Linux used to have a reputation of being complicated and hard to learn. You’re probably familiar with the stereotype that only hardcore geeks could – and wanted to – handle it.
But the times have changed, many different Linux distributions appeared, and the Internet, with its vast amount of free and quality resources, made it possible for anyone to learn about Linux. Let’s face it – we have it so much easier than Linux beginners ten or twenty years ago. All the information is quickly accessible online, and we can always Google error messages and ask for help on forums when we get stuck.
Though using Linux does require a somewhat different mindset or approach to software than using Windows, it’s not that difficult. After all, it’s a skill like any other, and it can be learned without too much trouble. Many new users get irritated when they’re advised to read more about Linux and to do research on their own, but that’s really the best way to learn – by doing.
So don’t be afraid to grab a Linux distro, download a tutorial, and take your first steps with a new operating system. Mastering Linux is an incredibly useful skill that can help you advance your career and improve your general computer knowledge, as well as develop creative thinking and problem-solving abilities. Whatever your reason for choosing Linux might be, we’ve selected some great online resources that you should take a look at.
1. Compute Freely
Compute Freely is a great website to quickly introduce someone to Linux and convince them to make the switch from Windows. It’s aimed at people who’ve had very little or no contact with Linux, so it doesn’t go into too much depth. Using simple, clear language, Compute Freely explains why you should use an open source OS, describes several popular Linux distros, and suggests alternatives to Windows applications.
2. The Ultimate Linux Newbie Guide
The title says it all: this Linux guide is for beginners, and the plain, simple website makes it easy to quickly find your way around the content. You can skip to selected chapters of the guide or read them sequentially. The guide shows you how to install a distribution and provides tips and tutorials on how to use Linux in everyday life. It’s a relatively short guide, but it explains the most important concepts and gives great advice on how to choose your first Linux distro.
3. MakeUseOf Guide to Linux
This guide is a quick one-page summary of everything you can expect once you start digging deeper into Linux. It introduces you to the basic terminology and explains how to get started with Linux. It’s great for people who want to install a Linux distro first and explore the documentation later. The guide can be downloaded as PDF or ePub, and it contains useful links to external sources that will help you learn more about Linux once you decide to take the next step.
4. Geek University
Geek University offers free online courses on various tech-related subjects, and an introduction to Linux is one of them. Presented as a series of articles illustrated by screenshots, this course will lead you from the theoretical background about distributions and the difference between Unix and Linux to practical tips on how to install Linux applications, manage users and permissions, and manipulate files. You can follow the course step-by-step or skip to parts that interest you the most.
5. Distro-Specific Guides
This (unofficial) guide to the latest novelty from openSUSE – the openSUSE Leap 42.1 distribution – does a good job of explaining the basics of Linux itself. You can find some convincing reasons for switching to Linux, as well as a short overview of commonly used terminal commands. The rest of the guide explains how to install, set up, and maintain the actual Leap distribution, and it’s equally helpful to former openSUSE users as it is to newcomers.
Arch Linux is often described as one of the most advanced or difficult distributions to install and maintain, but it is at the same time the best-documented Linux distribution (at least in my opinion). The Arch Linux wiki is an amazing source of Linux knowledge that applies not only to Arch, but to most, if not all distros. Their beginner’s guide makes the installation much easier to understand and perform, and the wiki also has an exhaustive list of system management tips and app recommendations.
Since Ubuntu is the most widely-used distro among beginners, one would expect it to have accessible, detailed documentation. And Ubuntu delivers. There’s the official documentation with downloadable desktop guides for all currently supported versions of Ubuntu. However, the community wiki is the real treasure trove, as it offers detailed step-by-step tutorials organized by topics. Here you can learn how to set up hardware, fix networking problems, and improve your computer’s security. In most cases, the advice from this wiki applies to Ubuntu’s derivatives as well, so it will be useful to Linux Mint and Elementary OS users, for example.
Debian has a wiki, but more interesting is the Debian Administrator’s Handbook, a well-known and respected resource for anyone who wants to become a Linux system administrator, or just learn more about Linux. This book covers everything Debian-related: from installation, packaging, and troubleshooting to setting up servers and managing networks. You can download the e-book version or read it online. Debian Administrator’s Handbook is free, but you are encouraged to donate to this awesome project.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) is not a name you’ll often hear from an ordinary Linux user, but if you plan to build a serious career in Linux, you will hear about it and probably have to use it at some point. You’ll be in safe hands, then, because RHEL has a fantastic online documentation system with articles that can be downloaded as PDF and ePub for those occasions when you don’t have Internet access. There’s a system administration guide, tips on power management and Linux security, as well as advice on how to set up and maintain Linux servers.
