Víctor López Ferrando



Víctor López Ferrando

Mathematics, programming, politics and science dissemination

Català   |   English RSS

30 interesting commands for the Linux shell

14 September 2017. This article can also be read in catalan.

These are 30 interesting commands and tips for the Linux shell that I have collected over the years.

1. Supervise command (run every 2s)

watch "ls -larth"

2. Kill program using one port

sudo fuser -k 8000/tcp

3. Limit memory usage for following commands

ulimit -Sv 1000       # 1000 KBs = 1 MB
ulimit -Sv unlimited  # Remove limit

4. Rename selected files using a regular expression

rename 's/\.bak$/.txt/' *.bak

5. Get full path of file

readlink -f file.txt

6. List contents of tar.gz and extract only one file

tar tf file.tgz
tar xf file.tgz filename

7. List files by size

ls -lS

8. Nice trace route

mtr google.com

9. Find files tips

find . -size 20c             # By file size (20 bytes)
find . -name "*.gz" -delete  # Delete files
find . -exec echo {} \;      # One file by line
find . -exec echo {} \+      # All in the same line
./file1 ./file2 ./file3

10. Print text ad infinitum

yes hello

11. Who is logged in?


12. Prepend line number

ls | nl

13. Grep with Perl like syntax (allows chars like \t)

grep -P "\t"

14. Cat backwards (starting from the end)

tac file

15. Check permissions of each directory to a file

It is useful to detect permissions errors, for example when configuring a web server.

namei -l /path/to/file.txt

16. Run command every time a file is modified

while inotifywait -e close_write document.tex

17. Copy to clipboard

cat file.txt | xclip -selection clipboard

18. Spell and grammar check in Latex

detex file.tex | diction -bs

You may need to install the following: sudo apt-get install diction texlive-extra-utils.

19. Check resources' usage of command

/usr/bin/time -v ls

20. Randomize lines in file

cat file.txt | sort -R
cat file.txt | sort -R | head  # Pick a random sambple

# Even better (suggested by xearl in Hacker news):
shuf file.txt

21. Keep program running after leaving SSH session

If the program doesn't need any interaction:

nohup ./script.sh &

If you need to enter some input manually and then want to leave:

<Type any input you want>
<Ctrl-Z>          # send process to sleep
jobs -l           # find out the job id
disown -h jobid   # disown job
bg                # continue running in the background

Of course, you can also use screen or tmux for this purpose.

22. Run a command for a limited time

timeout 10s ./script.sh

# Restart every 30 minutes
while true; do timeout 30m ./script.sh; done

23. Combine lines from two sorted files

comm file1 file2

Prints these three columns:

  1. Lines unique to file1.
  2. Lines unique to file2.
  3. Lines both in file1 and file2.

With options -1, -2, -3, you can remove each of these columns.

24. Split long file in files with same number of lines

split -l LINES -d file.txt output_prefix

25. Flush swap partition

If a program eats too much memory, the swap can get filled with the rest of the memory and when you go back to normal, everything is slow. Just restart the swap partition to fix it:

sudo swapoff -a
sudo swapon -a

26. Fix ext4 file system with problems with its superblock

sudo fsck.ext4 -f -y /dev/sda1
sudo fsck.ext4 -v /dev/sda1
sudo mke2fs -n /dev/sda1
sudo e2fsck -n <first block number of previous list> /dev/sda1

27. Create empty file of given size

fallocate -l 1G test.img

28. Manipulate PDFs from the command line

To join, shuffle, select, etc. pdftk is a great tool:

pdftk *.pdf cat output all.pdf        # Join PDFs together
pdftk A=in.pdf cat A5 output out.pdf  # Extract page from PDF

You can also manipulate the content with cpdf:

cpdf -draft in.pdf -o out.pdf      # Remove images
cpdf -blacktext in.pdf -o out.pdf  # Convert all text to black color

29. Monitor the progress in terms of generated output

# Write random data, encode it in base64 and monitor how fast it
# is being sent to /dev/null
cat /dev/urandom | base64 | pv -lbri2 > /dev/null

# pv options:
#   -l,  lines
#   -b,  total counter
#   -r,  show rate
#   -i2, refresh every 2 seconds

30. Find packages that have a given file in Ubuntu

apt-file update
apt-file search dir/file.h