For the online learning world


Linux for new users part 3 – the Terminal

Third of a series for those running Moodle on a linux server, introducing the Terminal.

Under Linux there are GUIs (graphical user interfaces), where you can point, and click, and drag, and hopefully get work done without first reading lots of documentation. However, the traditional Unix environment is a CLI (Command Line Interface), where you type commands to tell the computer what to do. That is often faster and more powerful, but requires you know wha the commands are.

You may see the following terms in different documentation:

  • Console
  • Shell
  • Command line
  • Command prompt

They are often used interchangeably, but technically that are in fact different things. For this series, like many other writers, I will use Terminal, Console, and CLI to mean the same thing.

it is important to note that even experienced users often cut and paste commands (from a guide or manual) into the Terminal; they don’t memoride them.

It is important, of course, to know how to use the terminal – but if you can manage typing, backspacing, and cut and paste you will be able to use the Terminal.

The easiest way to open the Terminal in Ubuntu is to press:

Ctrl + Alt + T

A less common method is to use Alt+F2, and type gnome-terminal (or terminal). You can also find the Terminal via the menus on a linux desktop environment (but not in a server environment usually), or by using Search.

You may also find it’s possible to right-click on the Desktop, and use the Open Terminal option.

If you are a Microsoft Windows user (any version) you might be aware of the Win32 Console. That appears similar, at first glance. However, Windows does not have full functional support of the console. The Win32 Console is for application software only, not the underlying Operating System, as it is with the Linux Console (= less powerful/dangerous).

However, if you have an Apple computer running macOS, you do have a Terminal, because macOS is based on a unix model, like linux, and so you can find the Terminal on a Mac – mine looks like this:

Notice is says Console, rather than Terminal.

And in the window details it say Bash. Bash is the ‘Bourne Again SHell’ … remember we mentioned the words Console, and Shell, above?

At our beginner level, it doesn’t really matter what we use – Terminal, Console, Shell, CLI. The most important thing is that you can open your Terminal, and on Ubuntu (or indeed macOS) that is very easy 🙂

Next month I will look at some basic use of the Terminal.

Your ‘homework’ before my next post is to just search around the web for pages that explain what the linux terminal is. You will find a great variety of explanations. But don’t try and read too far, at this stage just get a feel for what people say about the linux terminal.

For now, just open a terminal, and find out the date.

What do you mean you don’t know how? Try:


Remember to press Return 😉

Was that too easy?

OK, try this:

date '+%A %W %Y %X'

OK, enough for now.

Make sure you can open the terminal in a couple of different ways, and that you can get that date command to work. And get ready to dive deeper next time.

Stuart Mealor
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Stuart Mealor

Stuart is interested in all things e-learning, with specific interests in Moodle, e-learning strategy, and business development. His experience in education over 30 years, MBA in International Business, and knowledge of e-learning systems implementation, together with graphic design background, give him a unique skill set for e-learning projects.

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