Getting help

Using the man pages

The traditional method of getting online help was through the use of the man pages. Some of the variations of the man command:

$ man passwd           specifically for the "passwd" command
$ man -k password      keyword search for "password"-related entries
$ apropos password     same as above


Historically, UNIX commands were very terse and supported only single-letter options, as in

$ ls -a           show hidden files

Given the obvious limitations of this approach, when the Free Software Foundation designed their own versions of the standard UNIX commands that became the basis for Linux commands, they extended the traditional option format to include the "long" or "double-hyphen" form, as in:

$ ls -a           old, short form
$ ls --all        newer, GNU long form
as you may already have noticed from viewing the Linux man pages.

In addition, many of the GNU commands have the really, handy long option --help, as in:

$ cat --help
$ ls --help
which typically displays a very terse version of the corresponding man page.