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5 Useful Linux Commands for Complete Newbies

Updated on May 21, 2014

You've just installed Ubuntu on your computer and want to show off your geeky side to your newbie friends?Or maybe you want to do more with the oh-so-powerful beast called Linux yet not mess up your computer.Either way commands in linux are like superpowers if you use them well you're in total control,if you don't use them properly panic strikes.Fortunately you won't be learning any dangerous commands in this tutorial,just the fun,safe yet useful ones.

So,why would I want to learn them?

Ok let's say you want to lookup how many minutes/hours/days your computer has been running.You'd normally go to the ubuntu software center,search for the application,download it,install it,start it and then admire your 5 day streak.But,if you know a simple command called uptime and type it in the terminal,you'll instantly get your uptime thus saving a lot of time.Again,commands are purely optional,for almost every command there is a pretty(or ugly sometimes) GUI application.It's as they say “There's an app for that!”

Ok now tell me the commands,make me a tux ninja!

First of all you'll need to open the terminal to enter these commands.To do that, Go to Applications then Accessories then click on Terminal.Otherwise you can simply press Alt+F2 and type gnome-terminal and then press 'Enter'/click on Run.Now that you're ready,here are the commands you need to know.Let the force be with you!.

1)Looking up definitions

Don't have time to lookup words from a real dictionary?.Here's a command using which you can look up words instantly.Just copy the command and paste it in the terminal.To paste in the terminal use the keyboard combo 'CTRL+SHIFT+V' instead of the normal Ctrl+v.Note:you need a working internet connection to use this command.

curl dict://<wordtolookup>


curl dict://


curl to use dictionary
curl to use dictionary

2)Killing the slow pokes.

You've got a bunch of programs running together and one of them stops responding.Either you can wait for it to resume or just kill it instantly using a simple command.Say firefox is not responding,all you got to do is type in 'pkill firefox'.If you're too lazy to type firefox,just type 'pkill fir' and then press tab,your command will be autocompleted.

pkill <Nameoftheprogram>


pkill firefox

3)Tweet from the command line

Tweet from the terminal to impress your friends.The tweet will be posted immediately and will show API as the client.Replace 'YourUsername' and 'YourPassword' with your username and your password respectively.Then add your status message(don't remove the double quotes).Finally,paste the command in the terminal.If the output is a bit cluttered just press Ctrl+L.

curl -u YourUsername:YourPassword -d status="Your status message"


curl -u someuser:A@#$@#@$$ -d status="My first tweet from the linux command line!"

4)Monitoring the memory

Sometimes it is necessary to monitor how much memory is free during a session.If you're running too many programs,the amount of free memory would definitely be less.Here's the command to easily monitor free and used memory.

Type/copy and paste 'free -m' without the quotes in the terminal to see how much memory is free and how much is in use.The above command will show memory in Megabytes.You can also see the output in Gigabytes or Kilobytes if you want.Just change the command to 'free -g' for gigabytes and 'free -k' for kilobytes

free -m

5)Downloading Files
Downloading files from websites can be quite a pain when you've to wait for the downloads to finish and then close the browser.Sometimes we close the browser accidentally and interrupt the download process.To download almost any file off the internet,right click on the download link and select the 'Copy Link Location' option.Don't close the browser yet.Now open the terminal,type in 'wget -c ' and then press Ctrl+Shift+V followed by 'Enter' key.This will start the download with a neat progress bar.To cancel the download just press Ctrl+c.To resume just press the up arrow on the keyboard till the command reappears and press 'Enter'.Now open your home directory and your file will be there.

wget -c <Link to file>


wget -c

What if I get stuck?

If you don't know/forget what the command does just type in 'whatis' followed by the name of the 'whatis w',a brief description of the command will be shown.Most of the commands are well documented hence you can view their manuals by just typing 'man' followed by the command : 'man free' will show the documentation for the free command.If you're still a bit uncomfortable with the command line,try reading this article.

If you have any problems with commands mentioned above,feel free to comment your problem.And don't forget to choose your favourite command.


Out of the 5 commands which one is your favorite?

See results


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    • profile image

      Chris Hugh 

      9 years ago

      Does anyone know how to do curl tweeting now?

    • profile image

      rahul choudhury 

      9 years ago

      good one!!!!!!!!!!!thanks.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Curl tweeting doesn't work since the change to oauth. The rest is great though.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I would not say that these commands are for newbies. Newbies rarely work in CLI only, at least post tweets from there. ;)

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Wonder why most people (as of now) like 'pkill' more than others =)

    • tonybaldwin profile image


      10 years ago from 06513

      I wrote a few scripts to search not only, but also google dictionary and, using cURL similarly ( I also have used cURL to tweet and dent ( from the command line. Great stuff! One thing you don't mention is that has numerous resources, and you can specify which of them to use while searching. My script allows for that.

    • fossmaniac profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Earth

      @simeonvisser Thanks for the tip !

    • simeonvisser profile image


      10 years ago

      curl is not installed by default on a Ubuntu 10.04 installation. I just tried it and it was not installed. You can install it with sudo apt-get install curl but that is an additional step which is not really handy for newbies.

    • fossmaniac profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Earth

      You're welcome :)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Love Linux, thanks for sharing this



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