Help get yourself started with Linux operating systems with this handy guide on Linux commands.
We mostly refer to basic Linux commands that a beginner will find handy. However, it does not include highly detailed information regarding each command to help keep things brief.
This command cheat sheet should prove helpful to more than just Raspberry Pi users. It is important for anyone who wants to learn what they are entering into their Linux-based terminal.
I hope that the information below is detailed enough to understand the basics of what the commands do. With almost every command, there are many more advanced options that you can use to help achieve the task you are trying to do.
If you need more information, simply check out the link associated with some of the more complex commands; alternatively, you can check out the manual page within Linux itself.
If you want to learn more about the Raspberry Pi and all the cool things you can do with it, check out my many cool Pi projects, guides, and much more.
Table of Contents
- General Commands
- File System Commands
- Search Commands
- Networking Commands
- Process Management Commands
- User Commands
This section is for general Linux commands that do not fit into a specific category but are useful to know.
These general commands can be helpful for your general day-to-day usage of a Linux system.
For example, you can utilize the
man command to display helpful information on almost any command.
man command is short for manual and is used to retrieve the manual page for a specified command.
man command is useful when you want to find out what a specific command does while also exposing any additional options it might provide.
Using the man command is a helpful tool for learning how the huge variety of Linux commands work and can be useful when you are stuck.
You can even use the command
man man to view the manual pages of the man command itself.
Example of using the man command
man man man ls
One thing to note is that not every command in Linux has a manual page. The lack of a manual is more of a problem with third-party party packages than the tools provided by Linux.
You can learn more about the man command in our full guide.
A pipe in Linux is a form of redirection that can send the output of one command to another.
[COMMAND1] | [COMMAND2]
The pipe is an incredibly useful tool for getting the result from a command and using it to perform another task.
The pipe is represented by a vertical bar
| and is used in-between two commands. The output of the first command is then redirected into the second.
For example, to only show the first ten entries of the
ls command, we can pipe the results through to the
Example of using pipes in Linux
ls | head
There are a variety of other use cases for pipes in Linux. Pipes are a tool that can simplify managing a Linux-based operating system.
File System Commands
This section touches on Linux commands that help manage the file system on a Linux-based distribution.
These Linux commands deal with tasks such as copying, moving, deleting, editing, unzipping, and renaming files. In addition, the commands touch on tasks such as file permissions.
Traversing Directories in Linux
In Linux, there are a couple of different commands that make it easier for you to traverse and deal with directories.
Placing a dot in front of the slash (
/) like this
./ will mean that you are referring to the current directory you are in
Adding two dots in front of the slash like this
../ will mean that you are referring to the parent directory of the current directory.
The tilde symbol
~ refers to the home directory. This symbol is handy whenever you need to quickly refer to a file in the home directory or navigate to a file from the home directory.
Example of traversing directories
./ ../ ~
ls command in Linux will list the contents of the current working directory or the one that you have specified. For example,
ls [OPTIONS] [FILE/DIRECTORY]
You can utilize the
-l flag to display more information about the file or directory.
This flag provides an abundance of extra information such as the permissions, owner, group, size, date, and timestamp of the last edit.
You can refer to our graphic below to see the extra data returned using the
-l flag with the
ls command returns its data in a list format, with each file or directory being listed on a new line.
Example of using the ls command
ls /home/pi ls -l /home/pi
Please out more by following our guide on using the ls command in Linux.
In Linux, the
tree command is used to recursively display the contents of a directory.
tree command returns a depth-based indented list of all the files in the current directory and subdirectories.
This command is incredibly helpful when you want to work out the folder structure of a directory.
tree command is used without a specifying directory, it will recursively list the contents of the current working directory. If you have specified a directory, the
tree command will search through that directory instead.
Example of using the tree command
tree tree /home/pimylifeup
Example result from the tree command
Below you can see the result of using the
tree command within the home directory of a user on our Raspberry Pi.
pi@raspberrypi:~ $ tree . ├── Downloads │ ├── SampleFile.zip │ └── TestFolder │ ├── Hello.txt │ └── PiMyLifeUp.com ├── hellofile.txt ├── MagPi │ └── MagPi85.pdf └── SampleFile
Be sure to check out our complete guide on the tree command for more information regarding options that you can use.
cd command is a straightforward yet essential command for dealing with Linux systems.
The reason this command is so important is that it allows you to change from one directory to another.
