Home > Articles

My Top 10 Linux Commands

  • Print
  • + Share This

Long time Ubuntu member Matthew Helmke outlines his top 10 foundational commands that every Linux user must learn if they are to be successful.

Save 35% off the list price* of the related book or multi-format eBook (EPUB + MOBI + PDF) with discount code ARTICLE.
* See informit.com/terms

From the author of


Getting started in the Linux CLI (command line interface) world can be intimidating if you are used to doing everything via a shiny graphical interface. There is a lot of information out there and it is sometimes difficult to decide where to start. You want to unleash the power you have been told exists, but you don't yet know how to list the files in a directory or navigate yourself through the file system.

This article will help you by presenting my top 10 foundational commands that every Linux user must learn if they are to be successful. This is not a list of the 10 most powerful, most obscure, most likely to make you a command-line uber-genius. These are simply the commands I think you should learn first.

For this article, I am assuming that you have already installed a distribution of Linux or been given a machine with Linux on it and I am assuming that you have figured out how to access the command line by finding the terminal application.

Having done so, you start out in your /home directory with a command prompt that looks something like this:


The first part is your username, which in this example is "matthew". Following that is the @ symbol which precedes the name of the system you are logged into, here "lovelace".

NOTE: I have a habit of naming my systems after important people in the history of computer science. Ada Lovelace is worth learning about if you are not familiar with her work.

Finally, the prompt includes a colon : followed by your current location in the file system. The tilde ~ is Linux shorthand for "my home directory," which here would be /home/matthew.

The commands I describe are to be entered from this prompt followed by the Enter key. For simplicity, I am going to assume you are using the most common command shell default: bash. Don't worry if you don't yet know what that is.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account