I think that it doesn’t matter what operating system you use — as long as you know your OS of choice well!:bowtie: This is a Linux command cheat sheet covering a wide range of topics. I cannot guarantee that the information is fully up-to-date or even correct. Use at own risk :stuck_out_tongue:. It is intended primarily as a reference for myself in the future. I have learned most of the material covered below a couple of years ago in the LinuxFoundationX’s Introduction to Linux course offered through edx.org.

Table of contents

The most basic operations

  • Power off / reboot: shutdown -h now, halt, poweroff, reboot, shutdown -r now
  • Most basic navigation: pwd, cd, cd ~, cd .., cd -, ls, ls -a, ls -li, tree
  • Most basic file management: mv, cp, rm -f, rm -i, rm -r, rmdir <empty_dir>
  • Date and time: date, cal, cal -y
  • Create files and directories:
$ touch <file>
$ touch -t 1703270159 <file>
$ mkdir <path/dir>
  • Create a hard / soft (symbolic) link: ln / ln -s
  • Create a temporary file or directory:
$ TEMP=$(mktemp /tmp/tempfile.XXXXXXXX)
$ TEMPDIR=$(mktemp -d /tmp/tempdir.XXXXXXXX)

I/O redirection

Assume that do_something reads from stdin and writes to stdout and stderr.

  • Get the input from a file using <.
  • Send the output to a new file using >.
  • Append to an existing file using >>.


$ do_something < input-file
$ do_something > output-file
$ do_something 2> error-file
$ do_something > all-output-file 2>&1
$ do_something >& all-output-file

Pipe the output of one command or program into another as its input:

$ command1 | command2 | command3
  • Locate applications: which, whereis
  • Update database, and search for a character string in the database with updatedb and locate. E.g., to list all files and directories with both “zip” and “bin” in their name:
    $ updatedb
    $ locate zip | grep bin
  • Locate files recursively from a given directory: find
    • E.g., searching only for regular files named “test1” in /usr:
      $ find /usr -type f -name test1
    • E.g., search based on file size or time stamp:
      $ find / -size +10M
      $ find / -ctime 3
    • find uses wildcards such as ?, *, [set], [!set] (where “set” is a set of letters).
    • Run commands on the found files with the -exec option.
    • E.g., to find and remove all files that end with .swp in current directory:
      $ find -name "*.swp" -exec rm {};
  • Use grep to search for a pattern in a file and print all matching lines. Examples:
    $ grep [pattern] <filename>
    $ grep -C 3 [pattern] <filename>

Viewing text files

  • cat for short files, no scroll-back.
  • tac to look at a file backwards.
  • Concatenate multiple files and display the output:
    $ cat <file1> <file2>
    $ tac <file1> <file2> <file3>
  • less for larger files; use / and ? for forward and backward search.
  • Print the first n or the last n lines of a file:
    $ head -n
    $ tail -n
  • Monitor new output in a growing file:
    $ tail -f

Create and fill text files

  • Create a file and fill it with content:
    $ echo line one > myfile
    $ echo line two >> myfile
    $ echo line three >> myfile


    $ cat << EOF > myfile
    > line one
    > line two
    > line three
    > EOF
  • From existing text files:
    $ cat file1 file2 > newfile
    $ cat file >> existingfile

More text utilities

  • Sort the lines in file alphabetically:
    $ sort <filename>
  • Remove consecutive duplicate lines from file:
    $ uniq <filename>
  • Split a file into 1000-line segments:
    $ split <infile> <prefix>
  • Count lines, words, and characters in a file:
    $ wc <filename>
  • Print or join files by column (field): awk, paste, join, cut
  • Miscellaneous text utilities: sed, tr, tee, strings

Comparing and patching files

  • Show the file type of a file:
    $ file <filename>
  • Compare two files:
    $ diff <filename1> <filename2>
  • Compare two files to a common file:
    $ diff3 <filename1> <commonfile> <filename2> 
  • Produce a patch file:
    $ diff -Nur oldfile newfile > patchfile
  • Apply a patch file:
    $ patch -p0 < patchfile


