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whatis & info command tips

Expert Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

March 22, 2011

whatis and info commands

Two other commands that give information about other commands are whatis and info.  Both accept an argument much like the man command.

The whatis commandprints just a short description of the command in question.

$ whatis ls 

ls                   (1)  - list directory contents
ls                   (1p) - list directory contents

The whatis command is dependent on a database which has to occasionally be rebuilt to include new software, but as can be seen in the output above, it offers a nice succinct description.

The info commandis similar to man but uses a different set of files to display command documentation.

$ info mkdir 

12.3 `mkdir': Make directories

`mkdir' creates directories with the specified names.  Synopsis: 

     mkdir [OPTION]... NAME...

If a NAME is an existing file but not a directory, `mkdir' prints a warning message on stderr (standard error) and exits with a status of 1 after processing any remaining NAMEs.  The same is done when a NAME is an existing directory and the -p option is not given.  If a NAME is an existing directory and the -p option is given, `mkdir' ignores it. That is, `mkdir' does not print a warning, raise an error, or change the mode of the directory, even if the -m option is given, and will move on to processing any remaining NAMEs.

   The program accepts the following options.  Also see *Note Common options:

`-m MODE'

Set the mode of created directories to MODE, which is symbolic as in chmod and uses a=rwx (read, write and execute allowed for everyone) for the point of the departure. 

Most commands have more documentation in the man page than is available in info, but there are occasional exceptions, so it is worth keeping info in mind.  Unlike the man and whatis commands, info can be called without any arguments.  That displays a list of commands for which info pages are available.



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