How Do You Use This Book?

We designed this book to be used as both a tutorial and a reference. If you're a Unix newbie, you should start at the beginning and work forward through the first several chapters. As you progress through the chapters, you'll build on concepts and commands you learned in previous chapters. Then, as you become more proficient, you can start picking and choosing topics, depending on what you want to do. Be sure to reference the table of contents, index, and the appendixes to find information at a glance.

The commands used throughout this book apply to any version of Unix you might be using, including Linux, BSD, Solaris through your local Internet service provider, AIX or HP-UX at work, your Mac OS X or Linux system at home, or any other flavor (that's the technical term) you can find. Heck, you can even run Unix from your Windows system with CygWin or VMware. You'll find more about flavors and getting access to Unix in Chapter 1.

Each chapter covers several topics, each of which is presented in its own section. Each section begins with a brief overview of the topic, often including examples or descriptions of how or when you'd use a command.

Next, you'll find a step-by-step list (or a couple of them) to show you how to complete a process. Note that the code you type appears as the numbered step, and a description follows it, like this:


The code you type will appear like  this in a blocky font. 

An explanation will appear like this in a more regular font. Here, we often describe what you're typing, give alternatives, or provide cross-references to related information.

If a line of code in a numbered step is particularly long, the code might wrap to a second line. Just type the characters shown, without pressing until the end of the command. Also, in code listings throughout the book, a single line of code on screen might wrap to two lines in the book. If this happens, the continued line will start with a , so it might look like:

The beginning of the code starts here  but it continues on this line. 

Sometimes you'll have to press a special key or key combinationlike , which means to hold down the key and press . We'll use this special keyboard font for these keys, but not for multiple letters, or numbers, or symbols you might type.

Finally, most sections end with a couple of handy tips. Look here for ways to combine Unix commands, suggestions for using commands more efficiently, and ideas for finding out more information.

Who Are You?

We assume that you've picked up this book because you already have a need for or an interest in learning to use Unix, or any Unix-like operating system, like Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, HP UX, AIX, Solaris, or others. We assume that

  • You want to know how to use Unix to do things at work, school, or home.

  • You may or may not already have experience with Unix.

  • You don't necessarily have other geekyer, um, techiecomputer skills or experience.

  • You want to learn to use Unix, but probably do not want to delve into all of the arcane details about the Unix system.

In short, we assume you want to use Unix to achieve your computing goals. You want to know what you can do, get an idea of the potential that a command offers, and learn how to work smart. Very smart.

You can do all of these things using this book. Basically, all you need is access to a Unix account or system and a goal (or goals) that you want to achieve.

What Do You Need Computer-wise?

Computer-wise, you can learn or experiment with Unix using virtually any computer you might have available. If you're using a Mac with OS X or later, you're all set; it's all Unix under the hood. If you have an extra computer sitting around, even something as old as a Pentium III, you can install several different flavors of Unix on it. Certainly you can install Unix on an extra hard drive (or empty space on your current hard drive) on your regular desktop computer, and generally without affecting your existing Windows configuration.

Alternatively, you can dabble in Unix less invasively by using an account on a system at work, or through an Internet service provider. Probably the easiest option, though, if you have a reasonably new computer and are concerned about not messing up what you have, is to use either CygWin to run Unix as part of your Windows environment, or to use Vmware to run Unix in a "virtual machine" as an application in your Windows environment, or to use a bootable Unix (Linux or Solaris) CD to experiment without having to install anything at all on your computer.

What Do You Need to Know to Get Started?

As you get started learning Unix, keep in mind the following Unix conventions for typing in commands:

  • Unix terminology and commands are typically arcane, cryptic, and funny-looking. For example, the command to list files or directories is just lsshort and cryptic. We'll walk you through the commands one step at a time, so you know how to read them and apply them to your own uses. Just follow the steps in the order provided.

  • Unix is case-sensitive, so type commands following the capitalization used in the book.

  • Whenever you type a command, you also have to press . For example, if we say:


funny-looking command goes here

you'll type in the code, then press , which sends the command along to the Unix system.

Often, we'll tell you to press a combination of keys on the keyboard, as in . Here, all you do is press the key plus the (lower-case) key, both at the same time (sequentially is fine also). Even though the keyboard uses capital letters (and, thus, the little key icons also do in this book), you would not take the extra step to capitalize the (or whatever) in applying key combinations.

  • Some commands have flags associated with them (you might think of flags as options for the command) that give you additional control. For example, you might see the ls command used in variations like ls -la or ls -l -a. In either case, ls lists the files in a directory, the optional -l flag specifies that you want the long format, and the optional -a flag specifies all files, including hidden ones (don't worry, we'll go over this again!). Just keep in mind that flags are essentially options you can use with a given command.

  • You can also put multiple commands on the same line. All you have to do is separate the commands with a semicolon (;), like this:

    ls ; pwd 

    which would list the files in the current directory (ls) and find out what directory you're in (pwd)all in one step!

So, with these things in mind, see you in Chapter 1!

Anything Else You Should Know?

Yup! Please feel free to send us a message at We welcome your input, suggestions, and questions related to this book. Thanks, and we look forward to hearing from you!

Note to Mac Users

For simplicity, we consistently write Enter (not Return), Ctrl (not Control), Alt (not Option), and we refer (not very often, though) to a Recycle Bin (not a Trash Can). No slight intended to those who do not use PCs or Windowswe just tried to keep the complexity of the instructions to a minimum.

Unix(c) Visual Quickstart Guide
UNIX, Third Edition
ISBN: 0321442458
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 251

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