I've been learning ruby on rails for a while. At first I resisted using the console, but after a while I can say that I LOVE it. If Linux is anything like that, I think it's going to be legit.

I think I'm gonna try Ubuntu for the time being. However, here's the question - where do you learn the poweruser tips, tricks and shortcuts for using Linux? I really want to get on the right track from the very start - minimizing distractions, maximizing productivity, etc.

I'm thinking like keyboard shortcuts and absolute basics of Linux.

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    Promoting the keyboard console through a testimonial?!? I wish I could upvote this question more than once and give it more than one star! – Randolf Richardson Jun 5 '11 at 1:52
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    Linux is not like a cli. Linux is recompiling the kernel and finding out your wireless doesn't work. – ta.speot.is Jun 5 '11 at 4:27
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    I wish I could have the Linux terminal with Windows's Explorer... that would be legit. – user541686 Jun 5 '11 at 4:35
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    @todda.speot.is or in my case, finding out that you accidentally built your filesystem and disk controller drivers as modules (and no ramdisk support) – TuxRug Jun 5 '11 at 4:47
  • The only required answer here is Slackware/Debian. Use one for a couple months, and you'll know everything worth knowing about running a Linux system. Once you do, move on to an actual user's distro - I run Zenwalk. – new123456 Jun 5 '11 at 17:17

First and foremost you want to find a shell reference. No matter how good of a guide you find on Linux, you'll want to be able to look up individual commands and how they work. This is the official GNU Bash Reference Manual, so it should be fairly complete.

As a programmer, you will soon like to use the advanced bash scripting guide.

Also get familiar with man pages. Most commands should have a manual, accessible through 'man commandname' in the terminal.

There's also a wiki on all things Ubuntu specific.

Of course Ask Ubuntu (au) and Unix & Linux (ul) from this StackExchange-stack are glad to invite you if you with your questions. :)


Here's a short list to get you started:

  • bash
  • history
  • grep
  • find
  • cat
  • less
  • tail
  • screen
  • sed
  • awk
  • curl

Try using the man command on any of the above, as well as the info-command, plus google, of course:

man grep
# maybe first:
man man
# usage for example:
info coreutils date invocation

Anyway, the other answers are just as good, I just know that I use the above commands every day, all day long.

Have fun!


A great place to learn about this stuff is on IRC:

  FreeNode (this network is popular among many developers)

You'll need an IRC client (there are many to choose from), or you can use the web-based chat at http://webchat.freenode.net/ if you prefer. The #Linux and #Ubuntu channels are very popular there, and would probably be really good places to get started -- you can learn a lot just from watching what the thousands of people ask about on this helpful network.

SuperUser.com has a Chat system as well, which I believe has a pretty busy Ubuntu channel (they call them "rooms" rather than "channels").

Also, take a look at the long list of [mostly] well-known Linux distributions, and at least try a few of them before getting your heart set on one in particular:

  Resources - Operating Systems - Linux distributions

Each distribution of Linux has its advantages, and also many differences (some are more noticeable than others). Depending on your needs, one distribution that meets all your criteria may not be suitable for someone else. (It sure is nice to have all these choices!)


While all of the other answers so far have excellent advice, what really helped for me was reading a book on shell scripting. It was during that reading that my command line "vocabulary" almost doubled.


In regards to learning the shell, I see that the Bash Reference Manual was posted already, but you may also want to check out the Advanced Bash Scripting Guide (ABS). Probably one of the best tutorials on how to use the Bash shell and most of the knowledge learned there can transfer over to other *nix shells as well.

Also for Ubuntu check Ubuntu Geek for power user tips and tricks. I would also recommend looking through the Ubuntu Community Wiki (can't post the link here due to the spam prevention feature of this site, but you can find it at the Ubuntu site). That along with the links posted by others should get you started in the right direction.


This website: http://linuxcommand.org/ is a good place to get started.

Thereafter, I would get a book like this: http://www.sobell.com/CR2/index.html, which gives an overview on just about everything.

However, I find the best way to get really into linux is to use a command-line friendly linux distribution.

Ubuntu and derivatives are a good place to start because they don't completely hide the CLI from you, but after 6 months to a year (depends on how obsessively you get into it), I would try to install http://www.archlinux.org/; the installation process itself will teach you a lot, not to mention the tons of configuration, etc. examples given by the wiki at: http://wiki.archlinux.org/.

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