You can use the help command in Linux with the utilities and applications in two ways, which are:
- For utilities, type
helpfollowed by the utility’s name to get help.
- For applications, use
--helpafter the application’s name to get the documentation.
- For the
helpcommand customization, you can use it with options such as
-s. These options will give you a brief description, manpage format, and command line syntax format.
Linux also offers other ways to get help, like
man commands. Moreover, you’ll find some apps have their own help documentation that can be accessed by either of the commands, like
info. Tips and tricks for using the
help command, such as tab completion, keyboard shortcuts,
man command, and online searches, can also help you become more proficient.
Keep reading to learn more about how to use the help command and explore other ways to find help in Linux.
The help command in Linux is a built-in feature that provides quick and easy access to documentation and information on various commands and applications. This command can be especially helpful for Linux users, like you and me, who need assistance with a specific command or utility. So, in this article, I’ll cover all you need to know about the help command in Linux, including its purpose, functionality, and tips for using it effectively.
How to Use the help Command in Linux – 3 Ways
The help command in Linux can be useful in a variety of scenarios. Here are a few examples to give you an idea of how to use it to get help for utilities and applications in Linux:
1. help Command for Utility
To use the help command, you just need to type
help followed by the name of the utility you want help with. Here’s how you can do it:
- If you need help with the
pwdutility, you can execute the following command in the Terminal app:
- You’ll see the following output within the Linux command prompt.
2. help Command for Application
Similarly, if you want to use the help command to access the documentation of an application, just use the double hyphen (
--) followed by the
help command after the app name. Here’s an example of the tar app with the
help command in the Linux command prompt:
- In the Terminal app, run the following command:
- You’ll get the following output:
3. help Command with Options
Besides providing information on individual apps and utilities, the help command also accepts options that can help you customize the output. As of now, it offers three options, which are
-d for a brief description,
-m for the manpage format, and
-s for command syntax. I’ll implement each of these options on the
cd command to help you understand how they work.
- -d for Brief Description: The
-doption is used with the
helpcommand in Linux to obtain a brief one-line description of a command in Linux. This can be useful when you need a quick overview of what a command does without having to access its full manual page.
help -d cd
- -m for the Manpage Format: The
-moption gives the output in manpage format, which is similar to the system’s manual viewer. This can be useful when you prefer to view the documentation in a more structured and organized format or when you need to access the full documentation for a command.
help -m cd
- -s for Command Syntax: The
-soption with the help command in Linux displays the command syntax. This can be useful when you need to quickly reference the syntax of a command without having to access its full manual page.
help -s cd
3 Other Ways to Get Help in Linux
help is indeed a very useful tool in Linux, but some apps and utilities may not have documentation available through this command. In such cases, you can use other commands like
man to find more information. Here’s the step-by-step breakdown of each method:
1. Use the info Command
To get information about any app or utility in Linux distribution, you can use the info command. Here are the steps for it:
- Launch the Terminal app and run the following command:
- Here is the output of this command:
2. Use the man Command
The man command in Linux is a useful tool that provides detailed documentation for various commands and programs. If you want to learn more about the ls command, you can use the following steps:
- Type the following command in the Linux command prompt:
- Once executed, you’ll see the following output:
In some cases, you may have to use the
man -k commandname or
man --help to find out more about available commands and apps.
3. For Application-Specific Help
Finally, some applications may have their own help command or documentation. For instance, git has its own help command that can be accessed. You can access its documentation in three ways. That includes using
info. Here’s how to do it:
- In the Linux command prompt, run the git help command, and you’ll see the following output within the Terminal app.
- Similarly, you can find help for the same command by typing man git. And this will get the following output:
- Lastly, you can also use the info command to view the information of this app. Here is the output:
5 Quick Tips to Use the help Command in Linux
The help command in Linux is a valuable tool that can help you find information about various commands and programs. To use it effectively, here are some tips and tricks that you can follow:
- 📝 Tab completion: When typing the name of a command or application after help, you can use tab completion to fill in the rest of the name automatically. This can save you time and ensure you’re typing the correct name.
- ⌨️ Keyboard Shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts can help you navigate manual pages more efficiently. Some common keyboard shortcuts include Page Up and Page Down for scrolling through the manual pages and q for quitting the manual pages once you are finished reading them.
- 🐞 Use the -d or –debug flag: If you’re having trouble with a specific command or application, using the -d or –debug flag can provide you with additional information that can help you resolve the issue.
- 📚 Use the man command: As mentioned earlier, the man command provides detailed manual pages for a wide range of Linux commands and applications. It is indeed a great resource if you need more in-depth information than what the help command provides.
- 🔍 Search online: If you’re unable to find the information you need through the help command or man pages, a quick online search can often provide you with the answers you need.
In this article, I cover everything you need to know about the help command in Linux, including how it works, options for customizing output, and tips for using it effectively. Additionally, I discuss other ways of getting help in Linux, such as using the info and man commands.
To expand your knowledge of Linux commands, check out our guides on using hexdump, searching with the less command, and counting files using Linux CLI. Practicing these skills can enhance your proficiency in using the command line interface and help you perform tasks more efficiently in a Linux environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get help for third-party apps using the help command in Linux?
The availability of help documentation for third-party applications through the help command depends on the application. Some third-party applications may include manual pages that can be accessed using the man command, while others may have their own help commands that provide information on usage and options.
How can I exit the help documentation?
To exit the help documentation, you can type
quit. Additionally, you can also press the
Ctrl + C keyboard combination in some cases. However, make sure that you read the help documentation to expand your knowledge of Linux commands.
Is there a way to search for specific keywords or phrases within the help documentation?
Yes, you can use the grep command to search for specific keywords or phrases within the help documentation. For example, to search for information about file permissions, you could use the command
man chmod | grep permissions. This will display all instances of the word
permissions on the
chmod manual page.
What if I can’t find the command using the help command in Linux?
If the command is not found using the
help command in Linux, try to check if the command is installed, use the manual pages with the
man command, search online for related information, or ask for help in a Linux community forum.
Can I use the help command in Linux to learn about system settings?
Yes, the help command can be used to learn about different Linux system settings. For instance, you can use the
man fstab command to learn about the file system table, which controls how file systems are mounted and accessed on your system.