Getting Help and Reading Documentation

In the Elements of the Command Line course, you learned a variety of terminal commands, each of which serve a specific purpose. While there are over a hundred different valid commands for the command line, it is impossible to keep track of them all and what purpose they serve. Being able to look up what a command does will be an incredible asset to you as you continue to work with the command line and/or choose to look up additional commands in your spare time.

In this lesson, you will learn about different types of commands and how to access the command line documentation. Reading and getting familiar with documentation as a data scientist is very important because often you will be learning on your own and the only source of information is through documentation. (This is also part of why Dataquest courses are all reading-based — getting that practice is important).

In addition to learning how to read the command line documentation, you will also learn how to create aliases for other commands so you won’t have to type out the full command every single time. You will also learn about the various different types of commands within the command line such as built-in, functions, files, and other types of commands. You’ll also learn how to examine the help pages and manual pages for commands.

As you work through each concept, you’ll get to apply what you’ve learned from within your browser so that you don’t have to risk making a mistake on your own system. The terminal/ command line environment inside of this course includes answer checking so you can ensure that you’ve fully mastered each concept before learning the next concept.


  • What types of commands there are
  • How to get help on command usage
  • How to read the command line documentation

Lesson Outline

  1. Types of Commands
  2. What Type is This?
  3. Alias, Functions, and Keywords
  4. Knowing What You’re Running
  5. Help, man!
  6. Built-in Help
  7. How to Read Synopses
  8. Less is More
  9. Next Steps
  10. Takeaways

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