When Should You Use the Shell?

The amount of use the Linux shell sees is highly dependent on the user. Some Linux buffs couldn’t manage without it. They use it to read and compose e-mail, and even to browse the Web (usually using mutt and the elinks program, respectively).

However, most people simply use it to manage files, view text files (such as program documentation), run programs, and administer the system. All kinds of programs—including GUI and command-line—can be started from the shell. unlike with Windows, installing a program on Ubuntu doesn’t necessarily mean the program automatically appears on the Applications menu. In fact, unless the installation routine is specifically made for the version of Linux you’re running, this is unlikely.

There’s another reason why the shell is used to run programs: you can specify how a particular program runs before starting it. For example, to launch the Totem movie player in full-screen mode playing the myvideofile.mpg file, you could type this:

totem –fullscreen myvideofile.mpg

This saves the bother of starting the program, loading a clip, and then selecting the full- screen option. After you’ve typed the command once or twice, you’ll be able to remember it for the next time. No matter how much you love the mouse, you’ll have to admit that this method of running programs is very efficient.

When you get used to using the shell, it’s likely you’ll have it open most of the time behind your other program windows.

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