    $ patch file patchfile

Postscript and PDF files

  • Convert bar.txt to foo.ps:
    $ enscript -p foo.ps bar.txt
  • View the details of a PDF file:
    $ pdfinfo <filename>.pdf
  • Converting between PostScript and PDF:
    $ ps2pdf <filename>.pdf
    $ pdf2ps <filename>.ps
    $ epstopdf <filename>.eps <filename>.pdf
  • pdftk is the Swiss Army knife of PDF tools. Usage examples:
    • Merge 1.pdf and 2.pdf, and save as 12.pdf:
      $ pdftk 1.pdf 2.pdf cat output 12.pdf
    • Save pages 1 and 2 of 1.pdf to new.pdf:
      $ pdftk A=1.pdf cat A1-2 output new.pdf
    • Rotate all pages of in.pdf 90 deg. clockwise, and save as out.pdf:
      $ pdftk in.pdf cat 1-endeast output out.pdf
    • Encrypt a PDF file:
      $ pdftk public.pdf output private.pdf user_pw PROMPT

Viewing linux documentation

  1. man to search, format, and displays the manual pages. Examples:
    • man -f displays a one-line manual pages descriptions:
      $ man -f printf
      printf (1) - format and print data
      printf (3) - formatted output conversion

      or equivalently,

      $ whatis printf
      printf (1) - format and print data
      printf (3) - formatted output conversion
    • The section number can be supplied:
      $ man 3 printf
    • man -k shows all man pages that discuss a specified subject:
      $ man -k ruby
      erb (1)    - Ruby Templating
      erb2.3 (1) - Ruby Templating
      gem (1)    - frontend to RubyGems, the Ruby package manager
  2. GNU Info System:
    $ info
    $ info <topic name>
  3. Every command has a --help or -h option.

File ownership and permissions

  • Change user ownership:
    $ chown <owner> <filename>
  • Change group ownership:
    $ chgrp <group> <filename>
  • Change the permissions on a file:
    $ chmod <permissions> <file>

User accounts and groups

  • Identify currently logged-on users:
    $ who
    $ who -a
    $ whoami
  • Add / Remove a user: useradd / userdel
  • Set the initial password for a new user:
    $ passwd <username>
  • Display information about a user:
    $ id <user>
    $ groups <user>
  • Add / Remove a group: groupadd / groupdel
  • Add a user to a group:
    $ groupmod -G <group> <user>
  • Grant root privileges to user temporarily:
    $ su
    $ sudo <command>
  • Show last time each user has logged into the system:
    $ last

Environment variables and aliases

  • View the values of currently set environment variables:
    $ set
    $ env
    $ export
  • Show the value of a specific variable:
    $ echo $VARIABLE
  • Export a new variable value:
    $ export VARIABLE=value
  • E.g., to prefix a private bin directory to your path:
    $ export PATH=$HOME/bin:$PATH
  • List currently defined aliases:
    $ alias
  • Create an alias, e.g.:
    $ alias vi='vim'


  • Attach a filesystem:
    $ mount <device node> <mount point>
    $ mount /dev/sda5 /home
  • Display information about mounted filesystems:
    $ df -Th
    $ mount
    $ fdisk -l
  • NFS (Network Filesystem)
    1. On the Server:
      • Start the NFS:
        $ sudo service nfs start
      • Modify /etc/exports. Example entry:
        /projects *.example.com(rw)`
      • After modifying the /etc/exports file run:
        $ exportfs -av
    2. On the client:
      • Mount the remote filesystem:
        $ mount servername:/projects /mnt/nfs/projects
      • Or modify /etc/fstab. Example entry:
        servername:/projects /mnt/nfs/projects nfs default 0 0`
  • The proc Filesystem
    • Some important files in /proc are: /proc/cpuinfo, /proc/interrupts, /proc/meminfo, /proc/mounts, /proc/partitions, /proc/version.
    • /proc also has subdirectories, such as /proc/<Process-ID-#> and /proc/sys.