To use the
cd command, all you need to do is type in
cd followed by the path you want as your working directory. This command makes a directory change super easy.
You can refer to our Traversing Directories in Linux section for tips on how to deal with directories quicker using some simple shortcuts.
Example of using the cd command
cd /directory cd ..
You can always learn more about traversing Linux using the cd command with our guide.
pwd command is a straightforward command that outputs the path of the current directory starting from the root directory (
pwd stands for Print Working Directory.
This command can be useful when you want to know the path of the current working directory.
Example of using the pwd command
We have a guide that gives more information regarding the pwd command that you might be interested in checking out.
mkdir command will create a new directory in the location that you specify.
mkdir [OPTIONS] [DIRECTORY]
If you run the
mkdir command with just a name, it will create that directory in the current working directory. For example,
Otherwise, if you run the command with a path specified that it will create a directory in that location. For example,
By default, the
mkdir command will only create a new directory in that path if all of its parent directories exist.
mkdir /home/parent/old/young will not work if “parent” or “old” directories do not exist.
To make all the non-existing parent directories, you can utilize the
-p flag. This flag will recursively create any missing directories.
Example of using the mkdir command
mkdir pimylifeup mkdir /home/pimylifeup mkdir -p /home/pimylifeup/create/new/directories
Please read our complete guide on the mkdir command if you require more information.
rmdir command is useful for removing empty directories.
rmdir [OPTIONS] [DIRECTORY]
There are two ways to use the
rmdir command, and the first is to remove a single empty directory by specifying its path.
The second way of using the
rmdir command is to use the
-p flag, which will remove all parent directories as long as they are empty.
You cannot force the
rmdir command to remove directories if they are not empty. To do that, you will need to use the
Example of using the rmdir command
rmdir emptydir rmdir /emptydir1/emptydir2/emptydir3/
There is not a considerable amount to cover for this command but check out our full tutorial on the rmdir command if you want more information.
rm command will remove the specified file or directory. You will rely on this command a lot during the day-to-day usage of Linux.
rm [OPTIONS] [FILE/DIRECTORY]
There are a couple of different ways to utilize the
rm command in Linux.
The first way is to remove a single file. You can remove a single file by utilizing the
rm command, followed by the path to a file.
To remove directories, you will need to use the
-r flag. This flag will also remove any files or directories contained within that directory.
rm -r /home/pimylifeup/
rm command does not truly delete your files but instead un-links them from the file system and marks it as available space.
To ensure a file has been thoroughly deleted, you should utilize the
Be careful though the
rm command will still make restoring a file extremely hard.
Example of using the rm command
rm /path/to/file rm -r /home/pimylifeup
Check our full rm command tutorial for in-depth information on using the command effectively.
cp command will create a copy of a file in the specified location.
cp [OPTIONS] [FILETOCOPY] [NEWFILENAME]
You can use the
-r flag with the
cp command to recursively copy the entire contents of a directory.
Example of using the cp command
cp file newfilename cp -r /path/to/copy/ /newpath/to/copy/to
You can use more options and techniques with the cp command, and we cover them in our complete cp guide.
mv command moves a file and places it at the specified location.
mv [OPTIONS] [FILETOMOVE] [WHERETOMOVETO]
If you want to move the contents of a directory using the
mv command, you need to utilize the
This command is similar to
cp, but it moves it instead of copying the file.
You can also use the
mv command in Linux to rename a file by referencing the file you want to rename, followed by the new name.
Example of using the mv command
mv file.txt ./newdirectory mv file.txt newname.txt mv /directorytomove /newdirectory
If you want to learn more about moving files and directories, be sure to check out our mv command guide.
touch command will either update the last modified timestamp of the specified file(s) or create the files if they do not already exist.
Files created using the
touch command will be empty.
This command is useful for those who want to create a file but have no data to store at its time of creation.
Example of using the touch command
touch file.txt touch file1.txt file2.txt file3.txt
For more information on using the touch command, be sure to check out our in-depth guide.
cat command is short for “concatenate” and has various functions.
cat [OPTION] [FILENAME]...
First, you can use the
cat command to view the contents of a file by using
cat followed by the filename.
cat filename.txt will display the contents of the file called filename.txt.
You can also use the
cat command to create a file by using the greater than
cat > newfile.txt will create a file called newfile.txt.
