How to Learn the Linux Command Line with CLI Companion

CLI Companion

CLI CompanionContrary to an enduring myth, you don’t need to constantly jump to the command line in order to effectively use Linux. There are people who spend all their time ensconced in their favorite window manager who’ve never, and never will, type a string of esoteric commands.

Having said that, there are times when knowledge of the command line can be useful. More than that, it can be beneficial. But what if you’re new to the command line, or just use it infrequently?

There are dozens of good books on the subject, and even more websites and other online resources. Having to grab a book or go to a website to find out, or refresh your memory about, how to do something can really disrupt your workflow. What if you could have a list of the commands that you use available right in your terminal window?

If you’re an Ubuntu user and that’s what you’re looking for, then it’s time to give CLI Companion a look.

CLI Companion?

CLI Companion is a yet another terminal application. But it’s a bit more than that. What sets CLI Companion apart is that you can store commands that you use frequently (or even just every so often). CLI Companion saves those commands in a text file (called a command dictionary) named .clicompanion2 found in your /home directory.

To get CLI Companion, you can download an installer here. After you’ve downloaded it, double-click on the file with the extension .deb to install. You can also install CLI Companion through a Personal Package Archive (PPA). Do that by opening a terminal window and entering the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:clicompanion-devs/clicompanion-nightlies sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install clicompanion

Now that it’s installed, let’s start working with CLI Companion.

Using CLI Companion

Start CLI Companion by selecting Applications > Accessories > CLI Companion. You can then type the command that you want to run in the main area of the CLI Companion window.

CLI Companion main window

Simple enough, but what about the command dictionary? Click on Command List to open it.

CLI Companion command dictionary

CLI Companion comes pre-loaded with a number of commands, ranging from commands to list the contents of a directory to networking commands. To run a command, click on it in the dictionary and then click Run.

You’ll notice that some of the commands in the dictionary have one or more question marks after them. This means that when you run the command, you’ll need to enter some information — for example, a directory path or the name of one or more files. When you run one of those commands, a dialog box pops up asking for the additional information.

Prompting for options

Just type the required information and then click OK.

Saving your own commands

What gives CLI Companion its power and flexibility is the ability for you to add your own commands to the dictionary. This is especially useful if you want to save commands that you use infrequently, but which are handy.

Click the Add button. A dialog box opens.

Dialog box for adding a command

Type the command that you want to run on the Command field. You might need to consult your favorite command line reference. That’s OK. You’ll only need to do it once for a command.

If you need to input one or more options when the command is executed, remember to add the correct number of question marks. Then, type a hint for each option in the User Input field. Finally, type a short description of the command in the Description field.

A custom command

Click OK to save the command. Simple, no?

CLI Companion is a great way to learn the command line, or to refresh your memory about commands that you haven’t used in some time. While I’m no command line tyro, I find CLI Companion very useful. Especially for those commands that I don’t regularly use.

Take Your To Do List to the Command Line

If you’re serious about your to do list and want to be sure that you can use it in the future, then you should think about embracing your inner geek by 1) going text only, and 2) doing everything at the command line. The best way to do that is with Todo.txt.

Hold On … The Command Line?

You’re probably wondering why you should use the command line instead of popular Web applications like Remember the Milk, Toodledo, Todoist, or Ta-Da Lists. They’re all great, no doubt about it. But you need to be connected to the Internet to use them. And it’s not easy to export or move data between those apps or to other services.

With Todo.txt, you’re using a text file. And let’s be honest, the format of a text file hasn’t changed in … well, a long time.

Getting Going

Todo.txt is a shell script. To use it, you’ll need a bash shell. That’s not a problem if you use Linux or Mac OS — they both come with one built in. Windows users, on the other hand, are out of luck. Unless, of course, they use something called Cygwin (tools that add a Linux-like environment to Windows).

Once you have a bash shell, now all you need to do is download the archive containing the script. When you pop that archive open, you’ll see it contains two files:

  •, the shell script
  • todo.cfg, a configuration file

Extract the files to a folder in your path — on my Linux-powered laptops, I put them in /usr/local/bin. Then, edit the file todo.cfg to point the shell script to where you want to store the actual to do list file. Look for the entry EXPORT TODO_DIR= and change the path.

Editing the configuration file

Using Todo.txt

Let’s start by adding a task. Open a terminal window and then type add [task] — for example, add Edit Chromium FLOSS Manual. Then, press Enter.

Adding a task

Obviously, you’ll want to check your to do list from time to time. Do that by typing list in a terminal window.

Listing your tasks

Notice that each item in the list has a number. That number is useful to know when you want to add a priority to a specific task or mark the task as complete.

Why add a priority? Well, some tasks are more important than others. Adding a priority moves them up in the list. Priorities start at A (most important), and move down from there.

To add a priority, type p [task number] letter, where letter is a letter of the alphabet. For example, p 7 B. That adds a priority of B to task 7 in the list.

Marking a task as done

Finally, when you’ve completed a task you can mark it as done and remove it from the list by typing do [task number] — for example, do 7.

Todo.txt can do a lot more. To learn about all of the available options, type -h to read the help.

Going Graphical

You say you like the idea of Todo.txt, but the command line part is a bit geeky for you. If you have an Android-powered phone or tablet and an account with Dropbox (an online file storage and syncing service), then you can install an app called Todo.txt Touch on your phone from the Android Market.

Todo.txt Touch everything that does at the command line, but on a touchscreen. The app saves your to do list to a folder in Dropbox. From there, you can share the list with your computer and/or with any other Android-powered devices you might own.

Todo.txt on your phone

Final Thoughts

Even though using the command line sounds difficult and a tad geeky, Todo.txt is easy to learn and use. Even for the most ardent GUI addict. And by using Todo.txt Touch on your Android device, you can literally have your to do list anywhere and in a format that won’t be obsolete anytime soon.

Image credit: Dean Shareski

How To Enable The Telnet Client In Windows 7

As a system administrator, having all of your software utilities quickly accessible can make your job easier.  One piece of software often used by admins is the Microsoft Telnet Client.

Unlike previous versions of the Windows operating system, Windows 7 does not have the Microsoft Telnet client installed by default.  System administrators can quickly see this when typing ‘telnet‘ on the Windows 7 command line.

In this guide I will show you how to enable the Telnet client in Windows 7.

Step 1

Click the Start menu and navigate to Control Panel > Programs > Programs and Features and select Turn Windows features on or off.

Step 2

In the new window that opens, scroll down until you see Telnet Client.  Check the box and click OK.

Step 3

Start the Microsoft Telnet Client by clicking Start and typing ‘telnet’ into the search.

Thanks to hillzy76 for this tip.

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