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apropos: Command-Line Power Tool

Novell Cool Solutions: Tip
By Scott M. Morris

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Posted: 20 Dec 2005
 

Applies to:

  • SUSE Linux 10
  • SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 - 9.3
  • Novell Linux Desktop 9
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9

Linux is so diverse and useful. This is especially true if you are an ace at the command line. For those of us who are not, there are some really great helper commands. One of the nice ones is called apropos, which I would like to quickly introduce.

From the man page for this cool command, we learn that "apropos searches a set of database files containing short descriptions of system commands for key-words and displays the result on the standard output." OK, so... huh?

This just means that if you can't quite remember a command, but you know a part of the command, or a word in its description, you can apropos it. Let's look at a quick example.

Let's say I wanted to compress a file. I know I want to "zip" it, but I can't remember the exact command. I'm also pretty sure that "zip" might be in the description. So, at a terminal, I just type in "apropos zip" and press [ENTER]. Here's an example:

[1250][scott@work:~]$ apropos zip
Archive::Zip         (3pm)  - Provide an interface to ZIP archive files
Archive::Zip::FAQ    (3pm)  - Answers to a few frequently asked questions about Archive::Zip
bunzip2 [bzip2]      (1)  - a block-sorting file compressor, v1.0.3
bzcat [bzip2]        (1)  - decompresses files to stdout
bzcmp [bzdiff]       (1)  - compare bzip2 compressed files
bzdiff               (1)  - compare bzip2 compressed files
bzegrep [bzgrep]     (1)  - search possibly bzip2 compressed files for a regular expression
bzfgrep [bzgrep]     (1)  - search possibly bzip2 compressed files for a regular expression
bzgrep               (1)  - search possibly bzip2 compressed files for a regular expression
bzip2                (1)  - a block-sorting file compressor, v1.0.3
bzip2recover [bzip2] (1)  - recovers data from damaged bzip2 files
bzless [bzmore]      (1)  - file perusal filter for crt viewing of bzip2 compressed text
bzmore               (1)  - file perusal filter for crt viewing of bzip2 compressed text
funzip               (1)  - filter for extracting from a ZIP archive in a pipe
gunzip [gzip]        (1)  - compress or expand files
gzip                 (1)  - compress or expand files
unzip                (1)  - list, test and extract compressed files in a ZIP archive
unzipsfx             (1)  - self-extracting stub for prepending to ZIP archives
zcat [gzip]          (1)  - compress or expand files
zforce               (1)  - force a '.gz' extension on all gzip files
zip                  (1)  - package and compress (archive) files
zipcloak [zip]       (1)  - package and compress (archive) files
zipgrep              (1)  - search files in a ZIP archive for lines matching a pattern
zipinfo              (1)  - list detailed information about a ZIP archive
zipnote [zip]        (1)  - package and compress (archive) files
zipsplit [zip]       (1)  - package and compress (archive) files
[1250][scott@work:~]$ 

It shows me a list of all the commands that contain 'zip' in them or in their description. This way, I can look through them and see if I can locate the command I'm trying to use to zip something up. apropos is a neat command that actually helps you learn the command line better. I recommend it if you want to become an expert at the terminal.


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