4 weeks ago

Command line resources: best of the best!

Harness the power of the Raspberry Pi’s command-line interface.

Conquer the Command Line

Author: Richard Smedley
Price: Free PDF download/£3.99 in print

Yes, we admit it, it’s a bit cheeky to start this section with our own publication, but it wouldn’t be right if we didn’t feel we could recommend it! This newly revised book from Richard Smedley adds four new chapters to this already impressive guide.

This course is tailored around the Raspberry Pi experience, where others take a more ‘generic’ Linux approach. Squarely aimed at the absolute beginner, we start with how to ‘find’ the command line in Raspbian and gently up the pace, covering file handling, editing text, managing disks and networks, until finally touching upon more advanced topics such as processes and compiling software from source code. A light-hearted final chapter shows the fun side of the command line (there is one, honestly) where the student browses the internet in text-only mode, and it’s not as pointless as you would think.

Throughout the guide, hints and tips grace the margins with shortcuts and technical explanations that even made this seasoned reviewer take a few notes. This is a great start for your command-line adventure, but not for those looking to deep-dive into shell scripting and other more advanced topics. Start here.

The Linux Command Line

The Linux Command Line

Author: William Shotts
Price: £23.79/free download

So, you’re serious about the command line. You want to be a master; a guru. You picture people spending days climbing a mountain just to meet you and ask about that obscure tar parameter. Well, you’d better get reading this book.

The Linux Command Line, now in its fifth edition, is as close to a definitive guide as you’re likely to get. This is a real no-messing-about guide to controlling Linux systems, Raspberry Pi’s Raspbian included. No stone is left unturned as we go from first principles through to advanced topics such as scripting, even including a chapter on many experts’ favourite text editor vi, famed not only for its power but also its steep learning curve.

The content is well organised, almost academic in structure. This can look a little intimidating, but the author’s writing style is friendly and accessible, avoiding arcane language. Especially impressive is the time taken to explain concepts and terms that others would (wrongly) assume the reader would understand.

Shotts, a firm believer in the open-source movement, has made the book available as a free download under a Creative Commons licence, but at 500-plus pages, you may well prefer the paperback from No Starch Press.

Command Line Kung Fu

Command Line Kung Fu

Author: Jason Cannon
Price: £8.99/free download

That innocent blinking cursor on the Terminal screen hides all manner of powers. It’s only after some time and experience at that little prompt that the sheer scale of commands and capabilities dawns on you. Then, consider the thousands of applications that can be installed with APT. If you want to do something on the command line, chances are someone has already written it and you can install it on your Raspberry Pi in seconds.

Knowing the capabilities of all these applications is beyond most people’s reach, and the same could be said for all the tricks and syntactic gymnastics that can be performed to automate workflows. Jason Cannon’s book is not a tutorial, but instead a series of recipes to performing more advanced work in the Terminal. Like a stream of answers to difficult Stack Overflow questions (see ‘Community’ box), Cannon covers an eclectic range of subjects, from downloading webpages automatically to advanced text manipulation.

This is a reference guide rather than a course. It’s a no-nonsense read but provides a ton of inspiration. A book that you can pick up, flick to a random page, and find yourself saying ‘I never knew that’.


Great sites for online learning



If you’re unsure about using a ‘live’ prompt, Codecademy offers an on-line course with an interactive virtual terminal.


If you’ve decided to tackle William Shotts’s book, The Linux Command Line, this site acts as a great companion.


A subscription site that provides a wealth of training courses, including our friend the command line. Free trial available.

Community resources

Stuck? There are plenty of helpful folk out there.

Stack exchange

Raspberry Pi Forums

We’re lucky to be part of a great community. No matter how seemingly trivial a question, someone here will help.

Stack Exchange

Huge question and answer site. In the unlikely event your question isn’t already here, it’s a very friendly place to ask.

Ubuntu Forums

Raspbian is based on Debian, as is Ubuntu. The Ubuntu forums are a wealth of Pi-compatible information.