Helpful UNIX Commands (AIX and CLIX)

In most cases, you can use the Looking Glass or X-Windows environments to accomplish all of the necessary file management, mapping, and GIS tasks you need on a day-to-day basis. Most of the tasks such as copying, renaming, and deleting files are available to you in Looking Glass or Windows. You also have the option of using Unix commands in the Shell. Since you can move back and forth between the Unix shell and Looking Glass and Windows, it doesn't matter which option you employ. Some commands are faster in invoke in Looking Glass and Windows, others in the shell. Occasionally, however, you will have to invoke a command from the shell. These commands are equivalent to DOS commands and, in many cases, there is a distinct parallel to their syntax.

This tip sheet assumes that you have learned how logon to the Unix workstations and that you have familiarized yourself with their keyboards (no small task in itself). It also assumes that you understand the meaning of the concept of a file and a filesystem. Remember, to get Unix shell on the Intergraph workstations, either choose "Shell" from the menu that pops up from the workstation icon (lower left corner of the screen) or logon through the console icon (lower right corner of the screen). In AIX, open AIXterm window with your mouse, if one isn't already open.

You will quickly find that the best way to learn how to use these commands is through experimentation. That is, once you have learned a command, try some variations until they don't work, then start over. Often there are five or six ways for you to accomplish a particular task. Usually, I will introduce you to only one, leaving it up to you to discover the rest. Don't hesitate to consult reference manuals and be aware that Oneida has a complete on-line help system (this hasn't been loaded on all the systems to save space) for CLIX. In AIX, reference materials are available in the InfoExplorer. As always, the best ways to learn is by making mistakes.

Listing Files: ls

The ls command lists the names and, optionally, the size and characteristics of files.


Note: use * as a "wild-card" character with any Unix command to look for files with similar characteristics. The asterisk is a wild-card character which allows the user to enter only a limited part of a file specification to find a file. It is useful when you wish to locate a group of files with the same filename or attributes. On other occasions you may have forgotten part of a file specification. You can use '*' in place of the parts of the specification you have forgotten. The character "?" can be used to substitute for a single character.


Present Working Directory: pwd

Type pwd at any time to find out where you are in the file system. You will use this command often. Remember, you need to be in your home directory to create and change your files.

Change Directory: cd

To move around in the file system, use the cd command.


Changing Your Password: passwd (CLIX) ypasswd (AIX)

To change your password, use the passwd command and follow the prompts. It is good to change your password periodically. You must choose a password between 6-8 characters and a mix of numbers and upper and lowercase letters. Remember passwords in Unix are "case-sensitive": upper and lowercase letters matter. Never use your name as a password or other easy-to-find personal information. Also, never use a word or phrase that could to found in a dictionary. It is easy to come up with passwords that meet these requirements and are still easy to remember. Think of simple phrases in which numbers can be substituted, such as four2GO, 3Cubed, or COME2me.

Note: please keep a record of your original password (but do not write it down with the account number). If the lab manager and director ever have to get into your account by removing the password, they will return to the password to its original setting. Therefore, if you ever find that your new password doesn't work, try the original. All passwords on all accounts are changed at the end of the semester.

Make a Directory: mkdir

This command creates a new directory. It is useful to create new directories to store related files.


Remove a File or Directory: rm and rmdir

This command removes a file or directory. It is only possible to execute

this command if the directory you wish to remove is empty.


Copy a File: cp


The key to using this command correctly is to remember that the first file specified after the cp command is the source file (the one to be copied), the second is the target. The target will be the location and, optionally, the name of the new file. If a new filename is omitted from the target specification, the new file will have exactly the same name as the source.

Note: it is always good practice to us the complete file specifications for both source and target files, Be very sure of yourself before you accept defaults or employ wild-card characters. Otherwise you may end up with some interesting results. Incomplete or incorrect source names may result in errors.

Rename or Move a File: mv

The mv command allows users to change filenames or file locations. The mv command is a good alternative to the cp command when you wish to move a file physically and don't need to keep a copy.


List File Contents: cat and pg

The commands cat and pg list file contents, cat by scrolling through the whole file and pg by listing the contents a page at a time. The cat command can also be used to create a file or append to it.


Format a floppy disk for a UNIX file system: /etc/format (CLIX)

You must format new disks before saving files. The format command checks a diskette for flaws and creates a directory where all the names of the diskette's files will be stored.


NOTE: The Unix workstations can read from and write to DOS diskettes, but these disks should be formatted first on one of the DOS/Windows PCs. The Unix format command formats a disk for a Unix filesystem.

BEWARE: Executing the format command with a diskette which already contains files will result in the deletion of all the contents of the entire disk. It is best to execute the format command only on new diskettes. If you format an old diskette make sure it contains nothing you wish to save.

