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Debian Recommended Links. Introduction to Linux Command-Line for Beginners.
This guide is also available as a free PDF. You can download it for free now! This introductory tutorial addresses new and average Linux users rather than experts who will already know quite everything is explained here. I am no expert, so if you want to help me improve this tutorial or have some other suggestions or corrections please feel free to contact me at craciun. This guide went through some changes since I've posted it on the TuxArena Blog over one year ago, and I believe this version is more complete and well-organized.
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The guide aims first-time users and average Linux users and its goal is to make you learn your way around when using the Linux command-line interface or CLI for short. It also encourages some habits which I believe that, although hard to learn at first, will make you more productive later on.
I divided this guide in several sections, so feel free to jump to whichever you want using the links below: What Is Linux? To some, the first thing that comes in mind when asked this question is "Linux is an operating system.
Linux per se is only the kernel of the operating system, the central part of it. What you are installing on your computer is called a Linux distribution, or a Linux-based operating system.
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A Linux distribution takes all the parts mentioned above and assembles them, eventually polishing and customizing them. There are hundreds of good Linux distributions out there, and I couldn't contain all of them here. You can find more information about Linux distributions at DistroWatch or on Wikipedia.
Usually Linux is cost-free, but some companies may charge for it or for support. The kernel and all the GNU tools are licensed under a free, permissive license the GPLv2 or GPLv3 , which allows not only to download freely and redistribute it, but also to study and modify the source code.
What is a shell?
A shell is a command interpreter which allows you to interact with the computer. The way things work is pretty simple: you type in commands, the shell interprets them, performs the tasks it was asked to do, and finally it sends the results to the standard output, which is usually the screen.
What are Linux commands? Linux commands are executable binary files which can be ran to perform certain tasks, like for example listing the files in a directory running an entire graphical application. Examples of frequently used commands are ls , cd , pwd , date or cat.
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With the exception of executable files, there is also a category called shell built-ins, which are commands provided by the shell itself Bash in our case. We'll deal with those later. The general form of a Linux command is: command options s filename s.
Using cat and less The cat command is used to concatenate one or more files and print the result to the standard output.
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If only one file is specified as input, cat will print its contents to the screen. Standard GNU tools usually have two ways of specifying an option, the short and the long syntax. For example ls -a and ls --all will do the same thing, namely list all the hidden files in the current directory files that start with a dot. Typing a few starting letters from a command and pressing TAB will auto-complete the whole command which starts with those few letters, or will offer the longest possible pattern in case more commands share the same letters in the beginning.
For example, if we type ba followed by TAB, the shell will show us possible completion variants, like bash or batch.
This may not look interesting for system commands which are usually short, but it is a feature which will come in handy in time.
Using control characters The shell uses certain key combinations to perform certain actions. Most of these key combinations are used by Emacs too, a very powerful development environment and not only. Also notice that these are easier to use for a person who knows blind-typing, since they don't require to move your fingers away from the typing position.
As an example, you can type wc -l , which will count the lines in a file, but without providing the filename. In this case wc waits for you to enter lines and after you have ended type Ctrl-D to tell it you entered the text and want to know how many lines you typed in. Make use of Bash history Bash keeps a command history so you can recall commands at a later time.
Some of the commands available for this include the use of!! Linux, just like UNIX, uses a tree hierarchical directory structure. Environment variables are special variables used by the shell and other applications to gather various information. As the name suggests, built-ins are commands which are provided by the Bash program itself rather than external commands provided by system binaries.
To see all the built-ins included with Bash you can type help. Some examples would be:. Using pipes Pipes are a powerful way to take the output of one command and feed it as input for another command.
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A pipe is represented by a vertical line. In the previous section I showed how to create an empty file using touch , and now it's time to see how to create and edit text files using a text editor. For our example we'll use Nano, a user-friendly text editor that runs in a terminal. Nano is usually installed on any Linux distribution.
The -h and --help options There are several ways of seeing how a command works and what are the valid arguments it can take. Usually all GNU tools provide the -h or --help parameters, which both do the same thing: show a brief description of the available parameters to the respective command and their meaning.
For example, bash --help will show the Bash version and several options available to it. However, Bash is quite complex and very powerful, and such a short description usually won't suffice.
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This is where the manual pages get in the picture. Manual pages A manual page or man page for short usually contains all the options that a command accepts, with explanations for each of them, and a general description of the application.
Only learning to get the habit of searching the man page is very helpful, since sometimes not even online searching will clarify a specific area like a man page does. To see a manual page for an application, just type man followed by the application's name, for example man bash or man man.
When you're done reading, type Q to exit man. There is a huge number of additional websites and resources which cover Linux CLI and Linux in general, and I can't list all of them here. However, I'd like to recommend two particular ones, created specially for beginners. They are: TuxFiles.
If you have suggestions or corrections to these tutorials, please contact me at craciun.