Basic Linux Commands for Beginners: A Handy Reference Guide

basic linux commands blog header

Are you new to Linux and feeling overwhelmed by the command-line interface? Don't worry; you're not alone. Learning to navigate and use Linux commands effectively is crucial to mastering this powerful operating system. This article will explore essential Linux commands for beginners, covering everything from basic navigation to system management.

Introduction to Basic Linux Commands

Linux commands are instructions given to the operating system through the command-line interface (CLI). Unlike graphical user interfaces (GUI), which rely on visual elements, the CLI requires users to type commands to perform tasks.

Basic Navigation Commands

Understanding the File System

Before diving into specific commands, it's essential to understand the Linux file system hierarchy. In Linux, everything is treated as a file, including directories, devices, and processes.

Listing Files and Directories – ls command

The ls command is used to list files and directories in the current location. Adding options such as -l provides detailed information about each item.

File Manipulation Commands

Creating and Deleting Files

To create an empty file, you can use the touch command followed by the filename. Conversely, the rm command is used to delete files.

Copying and Moving Files

The cp command copies files from one location to another, while the mv command moves or renames files.

Text Editing Commands

Using Nano

Nano is a simple text editor built into many Linux distributions. It's beginner-friendly and allows for basic text editing tasks.

Using Vi or Vim

Vi and Vim are powerful text editors favored by experienced Linux users. They offer advanced features and customizable options for efficient text editing.

Process Management Commands

Managing Processes

Linux provides commands like ps and top to manage and monitor processes running on the system.

Monitoring System Activity

Commands like htop and iotop offer real-time monitoring of system activity, including CPU, memory, and disk usage.

User and Group Management Commands

Adding and Deleting Users

The useradd command adds new users to the system, while userdel deletes existing users.

Modifying User Permissions

Commands like chmod and chown modify user permissions and ownership of files and directories.

Network Commands

Checking Network Configuration

The ifconfig command displays network interface configuration, while ip addr provides more detailed information.

Testing Network Connectivity

Commands like ping and traceroute test network connectivity and troubleshoot network issues.

Package Management Commands

Installing Software Packages

Package managers like apt (Advanced Package Tool) and yum (Yellowdog Updater Modified) are used to install software packages on Linux systems.

Updating and Removing Packages

Commands like apt-get update and apt-get remove are used to update and remove software packages.

File Permissions Commands

Understanding File Permissions

In Linux, file permissions dictate who can read, write, or execute a file. The ls -l command displays file permissions.

Modifying File Permissions

The chmod command is used to modify file permissions, allowing or restricting access to specific users or groups.

Compression and Archiving Commands

Compressing Files

Commands like tar and gzip compress files and directories into archive formats like tar.gz.

Extracting Files from Archives

The tar -xvf command is used to extract files from tar archives, while gunzip is used to decompress gzip files.

System Information Commands

Checking System Information

Commands like uname and hostname provide basic system information like the kernel version and hostname.

Monitoring System Performance

Tools like sar (System Activity Reporter) and vmstat provide detailed system performance metrics for analysis.

Searching and Filtering Commands

Searching for Files and Text

The find command is used to search for files based on various criteria, while grep searches for text within files.

Filtering Text Output

Commands like grep and sed are used to filter and manipulate text output, allowing users to extract specific information.

Miscellaneous Commands

Finding Help

The man command displays the manual pages for other commands, providing detailed information and usage instructions.

Running Commands as Superuser

Prefixing a command with sudo allows users to execute it with superuser privileges, granting access to system-level tasks.

Command Line Errors and Troubleshooting

Permission Denied Errors

Permission denied errors occur when users attempt to access files or directories without the necessary permissions. Using chmod to adjust permissions can resolve this issue.

Command Not Found Errors

Command not found errors occur when the system cannot locate the specified command. Verifying the command spelling or checking the system's PATH variable can help troubleshoot this issue.


Mastering Linux commands is essential for anyone looking to become proficient with the Linux operating system. By familiarizing yourself with these basic commands, you'll be well on your way to confidently navigating and managing Linux systems. Be sure to check out certification opportunities for Linux as well. 


Can I use Linux commands on any distribution?

Yes, Linux commands are generally consistent across different distributions, although there may be slight variations in syntax or available options.

Are there graphical alternatives to these commands?

Yes, many Linux distributions offer graphical user interfaces for performing tasks, but learning the command-line interface provides more flexibility and efficiency.

Is it possible to undo changes made by a command?

Some commands, like rm for deleting files, do not have built-in undo functionality. It's essential to double-check commands before executing them to avoid unintended consequences.

How often should I update software packages?

It's recommended to update software packages regularly to ensure security patches and new features are applied. Many distributions provide tools for automated updates.

Can I break my system by misusing Linux commands?

