Baby Steps in Data Journalism

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Baby Steps in Unix/Linux Part 1: Listing

When you’re staring at that bare command prompt in Terminal, of course you don’t know what to do. A command-line interface expects you to type something. But not just anything. It’s not a person, after all. It can’t understand natural language.

So first, try out some useful commands that will show you information about directories (folders) and files that are inside the current directory. Each one is illustrated in one of the images above (CLICK for a slideshow of larger images).

  1. Type ls (for “list”) and press Return (Enter).
  2. Result: The contents of the current directory are listed, in columns.
  3. Type ls -a (“list all”) and press Return (Enter). Result: Now the list includes “hidden” system files, which have names that start with a dot.
  4. Type ls -l (“list long”) and press Return (Enter). Result: Now you see a lot of details about the directory contents, including read/write (rw) permissions.

NOTE: Unix is case sensitive, so pay attention to upper- and lowercase letters.