console Basic Command Memo

a shell to rule them all

Debian GNU/Linux systems have all the graphical applications needed to perform your daily tasks, so why use the command line?

  • it's faster,
  • not all options are present in the graphical interfaces,
  • use the command line without GUI saves resources,
  • it makes learning the Debian GNU/Linux system easier.

This section gathers some basic commands. For a more complete list, visit the Debian documentation:

The ultimate command: man

Browse directories

command    action
pwd        Print Working Directory
cd rep     Change Directory to rep
cd         Change Directory to /home/$USER or ~/
cd ..      Browse the parent directory
ls rep     List information about file(s) in rep
ls -a      ls with hidden files displayed
ls -l      ls with size and rights

Action on files or directories

command                action
mv source target       move the file from source to target
cp source target       copy the file from source to target
cp -R source target    copy the directory source to target
ln source link         create a hard link from source to link
ln -s source link      create a symbolik link from source to link
touch file             create the file file or update its 
                       modification date
mkdir rep              create a repertory rep
mkdir -p rep/rep2      mkdir with creation of parent directory if needed
rm file                remove file
rm -f file             remove the write-protected file
rmdir rep              remove an empty directory
rm -R rep              remove a directory
du -h file or rep      display size of the file or the rep

View/Compare files

command               action
wc file               Print byte, word and line counts of file
cat file              display the contents of a file
more file             displays file page by page. 'Space'=next page, 
                      'Enter'=next line, 'u'=up
less file             displays file with fine navigation 
head -n x file        displays 'x' first lines of file
tail -n x file        displays 'x' last lines of file
tail -f file          dynamicaly display last line of file
diff file1 file2      Displays differences between two text files
diff -u file1 file2   Displays differences between file1 and file2 
                      with patch syntax
comp file1 file2      compares two binary files
comp file1 file2 n N  compare two files, file1 from the octet n and 
                      file2 from octet N

Users and goups

command action
whoami          Print the current user id and name
who             Print all usernames currently logged in
id              Print user and group id's (uid & gid)
id user         Print user and group id's (root only)
finger user     Print informations about user
write user      Print a message on user's terminal
tty             Print the current terminal's name
su - sudo       Switch to administrator mode, superuser
passwd          Change the password of the current user
adduser         add a user
deluser         delete a user
addgroup        add a group
delgroup        delete a group


command             action
ps                  Process Status. Lists running process
ps ax               Print all running processes
ps aux              Print all process identified by users
pstree              Print all process in a tree
top                 List processes running on the system in a 
                    semi-graphical table
kill signal pid     kill a process using its pid
pkill signal name   kill a process using its name

signaux utilis├ęs par kill/pkill

signal   mode      action
-1       (HUP)     Reload the process configuration file
-2       (INT)     Interrupt the process
-3       (QUIT)    Quit the process
-9       (KILL)    Kill the process (to avoid, try '-15' first)
-15      (TERM)    Complete the process properly
-18      (STOP)    Freeze the process
-20      (CONT)    Resume execution of a frozen process


command                   action
lsusb                     Lists connected USB devices
lspci                     Lists connected PCI devices
cat /proc/cpuinfo         Displays processor information
cat /proc/partitions      Displays mounted partitions

examples : (sources linuxtrack)

Display the model of the graphics card:

lspci | egrep "3D|Display|VGA"

Show the model of the Wifi card:

lspci | grep -i "net" | cut -d: -f3

Show the soundcard model:

lspci | grep -i audio | cut -d: -f3


command                      action
hostname                     Print or set system name
ping machine                 send a ping to a machine on the network
traceroute machine           displays a traceroute through machine
netstat                      Displays the use of the network 
                             by the processes
netstat -a                   netstat with the display of the 
                             server processes
lsof                         Detailed list of file and network usage
ifconfig                     Displays the config of the interfaces
ifconfig interface IP mask   configure the network  interface
route                        Displays the routing table

ex : displays its locap IP on eth0

ip address show eth0 | grep "inet " | tr -s " " ":" | cut -d: -f3
/sbin/ifconfig eth0 | grep "inet " | tr -s " " ":" | cut -d: -f4
ip address show eth0 | grep "inet " | tr -s " " ":" | tr -s "/" ":" | cut -d: -f3
command/option       action
locate pattern       search for file with a pattern name
updatedb             update locate database
find path options    search for file corresponding to options in path
find -name pattern   search for file with a pattern
find -type f/d/l     search by filetype: f=file, d=directory, l=link
find -exec cmd       execute *cmd* to found files

Example: search for all png files in the 'Images' directory, then copy all files to tmp directory ( '{}' stands for found files).

find $HOME/Images -name "*.png" -exec cp {} $HOME/tmp/ \;


format           compress                              extract
.tar.bz2, .tbz2  tar -cvjf archive.tar.bz2 directory   tar xvjf
.tar.gz, .tgz    tar -cvzf archive.tar.gz directory    tar xvzf
.bz2             bzip2 file                            bunzip2
.rar             -                                     unrar x
.gz              gzip file                             gunzip
.tar             tar -cvf archive.tar files            tar xvf
.zip             zip -r files              unzip
.Z               compress files                        uncompress
.7z              7z a files                            7z x
.xz              xz -z directory                       unxz


Version of the Linux kernel used, its name, the version of the compiler used:

cat /proc/version

Version of the Linux kernel used:

uname -r

List all kernels installed on your machine:

dpkg -l | egrep "linux-(header|image)"