By Richard Blum

Part of Linux For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Open-source Linux is a popular alternative to Microsoft Windows, and if you choose to use this low-cost or free operating system, you need to know some basic Linux commands to configure, operate, and interact with your system smoothly.

When dealing with the Linux operating system, commands are required as inputs to inform or direct a computer program to perform a specific operation. Understanding the most basic Linux commands will allow you to successfully navigate directories, manipulate files, change permissions, display information such as disk space, and more. Obtaining basic knowledge of the most common commands will help you easily execute tasks via the command line.

Find the most common Linux commands in this table:

Linux Commands
Command Description
cat [filename] Display file’s contents to the standard output device
(usually your monitor).
cd /directorypath Change to directory.
chmod [options] mode filename Change a file’s permissions.
chown [options] filename Change who owns a file.
clear Clear a command line screen/window for a fresh start.
cp [options] source destination Copy files and directories.
date [options] Display or set the system date and time.
df [options] Display used and available disk space.
du [options] Show how much space each file takes up.
file [options] filename Determine what type of data is within a file.
find [pathname] [expression] Search for files matching a provided pattern.
grep [options] pattern [filesname] Search files or output for a particular pattern.
kill [options] pid Stop a process. If the process refuses to stop, use kill -9 pid.
less [options] [filename] View the contents of a file one page at a time.
ln [options] source [destination] Create a shortcut.
locate filename Search a copy of your filesystem for the specified
lpr [options] Send a print job.
ls [options] List directory contents.
man [command] Display the help information for the specified command.
mkdir [options] directory Create a new directory.
mv [options] source destination Rename or move file(s) or directories.
passwd [name [password]] Change the password or allow (for the system administrator) to
change any password.
ps [options] Display a snapshot of the currently running processes.
pwd Display the pathname for the current directory.
rm [options] directory Remove (delete) file(s) and/or directories.
rmdir [options] directory Delete empty directories.
ssh [options] user@machine Remotely log in to another Linux machine, over the network.
Leave an ssh session by typing exit.
su [options] [user [arguments]] Switch to another user account.
tail [options] [filename] Display the last n lines of a file (the default is
tar [options] filename Store and extract files from a tarfile (.tar) or tarball (.tar.gz or .tgz).
top Displays the resources being used on your system. Press q to
touch filename Create an empty file with the specified name.
who [options] Display who is logged on.