You can also use the
cat command to output the contents of multiple files.
cat *.txt will list the contents of all of the
.txt files in the current directory.
Example of using the cat command
cat file.txt cat file.txt file.txt cat *.txt cat > newfile.txt
There is plenty more to the
cat command, but we will cover that in our cat command tutorial.
head command will display the beginning of a file.
It is the opposite of the
head [OPTIONS] [FILENAME]
You can utilize the
–n flag with the
head command to specify the number of lines to show.
By default, the amount of lines shown by the
head command is 10.
Example of using the head command
head file.txt head file.txt -n 20
For more information on using the head command, please read our full guide.
tail command will display the end of a file. For example, it is useful for retrieving the latest lines in a log file.
It is the opposite of the
tail [OPTIONS] [FILENAME]
To specify the number of lines you want to be displayed, you can use the
tail command will display the last ten lines in a file by default.
Example of using the tail command
tail file.txt tail file.txt -n 20
We have a more detailed guide on the tail command that I recommend checking out if you need more information.
chmod command is used to alter the permissions of a file or files. Very handy for changing the ownership of a file.
The chmod offers both symbolic or numerical notation depending on what you prefer.
For example, the symbols used for the symbolic notation are u (user), g (group), o (other users), r (read), w (write), and x (execute).
An example of this is
chmod u+x samplefile. This command will add the execute permission to the owner of a file called samplefile.
If you are using the numerical notation, refer to the table below to see which number represents the permissions you want.
|3||Write and execute|
|5||Read and Execute|
|6||Read and Write|
|7||Read, Write, and Execute|
The order of the numbers should be as follows owner, group, and then others,
For example, the command
chmod 777 samplefile will give full permissions to the user, group, and others on a file called samplefile.
Example of using the chmod command
chmod 754 file chmod u=rw file
We delve further into the chmod command in our dedicated chmod guide. This guide will more thoroughly explain the differences between symbolic and numeric notation.
You can use the
chown command to change the user or the group that owns a file.
chown [OPTIONS] [USER]:[GROUP] [FILE/DIRECTORY]
For example, we can use the following command
sudo chown pi:root samplefile to change the owner of a file called samplefile to pi and the group to root.
Note that the
chown command typically needs to be run as a superuser to work.
You can do this by either running
sudo su prior to running the command or appending
sudo in front of the command.
Example of using the chown command
sudo chown pi:root file
We touch more on this command in our chown tutorial. I highly recommend checking it out if you require more information.
dd command is primarily utilized to copy and convert files on Unix-based systems.
dd command is often used to create a copy of an entire disk to a single file, a feature that is useful for creating backups.
For example, using the command
dd if=/dev/sdd of=backup.img will create a backup image of an SD card or USB drive mounted at
Use the correct drive when restoring an image as the
dd utility will overwrite/wipe the disk that you restore to.
Example of using the dd command
dd if=/dev/sdd of=backup.img dd if=backup.img of=/dev/sdd
df command will display the disk space available for all currently mounted file systems.
df [OPTIONS] [FILE]
If you specify a file with the
df command, it will return the free space for the mount containing the file.
You can also use the
df -h) to see the output in a human-readable format.
For example, bytes will be replaced with kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), gigabytes (GB), or terabytes (TB)
Example of using the df command
df df /home/pimylifeup/samplefile df -h df -h /home/pimylifeup/samplefile
For more information regarding the df command, be sure to check out our full tutorial on using df.
You can use the
unzip command to extract files and directories from a compressed zip archive. Zip is a great file compression format that is often used for reducing the size of archived files and folders.
unzip [OPTIONS] [ARCHIVE]
If you want to extract the files with the
unzip command to a particular destination, you can use the
Example of using the unzip command
unzip archive.zip unzip archive.zip /dir/to/unzip/to/
We have written a full guide on using the unzip command that I highly recommend checking out.
You can use the
tar command to compress files in the tar file format and extract tar archives.
tar [OPTIONS] [ARCHIVE]
You can also use the
tar command to extract both
To create a compressed tar file, you need to use the
tar -cvzf archive.tar.gz directory.
To extract the contents of a tar archive, you need to use the
tar -xvzf filename.tar.gz.
If you want to extract the contents of a tar archive to a different directory, you can utilize the
tar -C /dir/tar/here -zxvf archive.tar.gz.
