Linux command line tricks that will save your time

In this article, I’ll show you some pro Linux command tricks that will save you a lot of time and in some cases, from plenty of frustration. Not only your friends or colleagues will ‘wow’ at you, it will also help you increase your productivity as you will need fewer keystrokes and even fewer mouse clicks.

It’s not that these are Linux tips for beginners only. Chances are that even experienced Linux users will find some hidden gems that they were not aware despite using Linux for all these years.

You might already know a few of these Linux command tips or perhaps all of it. In either case, you are welcome to share your favorite tricks in the comment section.

Using tab for autocompletion

I’ll start with something really obvious and yet really important: tab completion.
When you are starting to type something in Linux terminal, you can hit the tab key and it will suggest all the possible options that start with string you have typed so far.
For example, if you are trying to copy a file named my_best_file_1.txt, you can just type ‘cp m’ and hit tab to see the possible options.
Linux Command Line Tricks and Tips
You can use tab in completing commands as well.

Switch back to the last working directory

Suppose you end up in a long directory path and then you move to another directory in a totally different path. And then you realize that you have to go back to the previous directory you were in. In this case, all you need to do is to type this command:
cd -
This will put you back in the last working directory. You don’t need to type the long directory path or copy paste it anymore.
Linux Command Line Tricks and Tips

Go back to home directory

This is way too obvious. You can use the command below to move to your home directory from anywhere in Linux command-line:
cd ~
However, you can also use just cd to go back to home directory:
Most modern Linux distributions have the shell pre-configured for this command. Saves you at least two keystrokes here.
Linux Command Line Tricks and Tips

List the contents of a directory

You must be guessing what’s the trick in the command for listing the contents of a directory. Everyone knows to use the ls -l for this purpose.
And that’s the thing. Most people use ls -l to list the contents of the directory, whereas the same can be done with the following command:
Again, this depends on the Linux distributions and shell configuration, but chances are that you’ll be able to use it in most Linux distributions.
Linux Command Line Tricks and Tips

Running multiple commands in one single command

Suppose, you have to run several commands one after another. Do you wait for the first command to finish running and then execute the next one?
You can use the ‘;’ separator for this purpose. This way, you can run a number of commands in one line. No need to wait for the previous commands to finish their business.
command_1; command_2; command_3

Running multiple commands in one single command only if the previous command was successful

In the previous command, you saw how to run several commands in one single command to save time. But what if you have to make sure that commands don’t fail?
imagine a situation where you want to build a code and then if the build was successful, run the make?
You can use && separator for this case. && makes sure that the next command will only run when the previous command was successful.
command_1 && command_2
A good example of this command is when you use sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade to upgrade your system.

Easily search and use the commands that you had used in the past

Imagine a situation where you used a long command couple of minutes/hours ago and you have to use it again. Problem is that you cannot remember the exact command anymore.
Reverse search is your savior here. You can search for the command in the history using a search term.
Just use the keys ctrl+r to initiate reverse search and type some part of the command. It will look up into the history and will show you the commands that matches the search term.
ctrl+r search_term
By default, it will show just one result. To see more results matching your search term, you will have to use ctrl+r again and again. To quit reverse search, just use Ctrl+C.
Linux Command Line Tricks and Tips
Note that in some Bash shells, you can also use Page Up and Down key with your search term and it will autocomplete the command.

Unfreeze your Linux terminal from accidental Ctrl+S

You probably are habitual of using Ctrl+S for saving. But if you use that in Linux terminal, you’ll have a frozen terminal.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to close the terminal, not anymore. Just use Ctrl+Q and you can use the terminal again.

Move to beginning or end of line

Suppose you are typing a long command and midway you realize that you had to change something at the beginning. You would use several left arrow keystrokes to move to the start of the line. And similarly for going to the end of the line.
You can use Home and End keys here of course but alternatively, you can use Ctrl+A to go to the beginning of the line and Ctrl+E to go to the end.
Linux Command Line Tricks and Tips
I find it more convenient than using the home and end keys, especially on my laptop.

Reading a log file in real timeIn situations where you need to analyze the logs while the application is running, you can use the tail command with -f option.

tail -f path_to_Log
You can also use the regular grep options to display only those lines that are meaningful to you:
tail -f path_to_log | grep search_term
You can also use the option F here. This will keep the tail running even if the log file is deleted. So if the log file is created again, tail will continue logging.

Reading compressed logs without extracting

Server logs are usually gzip compressed to save disk space. It creates an issue for the developer or sysadmin analyzing the logs. You might have to scp it to your local and then extract it to access the files because, at times, you don’t have write permission to extract the logs.
Thankfully, z commands save you in such situations. z commands provide alternatives of the regular commands that you use to deal with log files such as less, cat, grep etc.


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