Your Survival Guide to Unix at the CBSU

What you see below probably seems like a list of arbitrary incantations and may put you off ever going near a unix command line. However, you'll soon find that simple combinations of unix commands (possibly written as a shell script) can do things instantly that would take hours of pointing and clicking on a Mac or PC.

Commands for Navigation, File Manipulation etc.




Show contents of current directory


* details: ls –l
* hidden files: ls –a
* output to file: ls > file.txt
wild cards: ls *.txt

Change directory

cd <newdir>

* cd /home/myname/mydatadir
* one up: cd .. (e.g. cd ../batchfiles)
* to home directory: cd ~

Make directory

mkdir <newdir>

* mkdir ./tmp creates directory 'tmp' in current directory
* mkdir ../tmp creates directory 'tmp' one level above current directory
* mkdir /home/yourname/subdir/tmp creates 'tmp' in /home/yourname/subdir/
* mkdir ~/tmp creates 'tmp' in your home directory (same as mkdir /home/yourname/tmp)

Copy file/directory

cp <old> <new>

Copy directories: cp -r <old> <new>

Move file/directory

mv <old> <new>

Delete file/directory

rm <filename>

delete directory: rm –r <dirname>, suppress warning prompt: rm -f <filename>

Create link between a new filename and an existing file

ln <filename> <linkname>

symbolic link: ln -s <filename> <linkname>, to see whether a file is "real" or a symbolic link, use ls -l

Find a file in directory structure


* find myfile.txt in current directory and below: find . -name myfile.txt
* wildcards: find . -name \*results\*.txt

Find letter string within text


grep error logfile.txt, ps -ef | grep <yourname>

See list of previous commands


Execute command from history list

!<x>, where x is number in history list

e.g. !112 to get command 112 from history list

Send output of a command to text file


e.g. ls -l > listoffiles.txt, >> appends instead of overwriting

Send output of a command directly to another command ("pipes")


e.g. ls -l | grep myfile.txt

Send output of a command to text file AND standard output (screen)


e.g. ls -l | tee listoffiles.txt, tee -a appends instead of overwriting

Run progress in background (keep command prompt)


e.g. matlab &, &

Changing access permissions


e.g. chmod 755 <myfile> or chmod go-w <myfile>

Changing group of a file


e.g. chgrp imaging <myfile>

Create shortcut for command


e.g. alias cd_batch "cd <mybatchdir>", alias h history

Convert text files from DOS to Unix

dos2unix <filename>

Edit files

nedit, emacs, vi

e.g. type nedit & to keep command prompt

Help on linux commands

man <yourcommand>

turn page using space bar, quit typing q

Short description of commands

whatis <yourcommand>