REVIEW - Unix Power Tools


Unix Power Tools


Shelley Powers, Jerry Peek, Tim O'Reilly, Michael Kosta Loukides



O'Reilly (2003)




Tony Houghton


June 2003



The title of this book rather understates its scope. 'Unix power tools' conjures up images of programs that are very powerful if you read reams of man pages and learn arcane syntaxes and options, but are beyond the reach of mere mortals. While it does help with those, the book also has a wealth of tips on how to use the simpler and every day tools more effectively.

Although my Unix use is almost entirely Linux, the good thing about books which are more generic is that they explain the old fashioned tools and techniques which can still be used to very good effect in Linux and once learnt are often more powerful - in ways that can actually make them easier to use forthose that are familiar with them - than the front ends added in recent years to widen its appeal to users brought up on GUIs. Linux specifics aren't neglected here though and even Mac OS X crops up a few times.

Broadly, 'Unix Power Tools' covers the general user environment (the common shells and X), working with files, text editing - both interactive and non-interactive, process management, scripting, installing software and backing up, networking and security. Rather than being a reference it's more of a well-arranged collection of articles containing hints and tips.

What I found to be one of the best features is the excellent cross-referencing. Articles often briefly mention a related topic and when they do a link is given to where it's covered in more detail.

Within minutes of picking up the book I had learnt a few useful facts about programs I use every day without realising before that they could do that. I think the book's most useful to someone who's either just installed Linux and wants to learn how to get the most of it, or has been plonked in front of a commercial Unix workstation and told to get on with it, but also has a lot to offer far more experienced and expert users. Highly recommended.

Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.

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