I read uses of the word "utilities" for commands/programs such as 'ls', 'chmod', 'mv', etc.

Is "commands" is Linux referring to the same things as top, ps, etc., or are those something different? What about "programs"? Are those the ones that don't come with the standard distribution which need to be installed like irssi, emacs, kismet, etc.?

1 Answer 1


This question is hard to answer, as there is no formal definitions of those terms and different people will use them differently. I here only give my use of them, others will have different points if view.

For me tool and utility are synonyms. I use the words for small programs which just do one small job. I'd call e.g. all applications implemented as applets in busybox tools or utility.

Any application is a program for me. I.e. 'ls' is a tool, a utility and a program. Firefox is a program but I wouldn't call it neither tool nor utility.

  • A /usr/bin/compose by any other name would still point to the same i-node.
    – msw
    Oct 2, 2010 at 19:52
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    Are you sure that you commented on the right answer? Because even after reading thrice, I still can't figure how that relates to my answer...
    – fschmitt
    Oct 2, 2010 at 20:32
  • A reference to a concept put to paper by Shakespeare regarding categorizations. It was marred by the fact that nothing in computing smells much and by the limited matches for {/usr,}/*bin/*se. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – msw
    Oct 2, 2010 at 21:37

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