What Is a Linux Shell? - Functionkey Inc.


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What Is a Linux Shell?

Linux is an Open Source operating system, free in most cases.​ The shell is a user program or it is an environment provided for user interaction. It is a command language interpreter that executes commands read from the standard input device such as keyboard or from a file. The shell gets started when you log in or open a console (terminal). The shell is quick and dirty way to execute utilities.

The shell is not part of system kernel, but uses the system kernel to execute programs, create files etc. Several shells are available for Linux including:
BASH ( Bourne-Again SHell ) - this is the most common shell in Linux. Other shells are as follows:

  • CSH (C SHell) - The C shell's syntax and usage are very similar to the C programming language.
  • KSH (Korn SHell) - Created by David Korn at AT & T Bell Labs. The Korn Shell also was the base for the POSIX Shell standard specifications.
  • TCSH - It is an enhanced but completely compatible version of the Berkeley UNIX C shell (CSH).

Note that each shell does the same job, but each understands different command syntax and provides different built-in functions. Under MS-DOS, the shell name is COMMAND.COM which is also used for the same purpose, but it is by far not as powerful as our Linux Shells are!

There are various ways to get shell access:
Terminal - Linux desktop provide a GUI based login system. Once logged in you can gain access to a shell by running X Terminal (XTerm), Gnome Terminal (GTerm), or KDE Terminal (KTerm) application.

You can connect to these logical terminals via secure shell (SSH) - You will get a shell prompt as soon as you log in into remote server or workstation.
Use the console - A few Linux system also provides a text-based login system. Generally you get a shell prompt as soon as you log in to the system.

So how do I find out my current shell name?
To find all of the available shells in your system, type the following command:
cat /etc/shells

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