RHEL documentation is really good at explaining the theory behind the Linux system, its apps, services, and processes. You’ll find that a lot of material applies to all Linux distributions, so you can use it to further your general Linux knowledge, regardless of whether you’re an RHEL user.
6. Command-Line Interface (CLI) Tutorials
Another online course that wants to show you it’s possible to learn about the CLI in just a few days. Obviously, this course doesn’t cover every single command and detail – and it doesn’t have to. Its purpose is to introduce you to the basics and help you get started with the terminal. The lessons are short, and each one is summarised in a “You Learned This” section, followed by a suggestion of exercises you should do to keep the knowledge fresh in your mind. This course is mostly focused on working with files, but it offers recommendations on what to learn next and what other, more detailed resources to use.
Learning the Shell covers the most important concepts of the command-line environment and its abilities in 10 relatively short chapters. Chapters (lessons) are presented in the question/answer format with examples of actual code and command output. You’ll learn how to use the essential Linux commands, how to move between folders, create and manage files, and perform some really cool shortcuts. This resource is proof that learning how to use the terminal isn’t scary or difficult, and that everything can be explained in simple terms without dumbing-down the content.
Choosing Linux.com as the starting point for all your Linux needs is a smart idea. You can keep up with the news, discover new Linux apps, and find a way to join and contribute to the community. More importantly, you can learn all about Linux thanks to helpful tips, tutorials, and answers to various questions from other users. Absolute beginners should start at the “New User Guides” page that lays out and explains the entire process of becoming a new Linux user. How-tos and answers have their own sections; however, note that not all articles are hosted on Linux.com. Some just have the introduction and a link to the original site.
Linux.com, which is affiliated with the Linux Foundation, also offers online courses and training for home users, sysadmins and developers. As someone who’s interested in getting started with Linux, you should take a look at “Introduction to Linux“, their free online course that you can join at edX.
8. Free Technology Academy
The Free Technology Academy offers courses on Linux and free software in general; in fact, the latter are in the majority. You can learn about legal and economic aspects of free software, as well as about free software development and deployment in different environments. However, if you’re only interested in learning about Linux, you can choose one of two courses – basic and advanced – or take both.
The basic course teaches you how to install and use a Linux distribution, and introduces you to the concepts of runlevels and command-line utilities. The advanced course delves deeper into Linux management and offers more configuration tips. Both courses are available as downloadable PDF books – just scroll to the “Materials” section and click the image to download the book. The same applies to other courses about free software.
9. IBM’s Learn Linux 101
You might have heard of LPIC. If not, let me explain briefly: LPIC is a certification program for Linux users, managed by Linux Professional Institute. It works just like other professional certifications – you have to pass a test to prove your abilities and earn a certificate that can help your career. This particular certificate has several levels that increase in scope and complexity of topics. It’s an important step in building a Linux sysadmin career, and it’s often a requirement for various tech job positions.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, despite the exam being somewhat pricey, the documentation and materials for the LPIC exam are available online, and you can even find them for free. IBM’s developerWorks has a set of tutorials called “Learn Linux, 101” that prepares you for the first level of LPIC.
However, you can use this great resource to simply learn about Linux without taking any exams. The topics are organized into numbered sections, and cover all the important Linux activities: installation, package management, terminal commands, setting up display managers, printer and network configuration… Every lesson is illustrated with examples and provides a bunch of relevant links to deepen your knowledge. Most lessons can be downloaded as PDF files.
10. DigitalOcean Tutorials
DigitalOcean has dozens of high-quality tutorials, most of them on advanced topics. Their “Getting Started with Linux” series is a short-but-sweet tutorial that takes you from the basics about terminal and file management to somewhat advanced actions like managing file permissions and redirecting input and output. As such, this guide is not exactly for complete beginners, but rather for users who would like to know more about Linux system administration and programming. These users can also benefit from DigitalOcean tutorials on how to manage Linux processes and services, how to set up and protect servers, and many more. Just use the search field or browse the Tutorials list, which you can sort by date and popularity.
This is just a humble selection of Linux-learning resources from around the Web; there are plenty more high-quality courses, tutorials, and books. That’s great for you, because you can choose those that suit you best, and follow guides that let you work at a comfortable pace. Learning about Linux is not limited to the English language, so you can also find free instructional materials in other languages. Of course, always be careful to assess the reliability of your sources, don’t paste commands in the terminal if you’re not sure what they do, and use only those resources that you feel you can trust.
With that in mind, what other Linux-learning websites can you recommend? What about free Linux books? Do you know of any podcasts for Linux beginners? Let us know about your favorites in the comments below.