Which Linux Shell Should I Use?

Bash (and Other Shells)

Bash, the default Linux shell, is popular and offers lots of advanced features. It combines many of the niceties found in the Bourne shell (the original Unix shell) and other modern shells. But there are alternatives. The Korn shell is popular among many Unix users because it offers a rich scripting (programming) facility. Korn is commercial software, but there is a public-domain (free) version for Linux called pdksh. Another shell that's popular with C language programmers is the C shell, which exists for Linux as tcsh.

Most versions of Linux provide both pdksh and tcsh, and you can try them out by entering their names at your shell prompt. If you decide to make a permanent switch to something other than the default bash shell, you must log in as root and edit the entry for your user ID in the /etc/passwd file.

Entries in the /etc/passwd file look like the following example. Just change "bash" at the end of the line to "pdksh" or "tcsh," and you're done. (If you're not familiar with Linux-based text editors, see "Text Editors").


Though there are alternatives, I suggest you familiarize yourself with bash's features first, because bash is the most commonly used Linux shell. In the rest of this section, we'll go over the basics of working in the bash shell, so go ahead and log in as user hermie now and follow right along. It'll help a lot to enter the commands as you go, experiment with them on your own, and see the actual output.

For more information on the bash shell, see the bash manual.

Previous Lesson: Logoff and Shutdown
Next Lesson: The Command Prompt



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