When do I want to use the terminal?

2 min read

This is an answer to Linux Loop’s article: When Do You Have To Use The Terminal?

While I agree that many Linux-Newcomers are sceptic about typed commands, I also think that there are some cases where „we“ (the Linux-Community) should not spare them from it. Here are some examples from my daily routine:

  • Shell is faster
    Yes, I could click my way through the directories, but typing „ooff<TAB>/S<TAB>K<TAB>Rest<TAB>Ver<TAB>2<TAB>9<TAB>2<TAB>5<TAB>10<TAB><ENTER>“ is so blazingly fast – you just cannot scan through directories filled with icons and find the one to click in the time you need to type/autocomplete the path. Especially when you know where your file is and if the directories are filled with many files. Above example is autocompleted to „ooffice /SRV/Krone/Restaurant/Vereinbarungen/2009/2009-05-10 Birthday Menu.odt
  • Shell is faster and less error prone
    Thomas claims (quite correctly) that some tutorials require users to do things on the commandline which could be done easily in a GUI. But what is easier? You can copy one long commandline or „Click System -> Administration -> Synaptic then enter your password and chose ‚Pakage Sources‘ from the ‚Settings‘ menu, …“
    Yes, you can do most administrative tasks in the GUI, but especially when the details need to be correct, a commandline is sometimes quicker and less error prone.
  • Speaking of bugs and errors
    If a command issued in a shell fails, it usually gives some error-message. This message might not be exactly clear to a newcommer, but usually points quite directly to the reason of the failure.
    If an application is started from GUI and startup fails, the user is often left alone without a clue.

So, while I agree that the commandline is not what the average linux-newcomer wants to see, I still think that there are cases where „we“ can gently show them the advantages of a well working command prompt.

And yes, GUI-Dialogs which tell the user a specific command to run should be considered to be a bug!