Working at the command line is not as daunting a task as you would think. There is no special knowledge needed to know how to use the command line, it is a program like everything else. Most things in Linux can be done using the command line, although there are graphical tools for most programs, sometimes they are just not enough. This is where the command line comes in handy.

The terminal is often called the command prompt or the shell. In days gone by, this was the way the user interacted with the computer, however Linux users have found that the use of the shell can be quicker than a graphical method and still holds some merit today. Here you will learn how to use the terminal.

The original use of the terminal was a file browser and indeed it is still used as a file browser, in the event of the graphical environment failing. You can use the terminal as a file browser to navigate your files and undo the changes that have been made.

Starting the Terminal

To start Terminal choose Applications->Accessories->Terminal .

Common Commands

View Directories - ls

The ls (LiSt) lists files in different colors with full formatted text

Create Directories - mkdir (directory name)

The mkdir (MaKeDIRectory) command will create a directory.

Change Directories - cd (/directory/location)

The cd (ChangeDirectory) command will change from your current directory to any directory you specify.

Copy Files/Directories - cp (file or directory name) (to directory or filename)

The cp (CoPy) command will copy any files you specify. The cp -r command will copy any directories you specify.

Remove Files/Directories - rm (file or directory name)

The rm (ReMove) command will delete any filename you specify. The rm -rf command will remove any directory you specify.

Rename Files/Directories - mv (file or directory name)

The mv (MoVe) command will rename/move any file or directory you specify.

Find Files/Directories - locate (file or directory name)

The locate command will search your computer for any filename you specify. It uses an index of the files on your system to work quickly: to update this index run the command updatedb. This command is run automatically each day, if you leave your computer on. It needs to be run with administrative privileges (see Chapter 2, Administrative Tasks).

You can also use wildcards to match one or more files, such as "*" (for all files) or "?" (to match one character).

For a more thorough introduction to the Linux command line, please read the command line introduction on the Ubuntu wiki.

Switch to Console mode

The usual method of command-line access in Ubuntu is to start a terminal (see the section called “Starting the Terminal” above) , however sometimes it is useful to switch to the real console:

  1. Use the Ctrl-Alt-F1 shortcut keys to switch to the first console.

  2. To switch back to Desktop mode, use the Ctrl-Alt-F7 shortcut keys.


There are six consoles available. Each one is accessible with the shortcut keys Ctrl-Alt-F1 to Ctrl-Alt-F6.

Disable the beep sound in Terminal mode

  1. Start a Terminal session, select: Applications->Accessories->Terminal from the desktop menu system.

  2. Edit->Current Profile... . Select the General tab. Uncheck the Terminal bell checkbox.