Skip Navigation
 Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > IT Connect > Unix 

Unix for New Users

If the Unix operating system is new to you, there are certain commands and characters it is useful to know about since they are used on a regular basis. You should be aware that the entire "Unix User's Manual Reference Guide" to commands is available for viewing online. So, for detailed information about any of the commands described below, as well as all other Unix commands, at the Unix prompt you can enter

man commandname

Where commandname is the name of the command about which you wish information.


Commonly Used Unix Commands

      cat             - concatenates files and displays them
                        on your screen
      more            - displays named file(s), pausing for
                        each page to be read
      ex              - invoke basic Unix line text editor
      vi              - invoke full screen-oriented version
                        of ex
      finger          - user information lookup program
      ls              - list contents of directory
      mail            - send and receive mail
      msgs            - system messages and junk mail program
      passwd          - change login password
      ts, tset        - set terminal modes; use ts, it is a useful alias
      who             - who is on the system

Special Unix Characters

      DELETE          Backspace over and erase the
                      last character typed in.
      ^C              Interrupt the current program.
      ^U              Kill current line and start over.
      ^S              Pause while printing something.
      ^Q              Continue after pause.
      ^R              Retype the current line.
      ^W              Erase last word typed in.
      ^Z              Suspend job (resume via `fg' -

Viewing a File

"More"-ing: Some programs (such as help and man) use a mechanism called "more" to write long files onto your terminal. If you enter the command

  more filename

a page of the file `filename' will appear on your terminal, followed by:


To continue displaying the file, press `d' or the space bar. To stop, type `q' or press ^C.

Commands to Get Information

     man yyyy          Show UNIX Programmer's Manual entry
                       on topic `yyyy'
     apropos keyword   Lists commands relevant to keyword.
     msgs              Read system messages
     msgs 95           Read system  messages starting at
                       number 95.
     msgs -3           Read last 3 system messages

Commands for File Manipulation

     ls              List files in the current directory.
     ls -al          Long list of all files in current directory.
                     (this list includes files whose names
                      begin with `.')
     cat f1 f2 ...   Print the files `f1', `f2', ... on
                      the terminal.
     more f1 f2 ...  Print the files `f1', `f2', ... on
                      the terminal, one screenful at a time.
     cp f1 f2        Copy file `f1' to file `f2'
     ln f1 f2        Link file `f1' to the alias name `f2'
                      (note that ln provides two names for the
                      same file, whereas cp makes a separate
                      copy of the file).
     mv f1 f2        Move (that is, rename) file `f1'
                      to new name `f2'.
     rm f1 f2 ...    Remove (that is, delete) files `f1', `f2',

Commands for Directory Manipulation

     pwd             Give full pathname of current directory.
     cd d1           Change to directory `d1'
     mkdir d1 d2 ...  Make new directories called `d1', `d2', ...
     rmdir d1 d2 ... Remove directories `d1', `d2', ...
                      the directories can be removed only if they
                      are empty (use `rm' to remove the files
     ls d1 d2 ...    List files in directories `d1', `d2', ...

Special Shell Characters: < > >> | &

     a.out < f1      Program `a.out' reads from file `f1'
                      instead of terminal
     a.out > f2      Program `a.out' writes to `f2' instead
                      of the terminal.
     a.out >> f      `a.out' appends to file `f' instead
                      of overwriting it.
     a.out <f1 >f2   These may be combined; spaces don't matter.
     a.out | b.out   The output of `a.out' is the input for `b.out'
     a.out &         run `a.out' in background
     a <f | b >g &   Another possible combination.