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I'm supposed to give an introduction to using the shell (i.e. bash) to total beginners. Which is the most basic/useful stuff I can teach someone within 1 1/2 hours without demanding too much?

Here are some point I thought up:

  • Where Am I (pwd)
  • Change Directories (cd, cd .., cd -)
  • Create Directories (mkdir, mkdir -p)
  • Rename Files/Directories (mv)
  • copy Files/Directories (cp, cp -r)
  • listing directory entries (ls, ls -l, ls -a)
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5 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

You can also take a look at CLIcompanion:

CLI Companion is a tool to store and run Terminal commands from a GUI. People unfamiliar with the Terminal will find CLI Companion a useful way to become acquainted with the Terminal and unlock its potential. Experienced users can use CLI Companion to store their extensive list of commands in a searchable list.

More info (and how to install): https://help.ubuntu.com/community/clicompanion

PS: IMHO the most important command for newcomers is man <command>. ;-)

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From my experience, for beginners manpages are like hieroglyphics written in a dead language :-). –  Helper Method Nov 30 '10 at 15:16
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I wrote a class that you could have a look at for understanding the command line, you can find the pdf files here:


preview of pdf class

I cover some nice aspects of understanding bash for beginners, running programs, understanding directories etc. feel free to update, rewrite, draw inspiration from etc.

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Make sure that you talk not only about how to use the command line, but why they should care. If you're thinking in a GUI mindset, cd and pwd are a poor way to traverse directories looking for files. Your students need to understand that the CLI is not a clumsy way of doing the tasks they're used to doing, but a clean, crisp, and powerful way to do lots of cool stuff.

I would suggest a short demonstration illustrating what makes it so cool. Maybe an illustration of piping, or a cool use of find or grep.

Also, if you can assign them a book to read, give them In the Beginning...was the Command Line. It is the best exposition I've seen on the philosophy behind CLI in general.

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Here is a nice tutorial : http://www.freeos.com/guides/lsst/ch01sec07.html

Just have a look on it. I think it would be a good start.

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i would reccomend you to ask them to use linux's at their home, simply they should start getting used to it and then teach them terminal. first provide them with user friendly linux like linux mint which is good for begginers

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+1 Also always suggest Linux Mint (and also used this myself, until I discovered Crunchbang Linux). –  Helper Method Nov 30 '10 at 14:30
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