Linux for Starters: Your Guide to Linux – Get Started with the Terminal – Part 9

Last Updated on May 22, 2022

Navigate the shell efficiently

The history builtin keeps a list of all the other commands that have been run from that terminal session, then allows you to replay or reuse those commands instead of retyping them. Using history effectively is an immediate productivity gain.

You can type history at the shell to see all the commands entered since you started the shell.

There are some simple ways to access history.

  • We can use the up and down arrows to browse the command history. This is an effective way to reuse a command that’s recently been entered.
  • The keyboard shortcut Ctrl+r lets us search the command history. The shell prompt changes to (reverse-i-search). Type letters to narrow down the search the most recent match display. We can keep pressing Ctrl+r to see other matches. There’s no need to remember long complicated commands.

There’s lots of other ways to improve the way we work with history. For example, in Page 3 of this article, we created an alias that lets us search for commands in the history reducing the number of characters to type to complete the search.

Another way to navigate the shell efficiently is to use the tab key. It shows suggestions or auto-completes a word or path.

Even though Ctrl+r is a time-saver, there is open source software which offer improved methods of navigating through your shell history. We recommend McFly, a tiny utility that replaces the functionality offered by Ctrl-r with an intelligent search engine. Unlike bash’s Ctrl-r, it also takes into account your working directory and the context of recently executed commands. The tool’s suggestions are prioritized in real time with a small neural network instead of a simple linear function. We also recommend fzf, a general-purpose command-line fuzzy finder.

We close this introduction to the shell with a list of all the shell builtins.

Page 6 – Appendix – Explanation of Shell Builtins

Pages in this article:
Page 1 – Types of Commands
Page 2 – Shell Builtins
Page 3 – Aliases
Page 4 – External Commands
Page 5 – Navigate the shell efficiently
Page 6 – Appendix – Explanation of Shell Builtins

All articles in this series:

Linux For Starters: Your Guide to Linux
1What is Linux? Why use Linux? What do I need?
2Choose a Linux distribution meeting your specific needs and requirements.
3Make a bootable Ubuntu USB stick in Windows.
4We show you how to install Ubuntu 21.04 on your hard disk.
5Things to do after installing Ubuntu.
6Navigating your way around the Desktop.
7Updating the system, install new software.
8Open source replacements for proprietary Windows desktop software.
9Get started with the power and flexibility of the terminal.
10We cover the basics of files and permissions.
11Getting help from your system.
12Learn all about the file system.
13Manipulating files from the shell.
14Maintain your system with these simple tips.
15Managing users on your system.
16Explore different desktops to GNOME 3.
17Gaming on Linux.
18Protect your privacy with this guide.
19Access the Windows desktop from Linux using a remote desktop client.
20Set up a virtual machine running Ubuntu as the host and openSUSE as the guest.
21Wine lets you run Windows programs on Linux without emulation.
22Extend your GNOME desktop with extensions and themes.
XUseful Linux commands.
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Dave Leach
Dave Leach
2 years ago

This is for beginners? Every other word seems undefined. I can read Supreme Court briefs and medical research but not this! The most important thing unexplained is what can be accomplished with these commands. If someone is willing to talk to me to explain these things, I am willing to suggest easier explanations.

2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Leach

Every other word seems undefined?? I think you should read more of the guide before coming to your discourteous comment.

You’ll learn a lot from Part 11, as that shows you how to find what you can do with the commands.

1 year ago

Well, I have not figured out just who you all really are yet….. maybe I won’t be able to>?. But, this is the best “Everything About Linux” I have ever found, on the Internet! And I have been doing Linux in many flavors from 1994! Mostly, I go between Debian and Kubuntu, which I use because of the KDE desktop, which I really like, works great for me to do anything I need!
Wow….. I now have a place to send those I try to talk into using Linux and out of paying that expensive Microsoft tax. I bailed out of Microsoft Windows 95SE in 94′. Furthermore, I have never looked back, and I have kept my money to donate to the many parts of Linux that don’t fly the “Blue Screen Of Death” for a fortune.
Don’t go away anytime soon, I’m going to work even harder now to talk others into dumping Windoz!