Example of using the tar command
tar -cvzf archive.tar.gz directory tar -xvzf archive.tar.gz tar -C /dir/tar/here -zxvf archive.tar.gz
To learn more about the tar command, be sure to check out our full guide. It will take you through some of the different options you can use with the command.
wget command is useful for downloading files from a website to your device.
wget [OPTIONS] [URL]
The most basic usage of the
wget command involves using wget followed by the URL that links to the file you want to download.
wget https://example.com/file.txt will download file.txt from the website https://example.com/ into the current directory.
If you would like to save the file to your device with a different name, you use the
-O flag, followed by the name of the file you want to use.
wget -O pimylifeup.txt https://example.com/file.txt will download the file called file.txt then redirect the download output to our pimylifeup.txt file.
Example of using the wget command
To learn more about the wget command, check out our dedicated guide.
This Linux command cheat sheet section is for commands that search or find directories and files.
These commands are handy when trying to find something that is not in its usual location.
grep command is useful to search inside files for certain patterns.
It is quite a powerful tool as you can use complex
grep [OPTIONS] [REGEX] [FILE]
GREP stands for globally search a regular expression and print.
grep "search" *.txt will search all text files in the current directory for the string “search”.
GREP also supports regular expressions, allowing special letter combinations to be included in the search.
Example of using the grep command
grep "search" *.txt grep "Pi.*Life Up" *.txt
You can do a lot more with the grep command, so make sure you read our in-depth tutorial for more information.
find command will search for directories and files that match a specific pattern.
find [DIRECTORY] [OPTIONS]
There are a lot of different combinations that can be used to help extend the accuracy of this command.
find command results can be piped (
|) through to other commands such as grep to improve the search.
Example of using the find command
find . -name 'help'
whereis command will display a specific command’s documentation, binaries, and source files.
It will look through standard program locations until it finds the requested command.
Example of using the whereis command
We have a bit more information on the whereis command that might be worth checking out.
The following commands are related to networking and can be used for diagnostics when working out network-related issues or just for information gathering.
We have included these commands as they can be useful for dealing with a Linux operating system and testing networking.
ping command is typically used to check if communication can be made with another host and monitor the response time.
You can simply use it with the default settings by specifying a hostname (e.g.
ping pimylifeup.com) or an IP address (e.g.
Example of using the ping command
ping pimylifeup.com ping 220.127.116.11
Be sure to learn some of the other useful options you can use with the ping command.
hostname command will display the current hostname of the system.
hostname [OPTIONS] [HOSTNAME]
A privileged (super) user can set the hostname to a new one by supplying it as an argument (
sudo hostname newName).
-I flag can be used alongside the
hostname command to show the device’s IP.
Example of using the hostname command
hostname hostname -I sudo hostname newName
There is more to know and understand about this command, so check out our hostname command tutorial if you are interested.
ifconfig command displays the network configuration details for the interfaces on the current system when you run it without any arguments.
By supplying the command with the name of an interface (e.g. eth0 or lo), you can see the configuration for that specific interface.
You can also configure interfaces and also set them to up or down. It is best to refer to the manual pages for more information.
Example of using the ifconfig command
ifconfig ifconfig eth0
ssh command stands for “secure shell” and allows you to connect to another terminal over an encrypted network connection.
ssh [OPTIONS] [USERNAME]@[IPADDRESS]
Using SSH is how we usually connect to the Raspberry Pi remotely.
You would have likely used a tool such as Putty to connect to a network over SSH on a Windows system.
Example of using the ssh command
scp command is useful for securely copying files from one computer to another using the SSH protocol.
scp [TO COPY FILE/DIRECTORY] [COPY TO FILE/DIRECTORY]
SCP is short for secure copy and works exactly like the
cp command, except it accepts locations over the SSH protocol.
Upon using the
scp command, you will be prompted for a password before the transfer begins.
Example of using the scp command
scp /home/bob/*.jpg firstname.lastname@example.org:/home/gus/archive scp email@example.com:/home/gus/archive/*.jpg /home/bob
Refer to our scp guide for more information on how to use this very useful Linux command.
Process Management Commands
This section of the Linux command cheat sheet will cover commands that help with process management.
Process management, just like any operating system, is critical on Linux.
The commands below will help you diagnose, monitor, and kill processes if required.
ps command will provide a snapshot of the processes currently running on your Linux-based operating system.
There are a variety of options that you can use with this command. If you need more information, simply use
man ps to get all the details.
