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Linux Pocket Guide, 2nd Edition by Daniel J. Barrett

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Running a Shell

The icons and menus in GNOME and KDE are, for some users, the primary way to work with Linux. This is fine for simple tasks like reading email and browsing the Web. Nevertheless, the true power of Linux lies beneath this graphical interface, in the shell.

To get the most out of Linux, take the time to become proficient with the shell. (That’s what this book is all about.) It might initially be more difficult than icons and menus, but once you’re used to it, the shell is quite easy to use and very powerful.

To run a shell within GNOME, KDE, or any other graphical interface for Linux, you need to open a shell window: a window with a shell running in it. Figure 1-2 shows two shell windows with “$” shell prompts, awaiting your commands. Look through your system menus for an application to do this. Typical menu items are Terminal, xterm, gnome-terminal, konsole, and uxterm.

Don’t confuse the window program (like konsole) with the shell running inside it. The window is just a container—possibly with fancy features of its own—but the shell is what prompts you for commands and runs them.

If you’re not running a graphical interface—say, you’re logging in remotely over the network, or directly over an attached terminal—a shell will run immediately when you log in. No shell window is required.

This was just a quick introduction. We’ll discuss more details in The Shell, and cover more powerful constructs in Programming with Shell Scripts.

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