Linux command line tricks

Useful Linux Command Line Tricks

We use the Linux command line every day, and due to the little practicing, we may forget some of the Linux command line tricks. In this post, I’m going to show you some of these Linux command line tricks that you might forget or maybe new to you, so let’s get started.

 Display Output as a Table

Sometimes it’s painful to read the output well due to the overcrowded strings, for example, the result of the mount command, what about viewing the output like a table?  It is an easy job.

mount | column t

mount table view

OK, in this example, we see the output is well formatted because the separator between them is spaces.

What if the separators are something else, like colons :

The /etc/passwd file is a good example.

Just specify the separator with -s parameter like this:

cat /etc/passwd | column -t -s :

users tabular view

 Run Until Success

If you search google about that trick, you will find a lot of questions about people asking how to repeat the command till it returns success and runs properly, like ping the server till it becomes alive or check if a file with a specific extension is uploaded at specific directory or maybe check if a specific URL becomes available or maybe any geeky thing, the list is very long.

You can use the while true loop to achieve that:

repeat till success

We use > /dev/null 2>&1  to redirect normal output and errors to /dev/null.

Actually, this is one of coolest Linux Command Line Tricks for me.

Sort Processes by (Memory – CPU) Usage

To sort by memory usage:

sort by memory usage

To sort by CPU usage:

sort by cpu usage

Check Your Architecture

getconf  LONG_BIT

Monitor Multiple Log Files Concurrently

You can use the tail command to watch your logs and that’s fine, but sometimes you may need to monitor multiple log files simultaneously to take some actions.

Using multitail command which supports text highlighting, filtering, and many other features that you may need.

multitail command

You can install it if it is not found on your system like this:

apt-get install multitail

Return to Your Previous Directory

It’s not a trick but some people forget it, others use it every minute.

Just type cd   and you will return back to the previous directory.

Make Non-Interactive as Interactive Shell Session

To do this, put our settings in ~/.bashrc  from ~/.bash_profile.

Watch Command Output

By using watch command, you can watch any output of any command, for example, you can watch the free space and how it is growing:

watch df h

You can imagine what you can do with any variant data that you can watch using watch command.

Run Your Program After Session Killing

When you run any program in the background and close your shell, definitely it will be killed, what about if it continues running after closing the shell.

This can be done using the nohup command which stands for no hang up.

nohup wget

This command is really one of the most useful Linux command line tricks for most webmasters.

nohup command

A file will be generated in the same directory with the name nohup.out contains the output of the running program.

nohup output

Cool command right?

Answer bot Using Yes & No Commands

It’s like an answer bot for those commands whose require the user to say yes.

That can be done using the yes command:

yes | apt-get update

Or maybe you want to automate saying no instead, this can be done using the following command:

yes no | command

yes command

Create a File With a Specific Size

Use the dd command to create a file with a specific size:

dd if=/dev/zero of=out.txt bs=1M count=10

This will create a file with 10-megabyte size filled with zeros.

dd command

Run Last Command as Root

Sometimes you forget to type sudo before your command that requires root privileges to run, you don’t have to rewrite it, just type:

sudo !!

sudo command

Record your Command Line Session

If you want to record what you’ve typed in your shell screen, you can use the script command which will save all of your typings to a file named typescript.


Once you type exit, all of your commands will be written to that file so you can review them later.

Replacing Spaces with Tabs

You can replace any character with any other character using tr command which is very handy.

cat geeks.txt | tr ':[space]:' '\t' > out.txt

This command will replace the spaces with tabs.

tr command

Convert Character Case

cat my_file | tr a-z A-Z > output.txt

This command converts the content of the file to upper case using the tr command.

Powerful xargs Command

We can say that xargs command is one of the most important Linux command line tricks, you can use this command to pass outputs between commands as arguments, for example, you may search for png files and compress them or do anything with them.

find . -name "*.png" -type f -print | xargs tar -cvzf pics.tar.gz

Or maybe you have a list of URLs in a file and you want to download them or process them in a different way:

cat links.txt | xargs wget

xargs command

The cat command result is passed to the end of xargs command.

What if your command needs the output in the middle?

Just use {} combined with –i parameter to replace the arguments in the place where the result should go like this:

ls /etc/*.conf | xargs -i cp {} /home/likegeeks/Desktop/out

This is only some of the Linux command line tricks, but there are some more geeky things that you can do using other commands like awk command and sed command.

If you know any geeky command I didn’t mention, you can type it in a comment and share it with others.

I’m going to make another post about those Linux command line tricks so we can remember all what we’ve forgotten.

Thank you.

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  • “Repeat a Command until It runs successfully” could be done more succintly with while ! ping -c 1 > /dev/null 2>&1;do : ;done

    • You can use it in many ways.

      And this is the beauty of Linux commands

  • sdani

    Thanks man! I have never known what the yes command is good for. 😀

    • You are welcome.
      I’m preparing a new post for Linux command line tricks soon.
      Stay tuned
      Good Luck

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  • Stephen Bly

    Quick correction: you need to quote “.png” in the find command to suppress glod expansion

    • Oh Sorry for the typo
      Now fixed.
      Thank you.

  • Jouni Järvinen

    I read §while :§ is faster than §while true§, so I use that instead. It’s harder to remember though.

    • I didn’t check that difference before. Did you benchmark it?

      • Jouni Järvinen

        It’s been yeeeears since I read it, so I don’t remember if there were any benchmarks in the first place, and I haven’t done those benchmarks since I’m not quite in the clear about how.

        I think the person said something like that the colon has a special meaning which makes it faster to resolve than §true§ or even §1§. Not sure, though, but could be you can’t use §while 1§ in Bash.

        • The current version of bash has a different performance than the older versions of bash.