15 Linux Terminal Commands That Will Rock Your World

Maximize your effectiveness with these utilities

The Linux command line offers a much easier, and cross-distribution, method of completing common tasks.

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Useful Command Line Keyboard Shortcuts

Common Linux keyboard shortcuts

The following keyboard shortcuts are useful and will save you time:

  • CTRL+U — Cuts text up until cursor
  • CTRL+K — Cuts text from the cursor until the end of line
  • CTRL+Y — Pastes text
  • CTRL+E — Move cursor to end of line
  • CTRL+A — Move cursor to the beginning of line
  • ALT+F — Jump forward to next space
  • ALT+B — Skip back to previous space
  • ALT+Backspace — Delete the previous word
  • CTRL+W — Cut word behind cursor
  • Shift+Insert — Pastes text into terminal

Just so that the commands above make sense, look at the next line of text.

sudo apt-get intall programname

As you can see there is a spelling error, and for the command to work, we would need to change "intall" to "install".

Imagine the cursor is at the end of the line. There are various ways to get back to the word install to change it.

You could press ALT + B twice, which would put the cursor in the following position (denoted by the ^ symbol):

sudo apt-get^install programname

Now you could press the cursor key and insert the ''s' into "install".

Another useful command is Shift + Insert, especially If you need to copy text from a browser into the terminal.

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sudo !! command screenshot in Linux

You are going to really thank us for the next command if you don't already know it because until you know this exists, you curse yourself every time you enter a command and the words Permission denied appear.

How do you use sudo !!? Simply. Imagine you have entered the following command:

apt-get install ranger

The words Permission denied will appear unless you are logged in with elevated privileges.

sudo !! runs the previous command as sudo. So the previous command now becomes:

sudo apt-get install ranger
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Pausing Commands and Running Commands in the Background

Pause terminal applications linux commands screenshot

Run terminal commands in the background.

  • CTRL+Z — Pauses an application
  • fg — Returns you to the application

Imagine you have opened a file in nano as follows:

sudo nano abc.txt

Halfway through typing text into the file, you realize that you quickly want to type another command into the terminal but you can't because you opened nano in foreground mode.

Press CTRL+Z and the foreground application will pause and you will be returned to the command line. You can then run any command you like and when you have finished, return to your previously paused session by entering fg into the terminal window and pressing return.

An interesting thing to try out is to open a file in nano, enter some text, and pause the session. Now open another file in nano, enter some text, and pause the session. If you now enter fg, you return to the second file you opened in nano. If you exit nano and enter fg again, you return to the first file you opened within nano.

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Use nohup to Run Commands After You Log Out of an SSH Session

nohup Linux command

The nohup command is really useful if you use the ssh command to log onto other machines. Use it to log in to another computer remotely using ssh and run command that takes a long time then exit the ssh session but leave the command running.

For instance, you can use a Raspberry PI to download distributions for review purposes. Connect to the Raspberry PI via ssh from a laptop. If you started downloading a large file on the Raspberry PI without using the nohup command, then you would have to wait for the download to finish before logging off the ssh session and before shutting down the laptop. If you did this, then you may as well have not used the Raspberry PI to download the file at all.

To use nohup, all you have to type is nohup followed by the command as follows:

nohup wget 
http://mirror.is.co.za/mirrors/linuxmint.com/iso//stable/17.1/linuxmint-17.1-cinnamon-64bit.iso &
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Running a Linux Command 'at' a Specific Time

Schedule tasks with at command through Linux terminal

The nohup command is good if you are connected to an ssh server and you want the command to remain running after logging out of the ssh session.

Imagine you want to run that same command at a specific point in time.

The at command allows you to do just that. at can be used as follows.

at 10:38 PM Fri
at> cowsay 'hello'
at> CTRL+D

The above command will run the program cowsay at 10:38 p.m. on Friday evening.

The syntax is at followed by the date and time to run.

When the at> prompt appears, enter the command you want to run at the specified time.

The CTRL+D combo returns you to the cursor.

There are lots of different date and time formats and it is worth checking the man pages for more ways to use at.

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Man Pages

Colorful man pages in the Linux terminal

Man pages offer an outline of what commands are supposed to do and the switches that can be used with them.

The man pages are kind of dull on their own. You can, however, do things to make your usage of man more appealing.

export PAGER=most

You will need to install most; for this to work but when you do, it makes your man pages more colorful.

