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Both commands look like have same purpose but their output is different. what is the difference?

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Apr 23 '10 at 12:20

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

  1. finger, when pointed at a specific user, can display detailed information (shell, homedir, last login time, mailbox status, ~/.plan)

  2. finger can also be used over the network: finger @athena.dialup.mit.edu

  3. Because of #2, finger is also sometimes used for simplistic database queries: finger john@db.debian.org, finger help_general@mit.edu, finger @bathroom.mit.edu

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Finger was a way to get information about a user from another system. You could do a finger gandalf@example.com and see my full name, phone number, where I connect from, and a short message from me.

Who is used when you are on a machine to see who else is on the machine.

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who tells you very basic information about what users are logged on. finger tells you personal information about a user, possibly including real name, office location, and office phone number. Obviously finger is less used now, for various reasons including privacy.

Note that finger has a long-form option, -l, that provides additional information.

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$ man finger

NAME
  finger — user information lookup program

$ man who

NAME
   who - show who is logged on
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1  
Always check the man pages. – Ivan Petrushev Apr 23 '10 at 13:28

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