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Course: unix command-line introduction
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Next available session:

Avail.:next session possibly in Dec/2012
Admits:volunteers only
Prereq.:user experience
Cost:vol $0, supplies included
Where:TFN office
When:typically Thursday afternoons
Length:3 class meetings, 45 minutes each, starts on demand

Format:supervised lab
Extra help:at the TFN office, from fellow volunteers.


  • some skill with a computer keyboard.


Iain Calder is an expert unix command-line user, teacher, and designer of command-line software.  He has been introducing the unix command-line to novices for almost 2 decades.


This short course teaches the minimum basics of command-line use on unix: the parts of the command-line, the keystrokes for entering commands, correcting typos, reusing previously issued commands, what you will see when a command succeeds or fails, essential commands for navigating and for viewing files and folders.


Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

  • login to a TFN office computer that runs unix.
  • switch between graphical and command line interfaces.
  • type simple unix commands.
  • look up other commands that TFN volunteers are using.
  • navigate through directories.
  • view text files and move around inside them.
  • search for particular text inside a file you are viewing.
  • locate other TFN volunteers online, and chat with them.
  • login to remote unix servers.



Supplies & equipment:

  • Some handouts are provided.
  • Having a computer with an Internet connection will enable you to connect to TFN's servers to practice from home.  However, the course relies only on the office computers.


  • CLI concepts & terminology.
  • directory tree concepts, ls(1).
  • notation for recording command syntax.
  • notation for recording keystrokes.
  • multi-consoles.
  • less(1) keystrokes.
  • emacs keystrokes.
  • basic REs.
  • unix essentials beyond ls(1): man pages, finger(1), write(1), ssh(1).

About the unix command line:

unix is an operating system in the same way that MS-DOS, Windows, and MacOS are operating systems.

unix supports graphics but graphical environments are inherently limited in some ways.  Certain tasks are simply not possible with a mouse or they require too much effort, when done with a mouse.

Command line environments have their own limitations but they also have certain advantages.

One of the features of unix is the richness of its command line environment and the hundreds of powerful commands that it includes.  One connects remotely to a unix server, and uses its command line environment to view and to edit files, to read documentation, to generate reports, to exchange email and browse the web, to write programs, to change a server's behaviour, etc.

Much of our work at TFN is done in unix's command line environment.

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