I frequently come across the term system tool, so I wanted to understand the exact meaning of it in Linux.

Which of the following three explanations of a system tool in Linux is correct?

  1. Is a system tool in Linux a tool that is installed for the system to use? (I don't know if the linux kernel calls tools such as grep, ls out of site of the terminal user.)

  2. Or is a system tool a tool that is installed in the system via dnf only, for users of the system to use? This would make jupyter-notebook installed via dnf a system tool.

  3. Is a system tool simply a commandline tool which means that it does not matter how the tool was installed i.e. a tool installed using pip or dnf is a system tool?


To provide context in which the term is used, examples of usages of the term "system tool" are in this thread

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    Could you please point us to some of these usages of the term so that we may see the context in which the term is used? – Kusalananda May 25 at 21:17
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    You tagged the question with linux-kernel. Could you say something about the relationship between the question and the Linux kernel (it's not mentioned in the question). Also, what makes you think that Linux systems have a specific definition of this term, as opposed to other Unix systems (or for that matter, other operating systems besides Unix)? – Kusalananda May 25 at 22:18
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    I don't thinks it has an official definition, but probably any tool found in LSB would qualify. – Jasen May 25 at 23:03
  • @Kusalananda , I have updated the question with examples of the term "system tool" which is used frequently in the linked fedora mailing list – MyWrathAcademia May 27 at 15:51
  • @Jasen , can you expand on what you mean by LSB? – MyWrathAcademia May 27 at 15:53

AFAIK there is no Linux-specific meaning for "system tool". A system tool is a program that is used to manage the system itself, instead of using it for "productive" use. A network connection manager or a disk formatter are system tools. A server software such as Apache or an office suite are not.

grep and ls are "utilities". They can be used as part of system tools or for productive use...

  • I appreciate the effort. I have updated the question with examples of usages of the term "system tool". From that link, particularly this comment I get the idea that a dnf installed jupyter notebook is considered a system tool – MyWrathAcademia May 27 at 15:58
  • @MyWrathAcademia Just because some software developer thinks Jupyter is a system-tool does not make him correct. For that matter, what is a "system"? Is it a single computer? What about a VM with multiple containers that work together (in a "pod" by some nomenclatures) to provide a unified solution or application? You're underlying issue is you are trying to get concrete definitions for terms that are not precise fixed language. The word "hacker" is a classic example. Does "hacker" equate to malicious, criminal, or bad-intentioned people? The answer depends entirely on perspective and history. – 0xSheepdog May 27 at 16:11
  • @0xSheepdog , you make a good point. I guess because the quote was from one of the maintainers of fedora which is my system's distro, I took that fedora developer's word as gospel – MyWrathAcademia May 27 at 16:31
  • And what a software developer, and system developer, and a system administrator consider to be a "system tool" can be wildly different. It's a matter of perspective. – 0xSheepdog May 27 at 16:58
  • I see, there is no standardized meaning of the term "system tool" – MyWrathAcademia May 27 at 17:53

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