Must-have Linux terminal applications for beginners

These are my top must-use rather than must-have Linux terminal applications for beginners. If you are just starting out on some Linux, I recommend you read up on these apps, because they will make your life as a beginner Linux user so much easier. (must-have is a bit deceiving, because you probably have a lot of them already, cause they come with your distro.)

You must befriend the terminal

You need the terminal, there is no way around it. The terminal isn’t scary, neither is the TTY. (The difference is that one is a text-based session, the other is a terminal session emulator and actually started from within a GUI.) You do your updates in the terminal, you install software via terminal, you search files in the terminal. Because once you know how to do it, it is easier, faster and therefore more efficient than any GUI tool.

So here are the most common and useful Linux terminal commands for beginners. You will most likely need all of them at some point in your Linux user “carreer”.

Standard terminal “commands”

cdchange directory
lslist content of directory
mkdirmake directory
pwdprint working directory
exitexit the terminal (close the window)
manopen the manual page for a command / app
sudo subecome superuser and destroy your system
chmodchange user permissions and access / exec mode for a file
Linux Terminal for Beginners: cp command man page.
Example – Linux terminal use for beginners: “man cp” opens the manual page for “cp”, the program that allows you to copy files.

Standard terminal apps

apt / apt-getupdate your system, manage installed software
findamazing search tool for the terminal
tararchive management (→ xz-utils)
grepregular expressions tool
mountmount anything into any directory you want
fdisknot just to format HDDs, but also get important information etc.
ssh & scpsecure shell: ancient tools to connect to other linux computers e.g. in your university network etc. scp to copy files; use can e.g. use this to log on to any Linux computer and then start an xserver = see the desktop of the other computer and remote-do whatever you want
wgetgrab and download files from the internet, e.g. software packages via http, ftp etc.
rsyncalmighty sync tool, useful for creating backups without annyoing redundancies
Linux terminal commands for beginners: standard applications you will use to manage your system from the TTY or terminal emulator.

Awesome terminal apps

Rsudo apt install r-base installs the R distribution, R is a programming language, but even if you don’t know anything about programming, you can use this as a glorified calculator in the terminal. It’s faster and more comfortable than any GUI app.
convertconverts basically anything into any other thing, like mp3, mp4, jpg and so on. A universal tool every Linux who does anything with audio, video or graphics user needs.
ffmpegancient tool to manipulate, merge, change and fully render video files.
pdfunitewhat the name says
pdftkalso a cool tool, e.g. to split PDFs

You can install any of these by simply typing

sudo apt install <appname>

into your terminal. And on most Linux distributions you can open a terminal by pressing


More tips on Linux

I have a whole YouTube channel, and also a podcast, where I talk about these topics sometimes. If you have any questions, I’d prefer it if you’d just scroll down to my Linux and Open Source playlist and comment on one of the videos. Use a “?” if you actually post a question. That way I can filter for it.

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  • Reply
    May 21, 2023 at 6:43 am

    Hey Undine,

    i really liked your recent linux-content, which made me consider purchasing a used thinkpad again and going back to linux. I was a xubuntu-user for about 3 years but always left the windows-option on my computer via dualboot. Havent used linux for quite some time now because of some frustrating moments, but your video was really encouraging especially on this point (because obviously there are some typical problems, every linux-user has to deal with). Did you ever consider installing xubuntu? I never tried out debian, but coming from your video i suppose both of them xubuntu and debian kind of share the same target group, right?
    Because you adressed the system-language: Do you have any experiences on using a us-keyboard-layout (hardware) in germany? I do have to write in german on a regular basis, so i wonder if a us-layout on a used thinkpad (quite a bit cheaper on german ebay etc.) would work out for me. All the best and keep on, i really apreciate your work.

    • Reply
      Undine Almani
      May 21, 2023 at 9:40 am

      I used Xubuntu before I switched to Arch & Manjaro (PC & Laptop), then later I moved on to Debian because I wanted something less high-maintenance with a bigger repository (and less strict). I think that Xubuntu is one of the best distros for beginners, certainly more lightweight than Ubuntu. I can’t remember how many times I installed Ubuntu (sums checked and everything) and just ended up with weird bugs like incomplete icon sets or graphics glitches, when literally none of this has ever happened on Xubuntu (with the same kernel). So yes, 10/10 recommend! Xfce in general, great set of applications. And the best thing is that you can make use of all the bug-fixes, cause the *ubuntu community is huge. Just don’t mix to many graphical apps into the Xfce base setup for beauty reasons.

      I would say that DE → EN is easier than the other way around. I have a German keyboard and I can switch between English, German, Swedish, Persian and Greek (needed for equations in paragraph text). I’d just check out the layouts if I were you. Technically, if you have the same amount of keys, no problem. On German boards, you have äüö in the upper right corner, if those are missing, it’s bad. If you code, a US American keyboard is the best though, because coding is 10× faster thereon thanks to the positioning of keys like _ \ / * etc.

      Final words on frustration: I think that you always have to brace for impact with Linux. Personally, I 100% do not mind, I am just that used to it. And I am used to breaking Windows or getting it infested with Malware. I’ve done so for my whole childhood. Today, my whole family is Linux-based. My mom, when her Windows runs out, will have a Linux. My kid will never know anything but Linux. It’s always what we are used to. To me, Linux was eye-opening. Because yes, it might be some more trouble, but it’s free, I can deal with it, I can set it up whenever I want. Data recovery on Linux is super easy. It is just built to open. And Windows is built to hide stuff from you. I am the user, that means I am the admin of the computer. Every user should be the admin of their computer. That’s my philosophy and Linux supports that 100%, Windows maybe 70% and Mac 5%. 😀 That’s why I switched (that and the transparent terminal emulator, lol)

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Aniyah Ava Ariana Huber
    February 29, 2024 at 1:36 am

    Keep up the amazing work!

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