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Online Learning Resources: Command Line and Bash

This is the second in a series of posts on online learning resources for data science and programming.

Learning to control a computer through a terminal from the command line can be a big transition for researchers who have previously only worked with point-and-click interfaces. But becoming familiar with working on the command line allows you to use Quest effectively, manage packages for languages such as Python, and process data files efficiently.

Getting Started

To get started with the command line and bash:

  • If you’re using a Mac, you can find the Terminal Program in Applications > Utilities
  • If you’re using a Windows PC, see our instructions for software options.

Software Carpentry: The Unix Shell
Our introductory command line workshops follow these materials, which are all online. Sections 1-3 will give you the basics you need to start to use Quest. The other sections will add to your skill set!

How to use the Command Line | Terminal Basics for Beginners
Jesse Showalter
This YouTube video does a good job of explaining the terminology around working with the command line and demonstrating basic commands for navigating the file system. If you’re starting out with the command line, consider starting with this video to get familiar with what the command line is, and then trying some of the written tutorials.

The Linux Command Line
William E. Shotts
This book covers all of the basics, and it also includes a chapter on using the text editor vi. Chapters 1-5 and 12 (on vi) will give you a good foundation for getting started with Quest. It also includes intermediate topics like scripting, the environment, and file permissions, but it gives you all of the foundations needed before getting to those sections. The book is available at the link above through the library.

Command Line Crash Course
Learn Python the Hard Way, Zed A. Shaw
This an an appendix to a Python book, but it doesn’t require any Python knowledge. It focuses on navigating the file system from the command line.

Getting Better

Data Science at the Command Line
Jeroen Janssens
This online book focuses on commands and programs for working with data files. Did you know that you can compute summary statistics on a csv file from the command line?

The Unix Workbench
Sean Kross
This online book (and free Coursera course) covers the basics and some more advanced topics, including git. Check it out for a comprehensive review or for the chapters that cover skills you may be missing.

Bash Guide for Beginners
Machtelt Garrels
The “Beginners” in the title isn’t quite accurate, but it is a good resource for learning bash scripting and more advanced programs like sed and awk. Best to have at least a little familiarity with the command line before jumping into this book.

Bash Scripting Videos
O’Reilly Online
Available through the library, O’Reilly has multiple bash scripting video tutorials and books at all levels.

Learning Bash Scripting
Scott Simpson
This video course on LinkedIn Learning shows you how to write bash scripts. It assumes you’re familiar working on the command line with individual commands. This course shows you how to combine them together, write loops, and use variables.


If you have a command line question, don’t know what resource to start with, or need to learn something not covered above, remember you can always request a free consultation with our data science consultants. We’re more than happy to answer questions and point you in the right direction.