As someone who is new and wanting to get Linux training, you may have heard or read about getting help by using a man page.
If you already know Linux, then you can use man pages as a reference to learn more about a command or concept – and in this case, man pages can be quite useful.
However, if you are just new, man pages are extremely frustrating to use – and here's why, and what you can do about it.
Linux Commands Training Tips: The Linux System Administration concepts and help commands covered here apply to: Red Hat, Fedora, Slackware, Debian, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, SUSE and openSUSE – and ALL other Linux distributions.
5 Main Headings That Are Shown – and Not Shown – on a Linux Man Page
1. NAME – Shows the command name and a brief cryptic description of what it does.
For the grep command, the brief description is "print lines matching a pattern".
What? Is this command used to send stuff to print to a printer. Yes, it can be used for this, but by default, Linux "prints" to "standard output", which is the screen!
2. SYNOPSIS – Shows the how the Linux command is used.
This is supposed to show you how to use the command. The synopsis is also known as the "format" or "syntax" of the command. If you already know what you're doing, great. If not, this is so vague it does not tell you anything.
3. DESCRIPTION – Describes what the command is used for.
Here's part of the description of the grep command, exactly as shown on the man page for grep:
"Grep searches the named input FILEs (or standard input if no files are named, or the file name – is given) for lines containing a match to a given PATTERN. By default, grep prints the matching lines."
Wonderful! – If you already understand all the Linux lingo being used. That is, if you already understand all the terms shown above, including: named input files, standard output, match a given pattern, and prints the matching lines.
But if you're new to Linux, forget it!
4. OPTIONS – of a Linux command.
There are over 40 options of the grep command and each one is described in the same Linux "geek-speak" as everything else on these pages.
Another big problem with them is that the options are all listed alphabetically. There is no way of knowing which ones are the most useful or commonly used.
Linux Training Tips: If you already know Linux and need to look up the name of an option that is used to do a certain task, man pages are an excellent and quick Linux resource. But if you're just a newbie, look elsewhere!
5. LINUX COMMAND EXAMPLES – There are almost never any examples of commands on a man page.
One of the best ways to learn something is by example – just show me and let me try it myself.
But one of the most difficult things to find is examples of how to use a command. Out of thousands of pages, there are almost never any examples.
How to Get Linux Training on Linux Commands and Concepts
So, how does someone get Linux training on commands and concepts?
1. Get a good Linux book (or ebook) that shows lots of examples and is written in plain English – not "geek-speak".
This is not easy to do. Lots of books are written in "geek-speak" instead of in plain English – the way you need to have a book.
2. Watch Linux training videos to get easy training.
This method is great because you see and hear about important Linux concepts. You also see every step in running a command, including why you run the command and what the output of it means.
You see all the steps to run a command and lots of examples of how to use commands to do Linux System Administration tasks.
After watching a bit of a Linux video, you can just pause the video and then run the Linux command yourself and experiment!