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The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction [Paperback]

William E. Shotts Jr.
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 17, 2012 1593273894 978-1593273897 1

You've experienced the shiny, point-and-click surface of your Linux computer—now dive below and explore its depths with the power of the command line.

The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you'll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more.

In addition to that practical knowledge, author William Shotts reveals the philosophy behind these tools and the rich heritage that your desktop Linux machine has inherited from Unix supercomputers of yore.

As you make your way through the book's short, easily-digestible chapters, you'll learn how to:

  • Create and delete files, directories, and symlinks
  • Administer your system, including networking, package installation, and process management
  • Use standard input and output, redirection, and pipelines
  • Edit files with Vi, the world's most popular text editor
  • Write shell scripts to automate common or boring tasks
  • Slice and dice text files with cut, paste, grep, patch, and sed

Once you overcome your initial "shell shock," you'll find that the command line is a natural and expressive way to communicate with your computer. Just don't be surprised if your mouse starts to gather dust.

Frequently Bought Together

The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction + Linux Bible + UNIX and Linux System Administration Handbook (4th Edition)
Price for all three: $100.68

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Editorial Reviews Review

Praise for The Linux Command Line

"I can honestly say I have found THE beginner's guide to Linux."
—Linux Journal

"Anyone who reads this book and makes use of the examples provided will not be able to avoid becoming a Unix command line pro by the time they've hit the end of the book."

"The most approachable tome on the subject."
—Linux Magazine

"If you’re new to the command line there is definitely a lot that you can learn from this book."
—Ubuntu Musings

"This is exactly what a Linux beginner needs to get up to speed quickly. The book goes beyond simply walking through all of the command line utilities, and ventures into the realm of theory and how things work together."
—Nicholas C. Zakas, web software engineer and author

About the Author

William E. Shotts, Jr. has been a software professional and avid Linux user for more than 15 years. He has an extensive background in software development, including technical support, quality assurance, and documentation. He is also the creator of, a Linux education and advocacy site featuring news, reviews, and extensive support for using the Linux command line.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: No Starch Press; 1 edition (January 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593273894
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593273897
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dude Abides in the Command Line February 13, 2012
What if you had a book that took you from the very beginning of the Linux command line options, and it took you through progressively interesting and relevant topics so that you really could develop a mastery of the shell? Oh, and what if it were written in a fun style that was less wonkish and easier to embrace and follow along with? Less tech, mode dude. William E. Shotts, Jr.'s "The Linux Command Line" manages to do that.

Let's face it, learning the entirely of the Linux command line can take years. It's unlikely most will walk through the book page by page and work through each example, but with this book, it feel like you could do exactly that and not get bored.

The first part of the book walks the user through the many commands that are relevant to all systems and all shells; the navigation options through directories, showing files, getting your head around terminals, finding and opening files, moving files and directories around, links (both literal and symbolic), learning about commands and how to learn more about them. All of this, as well as redirection, using pipelines, creating filters, expansions, and so on. A wonderful metaphor and explanation made in this section is that Windows is like a GameBoy, and Linux is like the world's biggest Erector Set. While Windows is nice and shiny and makes for pretty applications, it's difficult (relatively speaking) to roll your own applications without a fair bit of knowledge and packaged tools. Linux, on the other hand, right off the bat gives you all the tools you need to build just about anything in just about any conceivable way you might want to build it.

Part 2 covers configuration of the shell and the environment variables that it keeps track of.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, practical and well written! January 23, 2012
By ecb999
First of all I am a developer & system admin at a small company in MS world, but have been spending an increasing amount of time in Linux administration for side projects. I realized very quickly the limits of my abilities with bash, vi, etc. and began searching for resources. I'm only about 6 chapters into "The Linux Command Line" so far, and can say that it that anyone wanting to succeed with Linux should begin here. More advanced users could probably also benefit from the second half of the book (which I haven't gotten to yet, but addresses many common system administration tasks such as networking, archiving & backup, ftp transfers, etc.).

