How to Find Help on Ubuntu When you Need it

How to Find Help on Ubuntu When you Need it

To be an Ubuntu power user, you must learn the command line. This is the most powerful part of Ubuntu that you can do almost everything from the terminal without the GUI. But there are thousands of commands on Ubuntu, you can’t memorize them all.

So the best thing you can do is to know how to find the right command in the man pages of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu and other Linux distro have man pages. Man pages are like the manual of all the commands available on your Ubuntu/Linux operating system.

In this tutorial we are going to learn how to find the right command on Ubuntu.

This is a step-by-step tutorial on learn how to find the right command on Ubuntu.To follow this tutorial, you need to have the following requirements:

• A computer with Ubuntu operating system installed.
• Basic knowledge of Ubuntu terminal. With basic I mean, how to open a terminal on Ubuntu and how to execute commands.

First open the terminal of your Ubuntu operating system. You can open your terminal by pressing Control, Alt and T at the same time. You can also go to the Unity dashboard and search by the keyword “Terminal” and click on the terminal. Or you can right click on the Desktop and click on “Open Terminal”.

Let’s say you want to list all the files of a directory. But you don’t know how to do it. So how do you know which command to use?

We will search the man pages for it now. Type in the following command and press Enter.
man -k list

You will see lots of output. How do we know which command to use from this huge list? Well we can pipe the output to grep and look for specific information. For example, we can sort all the output that has 1 in it. Because section 1 of the man page is the Linux commands. So let’s do that,

man -k list | grep 1 | less


If you read the lines one by one, you can see that, there’s a command called ‘dir’. ‘dir – list directory contents”, well we found the command we are looking for.

Now how do we use it?

To learn how to use this command, we will look at the manual of that command.

To do that, type ‘man’ followed by the name of the command, in our case it’s ‘dir’.

man dir


From the manual you can see a section “SYNOPSIS”, this section describes how to use that command, what are the arguments it accepts etc.

You can read the DESCRIPTION section for what each option does.

The “SYNOPSIS” of this command says “dir [OPTION]… [FILE]…”, which means all the arguments are optional. You can just type ‘dir’ and it should work.

Let’s see that in action,



See! It’s working as expected. That’s how you look for commands in man pages.