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The Shell Manuals

The Linux manuals are the most valuable resource you can learn to use and could arguably be said to beat any book. Bring up a terminal and type;

   man intro

Read these properly and you will be given a basic introduction to using the shell. Type q to quit and return to the command prompt.

The manual is divided into sections. Type;

   man man

For any command that can be typed into the shell there are manual pages;

   man <command>

substitute <command> for the command you are interested in.

Another way of getting information is;

   info <command>

again substitute <command> for the command you are interested in. Info often returns the same text but not always. Try;

   info ls

   man ls

On my system info gives a more English description.

Man pages are the UNIX traditional way of distributing documentation and correspond to the pages of the printed manual; the man pages "sections" correspond to sections in the full UNIX manual.

  1. Executable programs or shell commands
  2. System calls (functions provided by the kernel)
  3. Library calls (functions within program libraries)
  4. Special files (usually found in /dev)
  5. File formats and conventions eg /etc/passwd
  6. Games
  7. Miscellaneous (including macro packages and conventions), e.g. man(7), groff(7)
  8. System administration commands (usually only for root)
  9. Kernel routines [Non standard]

Info is the default format for documentation inside the GNU project. Info uses Texinfo as its source format, which is a bunch of macros for TeX, and that makes it much easier to also create "good-looking" printed versions or PDFs.

Where is the manual kept? The command manpath shows the paths that are searched for manual pages but they may well be buried in subdirectories.

   man -wa <command>

will take you to the file for a given command.

An HTML version of the manual can be found;

Other interesting commands;

   help

Tells you;

These shell commands are defined internally.  Type `help' to see this list.

Type `help name' to find out more about the function `name'.

Use `info bash' to find out more about the shell in general.

Use `man -k' or `info' to find out more about commands not in this list.

And then it gives a list of commands.

Unrelated to this is;

   info help

Well it looks interesting but what it is supposed to do?!

You can also get help on many commands with;

   <command> --help

(c) Tom de Havas 2011. The information under this section is my own work it may be reproduced without modification but must include this notice.