Why do Linux people always say to read the manual when it would be so much easier to just give you an answer? There's no manual! It didn't come with one.
closed as not constructive by jasonwryan, Gilles 'SO- stop being evil', Ulrich Dangel, Kyle Jones, manatwork Jan 1 '13 at 9:08
As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.
There is a manual, you just have to know where it is. It can be accessed with the
man command. If you are unsure how to use it, type
man man. The
man command is very important; remember it even if you forget everything else.
The manual contains detailed information about a variety of topics, which are separated into several sections:
- General commands
- System calls
- Library functions, covering in particular the C standard library
- Special files (usually devices, those found in
/dev) and drivers
- File formats and conventions
- Games and screensavers
- System administration commands and daemons
ls(1) refers to the
ls page in section 1. To read it type
man 1 ls or
To avoid being told to read the manual when you ask a question, try
command --help, and a few Google searches. If you do not understand something in the manual, quote it in your question and try to explain what you don't understand. Usually when they ask you to read the manual, it is because they think it will be more beneficial to you than a simple, incomplete answer. If you don't know which man pages are relevant, ask.
I think the oft quoted Chinese proverb explains it well:
If you give a man a fish, he will have a single meal. If you teach him how to fish, he will eat all his life.
While you might think "But it's only one question, why can't they just tell me the answer", it's because the forums would become so full from people asking obvious questions that it would be hard for questions about more esoteric things to be noticed. So don't think of it as them putting you off -- think of it as them helping you to help yourself.
For example, it's trivial to find the answer to "How do I use grep to do a case insensitive search", especially once you are reminded to look in the man page. But for a question like "How do I do a case insensitive search on the first field of a file, but case sensitive on the remaining fields?", there's no simple man page that will tell you the answer, and there are a multitude of ways to answer it.
I believe this is because most experts would rather teach someone how to learn, rather than teach them some isolated fact or two. Telling someone to read the man page is trying to coax that someone on to the path of learning to learn by themselves.
I recall, but cannot google up, a study that claimed that the difference between a Unix novice and a Unix expert (not so different from a Linux novice or expert, perhaps) was that the expert knew how to look things up. While attempting to find that study, I found Prompt Comprehension in UNIX Command Production, which seems to contradict the study I recall. What a shame: all you need to do is know a boatload of facts to be an expert. But in that case, telling someone to read the manual can also serve to fill the questioner with knowledge, leading to the production of another Unix or Linux expert.
There's also a short- versus long-term time investment in the newbie asking the question. It certainly takes less time to say "use ls -ltr" for example, than it would to teach the newbie about file listing and options and so forth. But if the expert has to answer more than 3 or 4 questions, the long-term value of investing in having someone read the manual becomes obvious.