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40+ Most Used Linux Terminal Commands

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Two things are true of the Linux command line: one, there are thousands of possible commands you can use at any given time, and two, you’ll only end up using a fraction of them. Despite the power offered, most of us just repeat the same commands over and over again.

And that’s one of the biggest myths about Linux. A lot of people still see Linux as a difficult operating system used only by hardcore geeks who have a bazillion commands memorized, but that’s simply not true. If you can learn the most-used commands, you’ll have a perfectly fine time in Linux — even as a total newbie.

So whether you’re just getting started or simply curious, here are the most common commands that will carry you through your entire time on Linux.

Terminal Navigation Commands

Before you can really make full use of the terminal, you’ll need to know how to navigate it. That’s why we consider these the most basic Linux commands: no amount of terminal knowledge will help you if you can’t change directories or get help on a command you don’t remember how to use.

&& — This one is so basic that it’s not even technically a command. If you ever want to run multiple commands in sequential order, just stick this in between each one. For example, [command1] && [command2] will first run [command1] then immediately follow it with [command2]. You can chain as many commands as you want.
! — Repeats a recently used command. Best to use it in conjunction with the history command. You can use !n to repeat the n-th command in history. You can also use !-n to repeat the command that happened n commands ago.
cd — Changes the current terminal directory.
clear — Clears the terminal screen.
history — Displays a list of all recently used commands. You can also cycle through recently used commands by pressing the Up and Down arrow keys in the terminal.
ls — Displays a list of all files in the current terminal directory. You can modify it with parameters to specify some other directory or to change the format of the list.
man — Displays a help page (from the manual) based on your search query. Very useful for learning how to use a command you don’t recognize or when you forget the parameters for an infrequently used command. If you’re ever confused, turn to man.
pwd — Displays the current terminal directory as an absolute path.
whatis — Displays brief descriptions of command line programs. Think of it like a simplified version of man when you aren’t sure what a command does but don’t need the full manual on how to use it.

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