Getting Comfortable with Shell + 5 Common Commands to Know

Getting Comfortable with Shell + 5 Common Commands to Know

An Introduction to Shell for Beginners. Using shell can be intimidating. It’s understandable to prefer tools with pretty user interfaces. Before we look at shell, what is shell exactly?

Using shell can be intimidating. It’s understandable to prefer tools with pretty user interfaces. Before we look at shell, what is shell exactly?

Defining Shell

Let’s keep it simple, by starting with how we use computers. Think of your computer as a robot that’s waiting for instructions. For most of your needs, you use applications to get the computer to perform actions. For example, right now you are using an Internet Browser application (like Google Chrome) to read this article (unless you’re on the Medium mobile app, which I definitely recommend downloading). The application is your method of communication with the computer. In other words, we don’t talk to the computer and tell it verbally “Open the internet browser and go to Medium.” We get the application to do it. Applications serve an important role — they translate what we want to do into understandable instructions for the computer. Different applications serve different roles. Google Chrome is used to browse the internet, Microsoft Word to type essays, and Finder/File Explorer to access files.

*Shell is a direct way for us to communicate with the computer and make it perform actions. In technical speak, it is a command interpreter and programming language. *Instead of going through an application like Finder to view your documents, you can use shell to directly instruct the computer to show your documents. This direct channel of communication with the computer gives us more power over what we want the computer to do.

Looking at Shell

Now back to our point about shell being intimidating. Let’s look at an example.

Deleting a File on Finder vs. Shell

Say you want to delete a file called myFile . Doing this on Finder (or File Explorer for PC) is easy and intuitive. You go to Finder, find myFile, right-click on the file, and select Move to Trash/Delete. Simple.

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