Some distros have GUI-based config file generators which may be downloadable but not installed by default —it's worth doing a google for GUI configurators (e.g. "Samba Ubuntu GUI config") when you are online. If you are lucky you may not have to edit config files at all.
Most of the packages install documentation in various places, including guides to writing config files. Here are some common places you can find documentation which may already be on your PC:
- Most packages put some HTML documentation files under
/usr/local/share/doc/<package>. Note the package name may not be the same name as the tool -e.g. the tool 'httpd' is in the package called 'apache'.
- Some tools put configuration instructions in an 'info library', which you can browse with the
info tool. (Which is probably preinstalled, but if not you can load it with your package manager). You can just type
info on it's own to go to the master index and search through the menus, or type
info <tool> (e.g.
info emacs) to try and go straight to the right page. Info usually wants the tool name not the package name if you call it in this way.
- Tools that don't do either of the above will often have manual pages which you can access with
man <tool> (again, tool-name not package name). Quite often the tool's manual page will have a "see also" section at the bottom which gives you the names of other man pages. For example,
man httpd will probably give you the command-line switches for starting httpd, but at the bottom will usually say something like "see also: httpd.conf", in which case calling
man httpd.conf would give you the config file manual page.
A good tip for finding out where the package has hidden the docs is to check in the package manager -they will usually have an option to show you all the installed files in the package, and you can search for files in
/usr/share/doc, files ending in
.info or files under
/usr/share/man to try and get a hint.
If you can't see any documentation files then it may be the package maintainer has moved them into a separate package because they were too large. In that case, have a quick look in the package manager and see if theres a documentation package. E.g. the package
gtk-1.2.3 may have a
gtk-1.2.3-doc with the documentation in there (or it may be called
gtk-doc-1.2.3 or some other variation, the names don't seem to be standardised).
You can get quite a long way just by using the docs already on the Linux system, and with a bit of judicious googling or checking on Amazon.com you can probably cover the rest.