Linux man (manual) Command

Despite the ‘man’ commands, relative simplicity and appearance of unimportance, the ‘man’ command is, perhaps, one of the most important commands to lean in Linux. 

Why the ‘man’ command important?

The true value of the ‘man’ command is that provides access to the online manuals (documentation), which will be consulted often until Linux commands and functions have to be learned and internalized.  Even after learning the more familiar and commonly used Linux command and functions, one will still need to refer the less commonly used capabilities or to confirm something which has been used in a while.

When some the more arrogant Linux users will sometime tell folks with questions to “read the frickin’ manual” (RTFM), the ‘man’ command is what they are usually talking about.  Although there are other perfectly useful reference materials online (e.g., git documentation project) or commercial books, the ‘man’ command should be the go-to place for documentation.  The reason this is actually very simple, if the command or function is installed in your version or environment instance of Linux, then man pages will be available.  Therefore, usually, there will no need to go search on the internet for answers or carrying books around.

The ‘man’ command syntax

The syntax of the ‘man’ command is simple and easy to learn to use.  In fact, the ‘man’ command is so easy to use that people frequently will not even use options when they use the man command and enter ‘man’ command and the keyword.

‘man’ command syntax

man [options] (keywords)

Simple examples to illustrate how to use the ‘man’ command.

Example to pull up the ‘Man’ command documentation

[blog-server ~]$ man man

In this example, the man command is using ‘man man’ to pull up its own online documentation.

Example to pull up the ‘ls’ command documentation

[blog-server ~]$ man ls

In this example, the man command is using ‘man ls’ to pull up the ‘list directory contents‘ online documentation.

list directory contents

Example to pull up the ‘cp’ command documentation

[blog-server ~]$ man cp

In this example, the man command is using ‘man cp’ to pull up the ‘copy files and directories ‘ online documentation.

Example screenshot of the ‘cp’ (copy files and directories) file command online documentation