Enterprise Linux Log

Jul 10 2007   11:06PM GMT

22 super-useful Linux command line tools: IT pros’ choices


Our readers and experts helped us create our first guide to the 50 most-used Linux command line tools. This wildly popular guide needs updating, so we asked our inner circle to pitch in again.

First of all, it’s really true that many IT pros use Linux commands even when GUIs are available. Hey, our first Linux command line guide has gotten over 50,000 clicks. But let’s hear the reason from an IT pro, in this case from David Witham, Engineering Dept. technical specialist for gotalk limited:

“I live by the command line. The command line gives you the ultimate control over doing whatever you need to get done. If there isn’t a command to do it, you can write a script or a pipeline to do it. With a GUI, what you see is what you get. You generally can’t make up your own GUI add-ons. A big advantage is remote access. Its generally much easier to get remote access using a command line, and it uses less bandwidth than terminal services or other graphical remote access methods.”

We’ve gotten some great suggestions for our upcoming new guide. Here’s a small taste of the commands four IT pros — Joe Klemmer, David Witham, Jim Reem and Christian P. Roberts — use constantly, couldn’t find on our first list and want to see on our new list:

Joe Klemmer:
1. expect: “I use expect in some cron jobs to automate many sysadmin tasks that are usually repetitive; things like moving files around all of my desktops and the server and the like.”
2. lft: “lft is like traceroute on steroids. You can get a lot more information than traceroute for debugging connections or just finding where a box/system is.”
3. mc: “It’s the best file manager there is. The transition from DOS to Linux was so much easier since I used Norton Commander on DOS.”

David Witham:
4. sdiff: “sdiff produces a human-friendly description of the differences between two text files. It shows the files side-by-side with the symbols to indicate lines only in the left file, lines that differ between the two files and lines only in the right file. Much easier to read than the output of diff.”

Jim Reem:
5. xargs: “xargs create command line from data on standard input.”
6. for, while: for, while are used to “loop through a list of items and do something for each one”
7. read: Used to “read lines of text from standard input into shell variables for further processing.”
8. sort: Used to “sort lines of text alphabetically or numerically; supports multiple sort keys.”
9. uniq: Used to “remove duplicated lines from a list.”
10. tr: Used to “translate or delete characters from a text stream.”
11. od: Used to “dump binary files in octal (or hex or binary).”
12. wc: Used to “count words (and characters, and lines) in files.”
13. top: “like vmstat, get a view of how the system is performing, see which processes are hogging all the memory.”
14. ps: “Get details on a specific process.”

Christian P. Roberts:
15. date: “Useful call to make in a script file to output current information when benchmarking.”
16. env: “To check environment variables on another account to troubleshoot dotfiles.”
17. ln: “Ahhh…softlinks are a must in working on web sites.”
18. mget: “Not used much anymore, but it sure was nice to be able to handle multiple files with one command
19. nslookup: what’s the real name of a computer … or “Is it safe to go there?”
20. passwd: usually having others issue the command to set a password I may temporarily use
21. uname: helpful when working on different computers which may not be in synch at the OS level.
22. whoami: yes, who am I … as in “What userid am I running under?”

There are many more handy commands in our inbox. I’ll post some more soon. In the meantime, please send us some more, or comment on the ones named here or in our first guide, by commenting on this post or writing to me at jstafford@techtarget.com.

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  • Ludo Cuypers
    I agree with Joe. For those who are new to UNIX-like environments but still remember DOS, mc is a fine tool for managing files and a user friendly editor too.
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