Why Use the Shell

Moving from the GUI to the command line is a conscious choice for most people, although it is increasingly rare that it is an either/or choice. While in X, you can press Ctrl+Alt+F1 at any time to switch to a terminal, but most people tend to run an X terminal application that allows them to have the point-and-click applications and the command-line applications side by side.

Reasons for running the shell include:

• You want to chain two or more commands together.

• You want to use a command or parameter available only on the shell.

• You are working on a text-only system.

• You have used it for a long time and feel comfortable there.

Chaining two or more commands together is what gives the shell its real power. Hundreds of commands are available and, by combining them in different ways, you get hundreds of new commands. Some of the shell commands are available through the GUI, but these commands usually have only a small subset of their parameters available, which limits what you are able to do with them.

Working from a text-only system encapsulates both working locally with a broken GUI and also connecting to a remote, text-only system. If your Linux server is experiencing problems, the last thing you want to do is load it down with a GUI connectionworking in text mode is faster and more efficient.

The last use is the most common: People use the shell just because it is familiar to them, with many people even using the shell to start GUI applications just because it saves them taking their hands off the keyboard for a moment! This is not a bad thing; it provides fluency and ease with the system and is a perfectly valid way of working.

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