10 simple Linux tips which save 50% of my time in the command line

javinpaul on August 18, 2019

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Technically these are not "Linux commands", but builtins/features of the shell you're using. They'll work on other OS that run the same shells too and might not work in different shells even on Linux:

$ !!
/bin/ksh: !!: not found
$ pushd
ksh: pushd: not found
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Even switching Bash from emacs to vi mode has an effect on some of the things you mention here, i.e. CTRL-R for history:

$ bindkey|grep hist
"^N" down-line-or-history
"^O" accept-line-and-down-history
"^P" up-line-or-history
"^R" history-incremental-search-forward
"^S" history-incremental-search-forward

$ set -o vi
$ bindkey|grep hist
"^[OA" up-line-or-history
"^[OB" down-line-or-history
"^[[A" up-line-or-history
"^[[B" down-line-or-history

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That's why the drawings by Julia Evans you're using are calling them "bash tricks". Granted, a lot of them will work across shells since they have the same builtins, but IMHO the distinction matters.


Yes, technically you are correct, most of them are bash built-in. You also mentioned a couple of good points which I didn't know before, thx for adding value.


the distinction matters

Bah! He's writing a blog article, not an ISO spec. The point of the title is that it's discoverable, not that it builds a precise reference taxonomy. Consider the neebs like me in the target audience. "What Linux command do I have to run?" is a common question I ask.

However, the distinction is correct.


Only I do ”set -o vi” in my .bashrc and use ”cntl+r” all the time.


Cool. Nobody is stopping you or your distribution from customizing your readline config, but on a lot of systems it won’t work out of the box.


One key I love in Bash and Zsh is meta-dot (or alt-period or escape-period). It is a bit like up arrow, but rather than replacing the curren line, it inserts the last word of the previous line. Pressing it multiple times cycles through multiple preceding lines.

For example, you just ran

somecommand > longfilename

and want to open the resulting file in vi, you can type

vi meta-dot

and longfilename will be inserted on your command line after vi.


Whether you are in bash or zsh, you can use the ! operator quite flexible:

If we take: echo a b c d as an example

!$          # the last argument: d
!:*         # all the arguments: a b c d (can be shorten !*)
!:1         #  the first argument: a (same as !^)
!:1-3       # arguments from first to third: a b c
!:2-$       # arguments from the second to the last one: b c d

Wow, nice to know that, how do you type meta-dot? just literal?


Depends on your keyboard layout; most likely your meta key is "alt", so typing a period while holding down the alt key would do the trick. You can also type the escape key, followed by a period.

# Did you forget to use "sudo" with a command?
# Use this alias to auto add sudo and re-run it.
# usage example:
# > apt update
# Could not open lock file /var/lib/apt/lists/lock - open (13: Permission denied)
# > oops

alias oops='sudo $(fc -ln -1)'

Those are some great ones. I like the "!" and history # as in ...

hseritt@hseritt-ThinkPad-X1-Carbon-5th:~/dev/python/top/project$ history


2177  git add --all
2178  git commit -m "Fixed CMS-12"
2179  git push origin CMS-12-CreateOrganizationsApp 
2180  git checkout master 
2181  git merge CMS-12-CreateOrganizationsApp 
2182  git push origin master 
2183  history
hseritt@hseritt-ThinkPad-X1-Carbon-5th:~/dev/python/top/project$ !2177

This will execute 2177 which is

git add --all


This is a massive one. You can:

history | grep git

To see all the things you were doing then:


it's a bit more keystrokes than ”ctrl+r all” to find a command but helps you reread what you did. So i mix these two often.


Yeah the point was just using history for clarity for the readers ... you can of course, grep any output you need to. That should be a given. Thanks!


Within vim, you can more quickly switch back and forth between two files - buffers, technically - by ctrl-6. If you have more than two files, you can still switch between them by ":bn" where n is a buffer number. That's not slower than ctrl-z then "fg n".


Thx @Jing Xue, awesome tip for vim users.


Nice article. Personally, I feel that a lot of people can get a huge boost in shell productivity by installing oh-my-zsh and some nice plugins.

I'm also pro cobalt2 color scheme(not sure it really helps that much with productivity though)


@brendan , looks like a nice idea, but most of the time you don't have the luxury of those plugins on highly secure corporate infrastructure like on a big investment banks.


JavinPaul is true about this. On such an infrastructure you can' t have plugins installed and use them all around. Although I have got the option to use zsh I love the idea of using Ctrl + R.

The best useful thing I have found is the option to set aliases. You can have a cd into folder then run a program do a copy of the result and then return to the home folder. Just in one command.

This is a deal breaker for me that when I switch to a Windows environment I can't handle it.