Like most people starting off in this topic, I relied heavily on forums and web searches, as well as a fair bit of fumbling around on my own learning how to employ the power of the command line. In hindsight I could benefitted with clarity on the topic and saved an enormous amount of time by reading a book like this, which goes from the most basic level , the function and purpose of the command line, to the more advanced such as creating shell scripts and compiling applications. The chapters which will be most valuable to me include the Introduction to Vi, Regular EXpressions, and Working With Commands.

The most compelling reason for buying this book above others I've looked at is the level of thoroughness which the author grants to each topic. While there are pages that I will probably copy, print out, and hang on my monitor for reference, more than anything the book stands as an exhaustive exposition about a topic that newbies (like myself) must learn if they plan to push their skill set beyond that of a casual user. I've also found that the author's sequenced, tutorial approach to the topic matched with his light-hearted tone made this book far more readable than many other tech books I've come across, and would recommend it to anyone.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT LEARNING MATERIAL!! February 11, 2012
By R. Cole
I will first state that I am a partially blind Linux user. I took some Linux classes in 2006, and I completely migrated to Linux in 2007 due to several reasons which I will not cover here. When I refer to myself as "partially" blind, I say that with the intent that what minimal amount of vision I have left may not lost much longer. Throughout the majority of my 'Linux life", I heavily relied on screen magnification and graphical tools to get things done; as of recently, however, my good eye has not held up so well as it used to. With the possibility of the loss of my remaining vision eminent, I decided that I could better be served by performing many operations under Linux from the command line. I can still use a graphical environment through the use of the Orca screen reader, and there are a number fo screen readers available strictly for the command line side of Linux.

For awhile now I tried to learn the command line through Google searches and different online tutorials, as well as some arcane manpages for command line utilities. I felt kind of overwhelmed because I could not find all of the information I needed in a format for learning. Enter this book!

As mentioned by other reviewers, this book is not necessarily meant to be a reference it is written in such a way that it is like you have a personal Linux trainer. Everything is explained so that the reader can understand it, and the author seems to be very meticulous when it comes to details (by no means a complaint). I have learned more from this one book than I have from the textbooks used by the professor of the Linux class at the college which I attended back in 2006. That is not to say I learned nothing in those classes, as I learned a ton...just not enough to (for the most part) live in the command line.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This book got me up to speed in less than a day.
Published 6 hours ago by GIRARD M. FONTAINE JR.
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical guide which is fun to read
A very good book: Manages to bring practical command line information (details of commands and their parameters) in a very easy-to-read manner. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Ran Levy
5.0 out of 5 stars New to Linux and this is a GREAT book!
This book was what i was looking for in helping with the command line in LINUX. After reading this book i was a lot more comfortable in using LINUX. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Don M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Intro to the Linux Command Line
The Linux Command Line, A Complete Introduction By William E. Shotts Jr. provides a very good introduction to using the Linux command line. Read more
Published 24 days ago by J. W. Rine
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-Written and Structured
I wish I had had this book in hand earlier in my Linux adventuring. It explains important concepts usually overlooked or left unstated in most online Linux resources.
Published 1 month ago by Rohag
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book on getting familiar with the commands
While it does teach the basics very well it does not go very far in depth. Sometimes it just gives a general description of certain topics but further details are beyond the scope... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Girish Ramakrishnan
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid introduction
William E. Shotts, Jr.’s The Linux Command Line is a book that attempts to give new users a thorough grounding in the peculiar bestiary of the Linux command line itself. Read more
Published 2 months ago by mrgah
5.0 out of 5 stars Great way to learn Linux from the ground up or learn new things if you...
Well-structured method to learn Linux and UNIX type OS. Wither you are starting from scratch or a seasoned expert, this book is a must read. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Peter Ives
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good book to learn how Linux works
I have bought several books in an effort to learn Linux from an administrator perspective, or at least from a power user perspective. Read more
Published 2 months ago by CWH
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally!
Over the years, I've tried finding books other than the HORRIBLE "for Dummies" books that cover Linux Command Line. Read more
Published 3 months ago by CreatedBy1
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