Friday, September 20, 2013

Our Favourite Linux Cheat Sheets

Most Linux system administrators spend their days at the command line, configuring and monitoring their servers through an SSH session. The command line is extremely powerful, but it can be difficult to keep all the options switches and tools in your head. Man pages are only a command away, but they're often not written for quick consultation, so when we're stuck for some of the more arcane options, we reach for the collection of cheat sheets that we've curated over the years.

Even command line masters occasionally need a litte help, and we hope that terminal beginners will find these concise lists useful too. All of these tools are installed by default on a standard Linux box except for Vim and Emacs, which may or may not be available (see the package manager cheat sheets for how to get them).

Server Management


SSH is the standard tool for connecting securely to remote servers on the command line. (We hope you aren't using Telnet.)


Screen is a must-have application for those who SSH into multiple servers or who want multiple sessions on the same server. Somewhat akin to a window manager for terminals, screen lets users have multiple command line instances open within the same window.


Bash is the default shell on most Linux distributions (except Ubuntu, but Dash is almost completely compatible). It's the glue that holds together all the other command line tools, and whether you're on the command line or writing scripts, this Bash cheat sheet will help make you more productive.


Cron is a tool for scheduling tasks. The notation is simple but if you don't use it a lot it's easy to forget how to set it to the right times and intervals.

Writing and Manipulating Text


Vim is a powerful editor, and you'll find it or its older brother Vi on most Linux systems. Vim has a modal interface that can be a bit daunting for newcomers, but once you get to grips with how it works, it's very natural.


Emacs is a text editor that throws the "do one thing well" philosophy out of the window. The range of things that Emacs can do is seemingly endless, and a good cheat sheet is necessary for getting to grips with its finger work-out keyboard commands.

Org Mode

As a bonus for the Emacs users out there: check out Org mode. It's a flexible plain text outliner that integrates with Emacs and can be used for planning, to-dos, and writing.


Getting to grips with grep is essential if you deal with a lot of text files (as almost everyone managing a Linux server will).


Together Sed and Awk can do just about anything you might want to do with a text file.

Package Management


Distributions that use RPM for package management, including Fedora, RHEL, and CentOS have a couple of tools to choose from: Yum for high-level package management, and the RPM tool itself for manipulating and querying the package database at a lower level.

Deb Package Management

Debian-based distros like Ubuntu and its derivatives use "apt-get" for general package management, and "dpkg" for direct manipulation of debs.


If you're a regular user of cheat sheets and manage your servers from a Mac, you might want to take a look at Brett Terpstra's cheat sheet app. Cheaters is a collection of scripts that will display an Automator-based pop-up containing a configurable selection of cheat sheets.
Check out the instructions on his site to find out how to integrate the cheat sheets we've covered in this article with Cheaters.

1 comment:

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