6 of the Most Useful Linux Commands for New Users

Linux Feature Image

Making the switch to Linux can be a little intimidating. A new operating system? Different Desktop? Everything that you have known in computing has changed? Although the switch may seem scary at times, it can be more productive and quite rewarding. Learning new things is your first step.

What is terminal?

Before you can begin learning the ins and outs of Linux, you will need to understand what terminal is. The terminal is Linux’s version of the command prompt or powershell. Linux, which was originally created as a command-line operating system, added a graphical interface for ease of use because of its growing popularity The Linux operating system, in its most productive form, uses terminal.

Terminal commands are unlike most applications you may be familiar with. They are unlikely to spawn a new window, as the results are executed immediately within the terminal application. Terminal commands may also have additional options, which are called “switches.” Switches are used to add functionality to the requested command line operation. Below you will find 5 of the “must know” commands when switching to Linux.

1. “man” command

The man command is going to be the most useful of commands for users new to Linux or terminal. Man is short for “manual,” which is the term for a Linux help document. Every terminal command has a man page, even the “man” command.

Manman Cmd

If you know the name of the Linux command, function or file you are interested in, simply type man command name and hit Enter. Below represents what running the above command results would be.

Manman Opt 1

2. “ls” command

The ls command is a great tool to see what directories or files reside in your current location or throughout the file system. It is installed in Linux distributions by default, as it is part of the GNU core utilities package. To use this command is as simple as typing ls in your terminal window. This will show you the results of your current working directory.

Ls command

Using advanced switches can help provide specific results in addition to other functions. Below are additional example of “ls” using switch options.

To show files and directories, size, modified date / time, owner and permissions:

Ls L Opt

To sort files in current working directory by size:

Ls Ls Opt

To list directory information for a directory that is not the current working directory:

Ls Directory Opt

3. “cd” command

The cd command is another useful command and is used to change from the current working directory. The below examples will show the functionality of the “cd” command.

To change to a subdirectory:

Cd Single Opt

To change to a subdirectory multiple directories away from the current location:

This command can be continued indefinitely, assuming there is a directory level to switch to. The target directory path we will use is “example/example2/example3.”

Cd Multiple Sub Opt

To change the directory to the home directory of the user:

Cd Home Opt

4. “ifconfig” command

This Linux command may look a little odd if you have worked a long time using Windows operating systems. “ifconfig” is very similar to the Windows version of the command “ipconfig.” This command is not installed by default in all Linux distros. In order to obtain this functionality, the user can install the package by running sudo apt get install net-tools from the terminal (if you are using Debian-based distro). Once installed, using this command will provide the user with the current IP-addressing information for your device.


This command has a number of uses from assigning an IP address to a specific interface to modifying an interface’s MAC address for spoofing attacks. Below are some entry-level examples of “ifconfig.”

To view network settings of a specific interface:

Ifconfig Interface Name

To disable a network interface:

Ifconfig Interface Down

To enable a network interface:

Ifconfig Interface Up

5. “find” command

When attempting to find a file by a specific name or extension in Linux, it is best to use the find command. Some of the examples below can be very useful for new user learning to navigate within the Linux terminal.

To search for a file with the filename:

Find Filename

To search for all the “png” files in “/home/Desktop” and its subdirectories:

Find Directory Png

6. “clear” command

When your terminal is filled up with text, the best way to clear it is with the clear command. This clears the screen in your view and allows you to start again with just the prompt. In some cases you can also use Ctrl + l, which will perform the same task.

In conclusion, we covered the most useful commands that a beginner should know. In addition to these, there are many more commands which you can run in a Linux terminalas well as some commands you should never run. Learning these commands won’t make you want to quit your day job and become a tech guru, but it may make your transition to Linux that much easier.

Josh Grimes Josh Grimes

Josh Grimes is a freelance writer with an uncontrollable passion for technology. Whether Windows or Linux, gaming or cyber-security, Josh is an advocate to "making TECH easier." You can see some of his other work at www.havocinfosec.com.

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