While it can cause system issues with incorrect commands, Linux typically provides safeguards to prevent irreversible damage. It's essential to exercise caution and back up important data before making system-wide changes.

Is Linux easy to learn for beginners?

Learning Linux as a beginner can be an exciting and rewarding journey filled with opportunities for growth and discovery. Embrace the opportunity to explore the vast world of Linux, from its user-friendly distributions to its powerful command-line interface.

Be bold, ask questions, and seek guidance along the way. With determination and curiosity, you'll gain confidence and proficiency in Linux quickly, unlocking endless possibilities for learning and innovation. Remember, every step you take brings you closer to mastering this versatile and empowering operating system.

50 Basic Linux commands

This table provides a concise overview of the command, its abbreviation or acronym, and its purpose. These commands cover many basic operations essential for effectively navigating and managing a Linux system.

Command Stands For Meaning
ls List List directory contents
cd Change Directory Change current working directory
pwd Print Working Directory Display the current working directory
mkdir Make Directory Create a new directory
rmdir Remove Directory Remove a directory
cp Copy Copy files and directories
mv Move Move or rename files and directories
rm Remove Remove files or directories
touch Touch Create an empty file or update the access/modification time
cat Concatenate Display file content
less Less View file content page by page
head Head Display the beginning of a file
tail Tail Display the end of a file
grep Global Regular Expression Print Search text patterns in files
find Find Search files and directories
chmod Change Mode Change file permissions
chown Change Owner Change file ownership
sudo Superuser Do Execute a command as the superuser
su Substitute User Switch to a different user account
passwd Password Change user password
ps Process Status Display information about running processes
top Top Display system processes in real-time
kill Kill Terminate processes by PID
df Disk Free Display disk space usage
du Disk Usage Display file and directory space usage
free Free Display system memory usage
uname Unix Name Display system information
who Who Display information about currently logged-in users
ifconfig Interface Configuration Display network interface configuration
ping Packet Internet Groper Test network connectivity
traceroute Trace Route Display the route packets take to reach a destination
netstat Network Statistics Display network connections and routing tables
ssh Secure Shell Connect to a remote server securely using SSH
scp Secure Copy Copy files securely between hosts using SSH
wget Web Get Download files from the internet
tar Tape Archive Compress and decompress files in tar archives
unzip Unzip Extract files from a ZIP archive
gzip GNU Zip Compress files using gzip
grep Global Regular Expression Print Search text patterns in files
sed Stream Editor Stream editor for text manipulation
awk Aho, Weinberger, and Kernighan Pattern scanning and text processing language
wc Word Count Count lines, words, and characters in a file
date Date Display or set the system date and time
history History Display command history

Master Linux commands in 10 easy steps

Linux commands can seem intimidating for beginners, but with some practice and the right resources, you can master them quickly. Here are ten easy steps to help you become proficient with Linux commands.

  1. Learn the basic commands. Before you can start using Linux commands, knowing the basics is essential. Some of the most important commands to learn include “ls” (list files and directories), “cd” (change directories), and “pwd” (print working directory).
  2. Understand the file system hierarchy. In Linux, files and directories are organized in a hierarchical structure. Knowing how this structure works will help you navigate the file system more efficiently.
  3. Get familiar with the command line interface. The command line interface (CLI) is the primary way to interact with Linux. Understanding how it works and how to use it effectively is essential.
  4. Practice using commands. The best way to become proficient with Linux commands is to practice using them. Try running different commands and see what happens.
  5. Learn how to use wildcards. Wildcards are a powerful tool for working with multiple files simultaneously. For example, the command “ls *” will list all files in a directory.
  6. Learn how to use command options. Most Linux commands have options that can be used to modify their behavior. For example, the command “ls -l” will display the files and directories in a directory in long format.
  7. Learn how to use command arguments. Arguments are used to specify the target of a command. For example, the command “cd /usr” will change the current directory to /usr.
  8. Learn how to redirect output. Redirection allows you to redirect the output of a command to a file or another command. For example, the command “ls > file.txt” will redirect the output of the “ls” command to a file called “file.txt.”
  9. Learn how to use pipes. Pipes allow you to connect one command's output to another command's input. For example, the command “ls | grep file” will list all files in a directory and search for the word “file.”
  10. Keep learning. Linux commands are vast and complex, but with practice and persistence, you can become proficient with them. Keep learning new commands and experimenting with different options and arguments.

By following these steps and practicing regularly, you can master Linux commands quickly. Remember to be patient with yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for help if needed. Happy Learning!

Posted in

FTC Disclosure

devLatino may receive compensation from the companies whose courses and products we showcase, with no added cost to you. We only partner with the very best and most reputable companies. devLatino is independently owned, and the opinions expressed here are our own

Scroll to Top