Using the terminal

Saturday, 13 August 2005, michuk

The terminal known also as the console (root terminal is usually called that) or a command line/prompt (Windows terminology) is, making things simple, a text user interface, where you can run programs and commands, browse the file system, configure the services and generally do everything that may be done in the graphical user interface, but faster and more automatically.

In particular, the console tools allow to:

  • configure our system fast,
  • install additional software,
  • operate on files and folders (i.e. using external tools like Midnight Commander),
  • copy and share files across the network using protocols like SCP (secure copy), NFS (Linux shares) or Samba (Windows shares)
  • read and write mail (mutt, pine), browse the web (lynx, elinks, w3m) and newsgroups (slrn),
  • listen to music (mpd/mpc, mp3blaster, xmms-shell),
  • burn the CD-s (cdrecord, cdrdao) and DVD-s (growiofs),
  • talk with friends using Jabber, ICQ, IRC or other popular networks!

If you care about the efficiency of our work, the terminal is the natural way to go. Nothing comes easy though. At first we’ll need to learn the new way of talking to our operating system by using commands. It’s not as hard as it seems however, and the benefits are hard to deny, especially when we often have to do repetitive operations, like copying some files though the network, do backups of our data, or resize all the images in a folder.

Ok, but… where is this terminal??

Well, usually it’s located in a visible place. There may be an icon on the desktop looking like a monitor. If not there, it certainly is somewhere in the menu. If you’re using Gnome, look for an app called Gnome terminal. In KDE, the right program is Konsole. There are many more terminal emulators out there – they differ in details (like providing or not tabs, transparent backgrounds or nice fonts selectors). If we really want to see the actual terminal (not the emulator), just press CTRL+ALT+F1 and perform the text login. You can always come back to the graphical interface by pressing CTRL+ALT+F7.

Linux console commands

In order to use the terminal you need to know some basic commands. Here are some external webpages listing the essential ones.