Example of using the ps command
We have a full guide on using the PS command, so I highly recommend reading it if you want more information.
You can use the
top command to see real-time information on the currently running processes.
Much like the
ps command, there are a ton of additional options you can use with this command.
Example of using the top command
Be sure to read our top command tutorial as it goes into a lot more depth on how to use the command and read the output correctly.
kill command might sound grim but is a useful utility used to terminate a process or many processes.
kill [PID] pkill [NAME] killall [NAME]
It is a useful command to use when you find yourself with a process that will not terminate or is frozen.
There are a few variations on this command that you can use.
See the examples below to get a good idea of how you can use each variation of the
Example of using the kill command
#Kill process with id pid (pid is process id) kill pid #Kill the process with matching name pkill name #Kill all processes with the matching name killall name
There is quite a bit more to learn about this command, so I recommend checking out our complete guide on the kill command.
These commands are primarily helpful for anyone running multiple users on the same operating system.
System administrators typically use them to add, delete, and view the users and their actions.
You can use the
id command to print the ids of the current users and groups.
id [OPTION] [USERNAME]
This command is extremely handy for setting permissions to a specific group or user where the id number is required.
-g flag will print the group id, while the
-u flag will print the user id.
Example of using the id command
id id -u pi id -g pi
who command will list all the currently logged-in users and any other useful information about the logged-in users.
Example of using the who command
Check out the full guide on the who command more information on how to use it effectively.
last command shows a list of users who have recently logged in.
This command works by searching through the file located at
Example of using the last command
Read through our full tutorial on the last command if you want to know all the basics of using this helpful command.
groupadd command will create a new group with the options you provide it.
groupadd [OPTIONS] [GROUPNAME]
You will need to be logged in as root for this command to work correctly.
Example of using the groupadd command
We have a more detailed tutorial on the groupadd command that I highly recommend checking out. It will take you through some of the many options that you can use.
useradd command will create a new user.
useradd [OPTIONS] [USERNAME]
When you create a new user, you will need to use
passwd to assign a password to that account before using it.
You will need to have superuser rights or be the root user for this to work.
Example of using the useradd command
We have more information on using the useradd command if you wish to use it more.
userdel command will delete a user’s account.
userdel [OPTIONS] [USERNAME]
It is also extremely important to note that it will also delete all the associated files with that user.
If this sounds a little heavy-handed, then
deluser might be a better alternative as it will not remove the home directory unless you use the
As you would expect, both these commands need superuser rights.
Example of using the userdel command
userdel gus deluser gus
Be sure to check out our full userdel command tutorial if you wish to learn more.
You can use the
usermod command to modify a user account.
usermod [OPTIONS] [USERNAME]
There are many options that you can use to make the changes.
-d will allow you to alter the user’s home directory.
You will need to be a superuser to make any changes.
Example of using the usermod command
usermod -d /home/gusNewDirectory gus
There is quite a bit more you can do with this command, so I recommend checking out our usermod command tutorial.
passwd command is one of the most important as this will allow you to change the password of an account.
If you specify a username, then the
passwd command will modify the password for that account.
To modify the password of a different account, you require superuser privileges.
Example of using the passwd command
passwd passwd gus
Check out our complete guide if you need to know more information on the passwd command.
There are always more commands, but hopefully, this Linux commands cheat sheet has covered all the important ones.
If you are just starting with the Pi and want more information, then be sure to check out the handy section on getting started with the Pi.
If you want an excellent downloadable version of this Linux cheat sheet, you can download it right here. Again, much like this article, if you notice a problem, leave a comment below.
Also, if you feel like I have missed some crucial commands to beginners and advanced users, be sure to leave a comment below.
Great I needed a cheat sheet!
You should consider adding systemd commands and some new network commands as ip, ss etc.
The pdf document has a dark red for contrast between commands. This does not print so well on a B&W laser printer. Could you change the red to light grey?
I’ll fix that up as soon as I can!
It should be fixed now, let me know if there are any more issues with it.
I’m old enough to have learned computing and programming, before the world had the PC. This means CPM commands, programming in Fortran, Algol etc, so trying out some Linux (for the fun of it), should be an easy task (?). Have bought a few RPIs and look forward to playing…
Here your command overview comes handy, but I would prefer a paperbased version. Can you point me to such an overview? Perhaps a bit more elaborate than the one you have her?