Basic Unix Commands

Many operating systems such as a Linux are considered ‘Unix-like’ and therefore it’s more than likely that you’ll have to know some basic UNIX commands in order to be proficient at using the command line.

Assuming you are a complete beginner, let’s start with a few commands to get you underway.

Basic Unix Commands – Navigation

ls – Use ls to list the files in the current directory.

cd – Use cd to change directory.

$ cd desktop # Changes directory to desktop


mkdir – Use mkdir to make a directory.

$ mkdir test-project # Makes a 'test-project' directory.

rmdir – Use rmdir to remove a directory. Note that the directory must be empty to use this command.

$ rmdir test-project # Deletes the 'test-project' directory.


cp – Use cp to copy a file.

$ cp file1 file1.bak # Copies file1 into a file1.bak backup.

rm – Use rm to remove a file.

$ rm index.html # Removes the 'index.html' file.

mv – Use mv to move or rename a file.

$ mv old.html new.html # Moves and renames 'old.html' to 'new.html'.

Other Useful Commands

grep – Use grep to search for a specific string within files.

$ grep "some string" *

chmod – Use chmod to change file permissions.

$ chmod 644 index.html # Changes the permissions of index.html to read and write.

chown – Use chown to change file ownership of a file. User and group ownership can be changed.

$ chown www-data:usergroup index.html # Changes the ownership to the 'www-data' user and the 'usergroup' group.

zip – Use zip to compress a file or a directory. Note that to compress a directory, pass in -r.

$ zip file1.html # Compresses 'file1.html' into a '' file.
$ zip -r dir1 # Compress the 'dir1' directory into a '' file.

unzip – Use unzip to extract a compressed file.

$ unzip

logout or exit – Use logout or exit to quit a UNIX shell.