Beginners Corner: What is a Linux Terminal?

A not uncommon occurrence among new Linux users, is when you want to do some kind of task, you were used to do on your former operating system, whether it was Microsoft Windows or Apple’s OS X, but you can’t seem to find an easy way to do so on Linux. Then you read some

Updated Oct 6, 2016How To's
Linux Terminal

Then you read some tutorial or guide that says you can do it by using Terminal, but wait, what is the Terminal?


Linux Terminal is a CLI (command line interface), where you can type commands to tell the computer what to do. That is faster and more powerful, but requires finding out what the commands are in the first place.

In case the definition above was not clear enough or if you are more of a visual type of person, then perhaps the following image will make the penny drop for you.


Does this rings any bells?


Looks familiar? yep, you’ve guessed right, this is Microsoft’s CMD (Command Prompt) program, which is quite reminding of the Linux Terminal in both looks and feels. However, unlike CMD which is rarely used these days, Linux users are still making much use of the Terminal in order to perform certain tasks.

This does not mean that Linux is less developed or has insufficient graphical tools for that matter, on the contrary, Linux has many diverse GUI (Graphical User Interface) programs and is getting many development contributions, even by the most largest companies in the world, such as, Google, Microsoft and so on.

Why use Terminal?

So why do the Terminal is so commonly used among Linux users? well, as said above, it is faster (once you know the commands) and it’s more powerful than a lot of GUI programs. The Terminal is empowering the user, giving him/her much control over the system.

Moreover, this is how the traditional Unix environments works, and the closer you get to the source the more you can control and manipulate it to your likings.

Useful commands

For completeness sake, here’s a list of common terminal commands, the novice user might find generally useful:

  •  su – become super user, have administrator privileges.
  • sudo – become super user temporarily.
  • rm – remove or delete a file in a directory.
  • cp – copy a file to a location.

Ubuntu / Debian and derivatives specific commands

  • apt-get update – updates the package lists information on the newest versions of packages and their dependencies.
  • apt-get install – installing a package,  apt-get install foo, will install ‘foo’ package.
  • apt-get remove – removes a package from the system.
  • apt-get purge – removes a package and the associated configuration files.
  • apt-cache search – find packages.