Learning file management commands

Learning that Pays

File management commands have a long history in Bash. During the course of their development, they have accumulated options the way ships accumulate barnacles – constantly and apparently haphazardly.

Often, however, the options are simpler than they first appear. For example, you can be fairly certain that most file management commands will use -r to include sub-directories and their contents and -v to print a detailed description of what they are doing to the terminal. Similarly, to force a command to work, regardless of consequences, you generally use -f. Adding the -i option, however, means that every action needs to be confirmed by you before it happens. Even with such hints, these commands can take a long time to master.

In fact, for basic actions, they might offer little more than a graphical file manager can. But, if you try to do something more intricate – such as specifying how symbolic links are going to be treated or excluding a file from an archive – the file management tools easily outclass their desktop equivalents. If you learn some of the less straightforward options for these commands, you'll soon understand why many experts prefer to use the command line for file management over anything that the desktop has to offer.

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