not. (Which is one of the reasons why I believe there’s been more adoption of Linux throughout the world!)

      1. Noman: I said it WAS running Windows XP, but that….THAT was how old it IS……to point out the fact that not many people are still using hardware from 2011. I was trying to show that you can install Linux on an old laptop and have it work fine for a LONG TIME, with nothing more than the regular updates and upgrades. And while I know (as do we all!) that some technology will die off and be replaced by better, the standards are there and will be for a while. So you could say….purchase a really decent machine today in 2017 and running Linux?….along with regular updates and the like…..could well see that machine into the year 2025! You can’t do that with Windows. And I shouldn’t say can’t but you wouldn’t be able to without having to re-install your OS after getting hit with something that had malicious intent!.

Comments are closed.