You can limit the width of the man page to a certain number of columns using the following command:

export MANWIDTH=80

Finally, if you have a browser available, you can open any man page in the default browser by using the -H switch as follows:

man -H <command>

Note this only works if you have a default browser set up within the $BROWSER environment variable.

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Use htop to View and Manage Processes

View processes with htop

Which command do you currently use to find out which processes are running on your computer? Our bet is that you are using ps and that you are using various switches to get the output you desire.

Install htop. It is definitely a tool you will wish that you installed earlier.

htop provides a list of all running processes in the terminal, much like the file manager in Windows.

You can use a mixture of function keys to change the sort order and the columns that are displayed. You can also kill processes from within htop.

To run htop, simply type the following into the terminal window:

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Navigate the File System Using ranger

Command Line File Manager ranger

If htop is immensely useful for controlling the processes running via the command line, then ranger is immensely useful for navigating the file system using the command line.

You will probably need to install ranger to be able to use it, but once installed, you can run it simply by typing the following into the terminal:


The command line window will be much like any other file manager, but it works left to right rather than top to bottom, meaning that if you use the left arrow key, you work your way up the folder structure and the right arrow key works down the folder structure.

It is worth reading the man pages before using ranger so that you can get used to all keyboard switches that are available.

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Cancel a Shutdown

Cancel Linux shutdown command

Abort a scheduled shutdown with the command:

shutdown -c

If the shutdown has already started, then it may be too late to stop the shutdown.

Another command to try is as follows:

pkill shutdown
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Killing Hung Processes the Easy Way

Kill Hung processes with XKill

Imagine you are running an application and for whatever reason, it hangs. You could try increasing the process' priority with nice but it's often better not to give a runaway process more resources.

You could use ps -ef to find the process and then kill the process, or you could use htop.

There is a quicker and easier command called xkill.

Type the following into a terminal and then click on the window of the application you want to kill.


What happens though if the whole system is hanging?

Hold down the Alt+SysRq keys on your keyboard and while they are held down, type the following letters slowly:


This technique restarts your computer without using the power button.

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Download Youtube Videos

youtube-dl Linux command

Generally speaking, most of us are quite happy for YouTube to host the videos and we watch them by streaming them through our chosen media player.

If you know you are going to be offline for a while, then you may wish to download a few videos onto a pen drive and watch them at your leisure. All you have to do is install youtube-dl from your package manager.

Use youtube-dl as follows:

youtube-dl url-to-video

Get the URL to any video on Youtube by clicking the share link on the video's page. Simply copy the link and paste it into the command line (using the Shift+Insert shortcut).

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Download Files From the Web With wget

Download files from wget

The wget command downloads files from the web using the terminal.

The syntax is as follows:

wget path/to/filename

For example:

wget http://sourceforge.net/projects/antix-linux/files/Final/MX-krete/antiX-15-V_386-full.iso/download

There are a large number of switches that can be used with wget such as -O which lets you output the filename to a new name.

In the example above we downloaded AntiX Linux from Sourceforge. The filename antiX-15-V_386-full.iso is quite long. It would be nice to download it as just antix15.iso. To do this, use the following command:

wget -O antix.iso http://sourceforge.net/projects/antix-linux/files/Final/MX-krete/antiX-15-V_386-full.iso/download

Downloading a single file doesn't seem worth it; you could easily just navigate to the web page using a browser and click the link.

If, however, you want to download a dozen files, then being able to add the links to an import file and use wget to download the files from those links will be much quicker.

Simply use the -i switch as follows:

wget -i /path/to/importfile
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Steam Locomotive

Linux Commands sl

This one isn't so much useful as a bit of fun.

Draw a steam train in your terminal window using the following command:

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Get Your Fortune Told

Linux Fortune Cookie

Another one that isn't particularly useful but just a bit of fun is the fortune command.

Like the sl command, you might need to install it from your repository first.

Then simply type the following to get your fortune told:

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Get a Cow to Tell Your Fortune

cowsay and xcowsay Linux command

Finally, get a cow to tell you your fortune using cowsay.

Type the following into your terminal:

fortune | cowsay

If you have a graphical desktop, you can use xcowsay to get a cartoon cow to show your fortune:

fortune | xcowsay

cowsay and xcowsay display any message. For example to display "hello world" simply use the following command:

cowsay "hello world"