The Anatomy of the Linux Command Line

In this highly GUI-ed tech world the command line is king for Linux. For an optimum Linux experience, one still needs a familiarity with the Linux command line interface (i.e. the shell) to be able to carry out some basic tasks. Though most of them can be done using the graphical software programs, the command line still plays important roles in the life of the Linux user.

In Linux commands are given (typed) in the terminal – a GUI application that comes with every distribution. Though the terminal application can have varied names across different distros – but most times it is simply called “terminal” or a closely related term.


So open the terminal (for Ubuntu simply hold the Ctrl + Alt + T) and you’re welcomed by a series of characters arranged in this format;


You can see a command line ending with a blinking shell prompt, signifying the shell is ready to receive commands from the user.

The “alexnder” represnts the login name.

The “pandora” is the machine name. This is usually set during installation and if not the default machine name is localhost. Sometimes it could also be represented by an IP address; like the localhost is represented as

The tilde sign “~” represents the current directory of the user. The one shown here is my home directory, /home/alexander.

REMEMBER: every user in a Linux system has a HOME directory created for them and this home directory always is the same name with the user’s login name (username). That is if the login name is “john” then his home directory would be /home/john. At login, every user is taken directly to his/her home directory.

From the command prompt you can start given command to the shell. Multiple commands can be given on a single command line using a semi-colon to separate them. Something like this;

who; free; df

But most times to ensure a clean output it is advisable to enter commands one at time so as not cluster the screen.

Happy linux’NG!




Chief Editor/Founder at FossNaija
A Linux enthusiast with a focus on enriching the Nigeria Linux experience and keeping a keen eye on Ubuntu and other Foss related developments.
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