  • All processes / all processes and all threads / all processes for all users:
$ ps -ef
$ ps -eLf
$ ps aux
  • Process tree:
$ pstree
  • Proc list with updates in real time:
$ top
$ htop

(press A to sort when using top)

  • Terminate a process:
$ kill -SIGKILL <pid>
$ kill -9 <pid>
  • View the background processes in the current terminal:
$ jobs -l
  • Suspend a foreground process: CTRL-z
  • Cancel a foreground process: CTRL-c
  • Move process to the background / foreground:
$ bg
$ fg
  • Schedule future non-interactive proc, e.g.:
$ at 11 am may 20
at> echo Hello! > hello.txt
at> <CTRL-D>
$ at now + 3 minutes
at> mkdir dirfrom3minutesago
at> <CTRL-D>
  • Schedule periodic background work:
$ crontab -e
  • Suspend execution (suffix = s, m, h, d):
$ sleep <number><suffix>

Backing up data

  • Synchronize directory trees with rsync, which copies only the differences between directories. Examples:
$ rsync -avP --delete dir1/ dir2
$ rsync -avPe ssh --delete dir/ user@host:/path/to/dir
  • Test the rsync command using the --dry-run option.

Compressed data and archives

  1. Compressing data using gzip, bzip2 and xz
    • There is an efficiency vs. speed trade-off. Ranked by space-efficiency:

      xz > bzip2 > gzip.

    • Replace each file in the current directory with its compressed version:
      $ gzip *
      $ bzip2 *
      $ xz *
    • Compress the file foo into foo.xz using the default compression level (-6), and remove foo if compression succeeds:
      $ xz foo
    • De-compress:
      $ gunzip foo
      $ bunzip2 *.bz2
    • Decompress bar.xz into bar and don’t remove bar.xz even if decompression is successful:
      $ xz -dk bar.xz
  2. Handling Files Using zip
    • E.g., archive the login directory (~) and all files and directories under it as backup.zip:
      $ zip -r backup.zip ~
    • Extracts all files in the file backup.zip:
      $ unzip backup.zip
  3. Archiving and Compressing Data Using tar
    • Extract all the files in mydir.tar into the mydir directory:
      $ tar xvf mydir.tar
    • Create the archive and compress with gzip/bz2/xz:
      $ tar zcvf mydir.tar.gz mydir
      $ tar jcvf mydir.tar.bz2 mydir
      $ tar Jcvf mydir.tar.xz mydir
    • Extract all the files in mydir.tar.* into the mydir directory:
      $ tar xvf mydir.tar.gz
  4. Working with compressed data
    • For gzip‘ed files: zcat, zless, zgrep, zdiff.
    • For bzip2‘ed files: bzcat, bzless.
    • For xz‘ed files: xzcat, xzless.

Network operations

  • Using Domain Name System (DNS) and Name Resolution Tools
    • View IP and domain information about your system:
      $ hostname
      $ cat /etc/hosts
      $ cat /etc/resolv.conf
    • View IP and domain information about linux.com:
      $ host linux.com
      $ nslookup linux.com
      $ dig linux.com
      $ dig +trace linux.com
      $ dig @ linux.com

      ( is Google’s recursive DNS server)

  • Network Interfaces and Configuration
    • List all currently active network interfaces:
      $ ifconfig
    • Show IP address of active network device:
      $ ip addr show
    • Show routing info of active network device:
      $ ip route show
    • Check the status of the remote host:
      $ ping <hostname>
  • Routing Tables / Routes
    • Show current IP routing table:
      $ route -n
    • Add/delete static route:
      $ route add -net address
      $ route del -net address
    • Print the route taken by the packet to reach the network host at <domain>:
      $ traceroute <domain>
    • Display all active connections and routing tables:
      $ netstat -r
  • Dump network traffic for analysis:
    $ tcpdump
    $ sudo tcpdump host google.com
  • Interaction with webpages
    • Download a webpage:
      $ wget <url>
    • Read or save the source code and other info of a URL:
      $ curl <url>
      $ curl -o saved.html http://www.mysite.com

Transferring files over the network

  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
    • An example of connecting to the server and downloading a file:
      $ ftp -p some.server.com
      ftp> ls
      ftp> get somefile.txt
      ftp> quit
  • SSH (Secure Shell)
    • Log into remotesystem with username:
      $ ssh <username@remotesystem>
    • Run my_command on a remote system via SSH:
      $ ssh <user@remotesystem> my_command
    • Copy a local file to a remote system (similarly vice versa):
      $ scp <localfile> <user@remotesystem>:/home/user/
      $ scp <user@remotesystem>:/home/user/somefile /local/dir/