I keep a script that can run (with very minor changes, if any) across several of the "sh" based shells, including the original AT&T sh, ksh, zsh, and bash, though the newer shells now incorporate quite a bit of the functionality, so I've used them less frequently recently:

directory stack functions

declare -i DNUM=0

function g # go to a directory
if builtin cd "$@" >/dev/null && [ ${DLIST[DNUM]} != "$PWD" ]

if DISPLAY exists, then set titlebar and icon.

if [ -n "$DISPLAY" ]; then
    titlebar="$USER @ $HOST : $PWD"


function gb # go back
if (( $DNUM > 0 ))

function gn # go to selected (nth) dir
select DIR in echo ${DLIST[*]} | tr " " "\012" | sort -u -y0
if [ "$DIR" ]
g $DIR

function up # go up n levels
declare -i levels


if [ -z "${1}" ] && [ ${PWD} != "/" ]
  g ..
  return $?

while [ ${levels} -gt 0 ] && [ ${PWD} != "/" ]
  g ..


function addpath
echo $PATH

function todo
echo date '+%D %H:%M' >> ~/todo
echo "$*" >> ~/todo
echo >> ~/todo

Main # <--- Main

Set the default directory and file protection mask. By default, do

not mask any protection on my ownership, but remove default write

access for the group, and do not give "world" any default access.

(I add or subtract various things, adding functions or procedures

that I am frequently using, and remove them when inappropriate

at a particular assignment. Sometimes I can send portions of a

script by Email; other times sending anything in is frowned upon

so I have to create bits and pieces of my personal tools manually).

export SHELL=~/bin/bash # usually my default shell
umask 022

myterm=$(who am i)
myterm=$(echo $myterm | awk -F" " '{ print $2 }')
echo "The current HOST is $HOST"
echo "The current terminal is $myterm"
echo "The current shell is $SHELL"

return # get out of any functions I may be in

Finished .bashrc


Hi, and thanks for the article! I love those shell short cuts. It makes working in it extremely fast and fun!

One meta point: You’ve added those equal signs to underline the headings, this actually looks very bad on mobile browsers or the dev.to app. Just open it on your phone. Would you mind removing them?



Thx @jan for pointing it out. I have removed them.


Great collection of tips, I use the history grep a lot for not only finding what I need but also checking what I did to make sure that in the past I got it right :)

8 is something I still forget to do, which I blame on using those 'other' systems making me actually CD all the time.

Thanks for this.


@peter , history| grep is the holy grail, I learned a lot by doing just that and learning about what find, grep, and lsof options other teammates are using :-)


Hey nice list.. thanks for sharing it and encourage programmers to use terminal.
I want to share one that I use commonly:

$ grep -nHri 'string'

It searches case insensitive recursively on current dir and shows number of line and file of each occurence.


I don't know if it's just me but this article read really badly. It's not entirely clear what the actual commands are and your affiliate links all the way through really detract from the important stuff.


Not long ago I started using shell param expansion more and more and it is definitely a booster:
mv path/to/some/file/that/is/long/and/hard/to/type/{file,new_file_name}.txt


As bash and vi is preinstalled on corporate linux and modern cloud hosts i have “set -o vi” in my profile to practice using vi keybindings day to day. I stick to bash as i cannot install other shells onto production hosts when firefighting outages. Using vi shortcuts in bash I can up arrow or ctrl+r to a line, hit esc to exit edit mode, and use vi keys to jump around and edit the line super fast. Then in an outage I can open configuration files in vi and know how to edited them very fast.

I think thats a good tip for new folks that being a rock star on your laptop using other shells and extensions that aren’t installed in production isn’t a transferable skill to “cattle not pets” cloud infra. Being a rockstar on your own laptop using exotic shells will wow your friends. Being a rockstar on a cloud vm during an outage using ancient tools and an empty profile will wow your team mates and the CTO.

I posted how to install git in bash inside visual studio code on windows which is how i stay sharp and ready to be a commandline ninja when trapped on a mandatory corporate windows laptop for day to day work.


Being a rockstar on a cloud vm during an outage using ancient tools and an empty profile will wow your team mates and the CTO.

I have lived an extreme example of this, when I had to fix a production outage by texting someone Linux commands.


May sound captious but at the first glance, I thought that it would be perfect with the below

Have you ever been* amazed to see …


thx for suggestion included. And, no you are not captious, keep on suggesting :-)


Great article! If someone hasn't also suggested it, I suggest you look at fzf, which makes control-r a much better experience.


I would also suggest oh-my-zsh which has a lot of plugins and tools that make your command line life easier.



FYI; I noticed you switch to egrep when splitting multiple matches with pipe; you can escape the pipe and stick with regular grep too:

mycommand | grep "string1\|string2"


Thx, I'll try thins, somehow I never used grep like that :-)


sudo !! is one of my favorite tricks in bash. It saves a lot of time!


Try tcsh ..used it on everything from nextstep to irix to linux to Darwin today ..has the most creature comforts of any command line shell ..including many if not more of the ones mentioned :)


I used tcsh back in the day... zsh is better :)


Try fish shell and don't worry about 1-4 🙃


Is that a real shell? never heard about that.


Cool Tips! I especially like tips # 1-3 & 8. Thanks for sharing!

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