Your Gateway to Linux: Basic Linux Commands for Beginners

Linux, known for its powerful command-line interface, offers a vast array of commands that allow users to manage their systems efficiently. While the terminal might seem daunting to newcomers, understanding and using Linux commands can greatly enhance your experience with the operating system.

In this article, we will explore some basic Linux commands, their functionalities, and how they empower users to navigate the file system, manage software, and perform various tasks with ease.

What is a Linux Command?

A Linux command is a text-based instruction entered into the command-line interface (CLI) of a Linux operating system. These commands serve as the primary means of interacting with the Linux kernel, enabling users to perform diverse tasks such as managing files and directories, handling packages, monitoring system processes, and much more.

Commands are composed of a command name and optional parameters, like options or arguments. The command name specifies the action to be taken, while the parameters provide additional information needed to execute the task effectively.

For example, the ls command lists the contents of a directory, and you can add options like -a to show hidden files or -l to display more details.

Some basic but essential Linux commands

  1. sudo: It allows you to run commands with root privileges, necessary for tasks like installing or removing software.
  2. ls: Lists the contents of a directory.
  3. cd: Changes the current working directory to navigate the file system.
  4. cp: Copies files or directories.
  5. mv: Moves or renames files and directories.
  6. rm: Removes files or directories.
  7. mkdir: Creates a new directory.
  8. rmdir: Removes an empty directory.
  9. nano: A simple text editor for editing configuration files and scripts.
  10. cat: Displays the contents of a file in the terminal.
  11. grep: Searches for specific patterns or text within files.
  12. find: Searches for files and directories based on criteria like name, size, or date modified.
  13. tar: Archives and extracts files.
  14. killall: Terminates running processes by name.
  15. wget: Downloads files from the internet.
  16. reboot: Reboots the system.
  17. poweroff: Shuts down the system.
  18. man: Displays the manual pages for a command.
  19. chmod: Sets up permissions for files or directories.
  20. top: Shows the currently running processes and system resource usage.
  21. ps: Shows the running processes.
  22. lsof: Displays the files currently open by processes on the system.

Learning these commands will help you manage your Linux system efficiently and make your experience smoother. Practice using them in the terminal to become more comfortable with Linux commands.

sudo – Run Command as Root User

sudo stands for “Superuser Do,” and it allows users to run commands as the root user, granting them elevated privileges. This is essential for tasks that require administrative access, like installing or removing software packages.


sudo [command]

ls – List the Contents of a Directory

ls is one of the most frequently used commands, as it lists the contents of a directory. By default, it displays the files and directories in the current working directory.


ls [options] [directory]

Common options include:

-a: Show hidden files.
-l: Display detailed information, including permissions and file sizes.
-h: Display file sizes in a human-readable format.

cd – Change the Current Working Directory

The cd command allows users to change the current working directory, making it indispensable for navigating the file system and working with files and directories.


cd [directory]


cd ~: Change to the home directory.
cd /: Change to the root directory.
cd ..: Change to the parent directory.

cp – Copy Files and Directories

The cp command is used to copy files and directories. It can copy a single file or multiple files simultaneously.

Syntax (file copy):

cp [file_name] [new_location]

Syntax (directory copy):

cp -r [source_dir] [dest_dir]

mv – Move Files and Directories

The mv command is used to move files and directories from one location to another. It can also be used to rename files and directories.


mv [source] [destination]

rm – Remove Files

rm is used to remove files within a directory. Care should be taken when using this command, as deleted files cannot be easily recovered.


rm [options] [file]

Use the -r option when removing directories and the -f option when removing write-protected files.


rm -r my_folder: Remove the directory “my_folder” and its contents.
rm -f sensitive_file.txt: Forcefully remove the file “sensitive_file.txt.”

mkdir – Create a New Directory

The mkdir command is used to create a new directory.


mkdir [options] [directory]

Common options include:

-p or --parents: Create a directory along with any necessary parent directories.
-m: Set file permissions for the newly created directory.
-v: Display a message for each created directory.

rmdir – Remove a Directory

The rmdir command is used to remove an empty directory.


rmdir [options] [directory]

Common options include:

--ignore-fail-on-non-empty: Ignore failures if the directory is not empty.
-p or --parents: Remove the specified directory and its ancestors.

nano – A Simple Text Editor

nano is a user-friendly text editor used to edit configuration files and scripts directly from the terminal.


nano [file_name]

cat – Concatenate Files

The cat command is used to display the contents of a file in the terminal. It can also be used to concatenate multiple files together and display their content.


cat [file]


cat file1.txt: Display the content of “file1.txt.”
cat file1.txt file2.txt > file3.txt: Merge “file1.txt” and “file2.txt” and save the output in “file3.txt.

grep – Finds Words in a File

The grep command searches for specific patterns or text within one or more files. It is a powerful tool for troubleshooting and debugging.


grep [pattern] [file]


grep "Error" log.txt: Search for the word “Error” in the “log.txt” file.
grep -i "warning" file.txt: Search for the word “warning” case-insensitively.

find – Search Files and Directories

The find command searches for files and directories on the Linux system based on various criteria like name, size, and modification date. You can check this article to know more about Find Command with examples.


find [path] [options] [search_criteria]


find /home/user -name "report.txt": Search for the file “report.txt” in the “/home/user” directory.
find /var/log -type f -name "*.log": Find all files with the “.log” extension in the “/var/log” directory.

tar – Archive and Extract Files

The tar command is used to create, extract, and manage archive files. It can compress and decompress files and directories.

Syntax (archive):

tar [options] [archive-file] [file/dir to be archived]

Options include:

-c: Create an archive.
-x: Extract an archive.
-f: Specify the archive filename.
-z: Filter the archive through gzip for compression.
-j: Filter the archive through bzip2 for compression.


tar -czvf archive.tar.gz file1.txt file2.txt: Create a compressed archive “archive.tar.gz” containing “file1.txt” and “file2.txt.”

killall – Terminate Running Processes

The killall command is used to terminate one or more running processes by their name.


killall [option] [program_name]

wget – Download Files from the Internet

The wget command is used to download files from the internet. It is useful for automating the download process.


wget [options] [URL]

reboot – Reboot the System

The reboot command allows users to reboot their system without using the graphical interface.



poweroff – Shutdown the System

The poweroff command is used to turn off the system from the terminal.



man – View the Manual Pages of a Command

The man command displays the manual pages for a command, providing detailed information about its usage and options.


man [command_name]

chmod – Set up Permissions of a File or Directory

The chmod command is used to change file permissions, allowing users to grant or revoke access for the owner, group, and others.


chmod [permissions] [file/dir]


chmod 755 Gives read, write, and execute permissions to the owner, and read and execute permissions to the group and others.
chmod +x Adds executable permission to the file for all users.

top – Shows the Current Running Processes

The top command displays real-time information about the currently running processes and their resource usage.



ps – Shows the Running Processes

The ps command provides information about the processes currently running on the system.



lsof – View the Files Opened by Processes

The lsof command displays the files currently open by processes on the system.




Mastering basic Linux commands is a crucial step toward becoming proficient in managing your Linux system. These commands offer unparalleled control and efficiency in navigating the file system, managing software, and monitoring system processes.

By familiarizing yourself with these fundamental commands, you’ll gain confidence in using the terminal and unleash the full potential of the Linux operating system.

So, embrace the terminal, practice using these commands, and watch as your Linux experience transforms into a smooth and seamless journey of system management.

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