Rebooting the computer (CLIX)

In some cases, the workstation may stall. This is not unusual and as you become familiar with the workstation you will often learn to find your way out of such situations. However, there is nothing wrong with rebooting the computer if you are really stuck. Press the ROUND button on the back of the keyboard. Be aware that rebooting will take 5-10 minutes. Also, before you reboot be sure that no other user is accessing files from your workstation. There use of the file will be terminated when you reboot. When you reboot you many loose some of your work in the file that is open at the time you press the button.

Stop Execution and Reset (Ctrl-C and Escape)

If you wish to stop the computer in the midst of executing the current command, you may use the key sequence Ctrl-C. Sometimes the Escape key serves the same function..

Changing File Attributes and File Protection: chmod, chown, chgrp

All Unix files are "owned" by a particular user, and carry certain protections which guard their use--read , write, and execute protection. You own all the files in your home directory and can do what you like with them. But all other files on the workstations are owned by other users and you can use them only if you are permitted. The command chown changes the ownership of a file, and you will only be able to use it if you wish to "give" a file to another user. This won't happen very often, because it would be just as easy to let the other user make a copy (provided they have read access). The only one of these three commands that you may use periodically is chmod, it controls the read, write, and execute access to files.

All user accounts have been set up so that you, the user, have read, write, and execute access to all your files in your home directory. Read access has also been granted automatically to people in your "group" and to "other" users. Everyone in the class is part of the same "group" (think of this as a workgroup sharing its files). If you wish to remove these automatic permissions, use the following options:


It will be unusual to use the command chgrp in the present workstation configuration since everyone in the class is a member of the same group. There is no group for you to change to.

Checking Disk Space: Free (CLIX) and df

If you'd like to know how much disk space is available on all mounted file systems, use either the Free command or df.

Backup Files

It is possible to lose files by mistake, although the more you practice the less likely it becomes. For your own peace of mind, it is good practice to make backup copies of your most valuable files.

You can backup your files on DOS or Unix diskettes or, for very large files and entire directory and file systems, on tape.

1. Files to and from DOS diskettes for Backup and Transfer

The Unix-to-DOS command: utd (CLIX)

Copies a Unix file to a DOS diskette. Diskette must already be formatted for DOS.


NOTE: The utd command is not very robust and is not buffered against typographical errors. That is, you cannot make any mistakes as you type it or it won't work properly--use of the Delete and Backspace keys confuse it. If you make a typo, Ctrl-C to end the command and start over.

On the AIX machines "drop" files on the DOS-Write and DOS-Write icons to transfer them to and from a diskette. These icons are under the Power menu on the desktop.

The DOS-to-Unix command: dtu (CLIX)

Copies a DOS file to a Unix disk.


NOTE: The dtu command is not very robust and is not buffered against typographical errors. That is, you cannot make any mistakes as you type it or it won't work properly--use of the Delete and Backspace keys confuse it. If you make a typo, Ctrl-C to end the command and start over.

On the AIX machines "drop" files on the DOS-Write and DOS-Write icons to transfer them to and from a diskette. These icons are under the Power menu on the desktop.

The DOS List Command: dls (CLIX)

It is sometimes useful to look at the contents of your DOS diskette from the Unix workstations to see, for example, what files are already there and how much space is occupied. Use the dls command to get this information.


Again, AIX provides an icon for reading the contents of a DOS disk.

2. Files to and from Unix diskettes for Backup and Transfer

There are a number of ways to copy and store files to Unix diskettes, including the use of the conventional cp and mv commands. There are also the to_flop and from_flop commands; the tar (tape or floppy archiver); and the cpio (copy input to output) command among others. Check the Unix manuals if you wish backup your files on Unix diskettes.

3. Files to and from 8mm Tape

All of the workstations have access to the 8mm tape drive attached to reunion. Very large files and file systems can be put on tape. You can purchase a tape or, in some situations, borrow one. Special backup and recover routines have been written for the workstations to make tape backup easy.

Copy File(s) or File System to Tape: /usr/ip32/toolbox/backup

Move to the directory you wish to backup and put a tape into the tape drive. The backup command will backup all files from there downward in the file system hierarchy.

Copy File(s) or File System from Tape to Disk: /usr/ip32/toolbox/recover

Create or move to an empty subdirectory and put a tape into the tape drive. If the directory is not empty and recover finds duplicate file names on tape and disk, it will over-write the disk files with the tape files.

File-Naming Conventions

Careful file naming can save time. Always choose names which provide a clue to the file's contents. If you are working with a series of related files, use a number somewhere in the name to indicate which version you have created. Remember, some suffixes are assigned automatically (for instance, .dgn and .ulf) or are required by certain software modules. These cannot be varied.


Converted on 20 July 1994. KEF.