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Ubuntu help for beginners

Ubuntu help for beginners tutorial is a guide on how to find help in Ubuntu. I am not going for a long lecture because I know you're in trouble. Otherwise you won't looking for help, won't you? Don't worry, Ubuntu comes with several powerful online help to assist you working in Ubuntu. You don't need to call help desk. Here are what you need:

Using --help

The first thing you should try is --help. Most command have this option. The syntax is command --help. It'll display information about the command. Here is an example of --help:
luzar@ubuntu:~$ ls --help
Usage: ls [OPTION]... [FILE]...
List information about the FILEs (the current directory by default).
Sort entries alphabetically if none of -cftuvSUX nor --sort.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.
-a, --all do not ignore entries starting with .
-A, --almost-all do not list implied . and ..
--author with -l, print the author of each file
As you can see from the example above, --help is used with Ubuntu command to display help about the command's usage and options available.

Ubuntu help using man command

The man command is used to read the online reference manuals. Perhaps the man command is the most famous help in Ubuntu and other Unix-based system. It's a bit weird, but to open man manual, type man man. Here is a part of manual page about man command:
man - an interface to the on-line reference manuals

man [-c|-w|-tZ] [-H[browser]] [-T[device]] [-X[dpi]] [-adhu7V] [-i|-I]
[-m system[,...]] [-L locale] [-p string] [-C file] [-M path] [-P
pager] [-r prompt] [-S list] [-e extension] [--warnings [warnings]]
[[section] page ...] ...
man -l [-7] [-tZ] [-H[browser]] [-T[device]] [-X[dpi]] [-p string] [-P
pager] [-r prompt] [--warnings[warnings]] file ...
man -k [apropos options] regexp ...
man -f [whatis options] page ...

man is the systems manual pager. Each page argument given to man is
normally the name of a program, utility or function. The manual page
associated with each of these arguments is then found and displayed. A
section, if provided, will direct man to look only in that section of
the manual. The default action is to search in all of the available
sections, following a pre-defined order and to show only the first page
found, even if page exists in several sections.
Ubuntu (and all Linux) administration command manual is in section 8. You can see a section number is printed at the top of the page every time you open the manual page. See an example below:

Here are the complete section numbers of the manual and the
types of pages they contain.
1   Executable programs or shell commands
2 System calls (functions provided by the kernel)
3 Library calls (functions within program libraries)
4 Special files (usually found in /dev)
5 File formats and conventions eg /etc/passwd
6 Games
7 Miscellaneous (including macro packages and conven-
tions), e.g. man(7), groff(7)
8 System administration commands (usually only for root)
9 Kernel routines [Non standard]
Normally each manual page provides the information subject below:

  • NAME






  • BUGS


Ubuntu help using whatis command

Another Ubuntu help available is whatis command. The different between man command and whatis command is, whatis displays only the description. Here is a part of whatis manual page:
whatis - display manual page descriptions

whatis [-dlhV] [-r|-w] [-s section] [-m system[,...]] [-M path] [-L
locale] [-C file] name ...

Each manual page has a short description available within it. whatis
searches the manual page names and displays the manual page descripâ
tions of any name matched.

name may contain wildcards (-w) or be a regular expression (-r). Using
these options, it may be necessary to quote the name or escape (\) the
special characters to stop the shell from interpreting them.
Example of Ubuntu help using whatis command:
luzar@ubuntu:~$ whatis info
info (1) - read Info documents
info (5) - readable online documentation

Ubuntu help using apropos command

Apropos command is another Ubuntu help for beginners. The apropos command search the manual page names and descriptions.
apropos - search the manual page names and descriptions

apropos [-dalhV] [-e|-w|-r] [-s section] [-m system[,...]] [-M path]
[-L locale] [-C file] keyword ...

Each manual page has a short description available within it. apropos
searches the descriptions for instances of keyword.
Example using apropos to get help in Ubuntu system:
luzar@ubuntu:~$ apropos adduser
/etc/adduser.conf (5) [adduser.conf] - configuration file for adduser(8) and ...
adduser (8) - add a user or group to the system
adduser.conf (5) - configuration file for adduser(8) and addgroup(8) .

Ubuntu help using info command

Another help you can get in Ubuntu is info command. Info command prints info documentations. You can use info command to read a complete information about certain topic in Ubuntu. The info command is like a book. Here is an information in manual page:
info - read Info documents

info [OPTION]... [MENU-ITEM...]

Read documentation in Info format.
Example of info command:

luzar@ubuntu:~$ info cpio

As you see from the example above, info documentation is like a book. To read info documentation, you can use space bar to view next page. The up/down keys also can be used to scroll up/down the page.

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