Knowing who is using your Linux or Unix-like system is a fundamental part of managing it. Pointing at someone might be considered rude, but using your
finger can still be enlightening.
finger command almost certainly isn’t installed by default in your Linux distribution. It was absent on the Ubuntu, Fedora, and Manjaro distributions used to research this article. We’ve already covered the
pinky command, which is the lightweight version of
pinky is supplied by default, but if you want to use
fingerYou, yed to install it.
pinky commands perform the same sort of task. They both tell you some information about the currently logged in users on your Linux or Unix-like operating system. The sets of information they each provide are slightly different and
pinky has a few more options to progressively prune out the bits you might not want to see.
If you want to have your Linux setup up to be more “Unix-like” than “Linux-like,” you might want to use
finger. Perhaps you have inherited some scripts that expect
finger to be available. But regardless of the reason if you are forced to—or just prefer to—use
finger, here is how to install it and use it.
You can install
finger on Ubuntu with this command:
sudo apt-get install finger
finger on Fedora, use this command:
sudo dnf install finger
On Manjaro you need to install
fingerfrom the Arch User Repository (AUR), and build it from its source code. There are tools to do this for you, so it is an automated process. That’s great, but it does mean you must have those tools installed on your Manjaro system, as well as a tool to retrieve and install
finger from the AUR. So we’ll need to install those first.
If you don’t already have a suitable AUR installer on your system,
trizen is a decent option. This command will install it.
sudo pacman -Syu trizen
Before we can use
trizen to install
finger for us, we need to install some development tools. These are called automatically by the install and build scripts that
trizen will call to install
finger on your system. Of course, if you’ve installed items from the AUR before, or if you do any software development, you’ll likely already have these installed.
We need to install the GNU C library. We do so with this command:
sudo pacman -Syu glibc
We also need the GNU Binutils. These are used by the
sudo pacman -Syu binutils
The installation process also makes use of the patch utility. This command will install it:
sudo pacman -Syu patch
make utility is used to control the actual compile and build of
finger from its source code. Install it with this command:
sudo pacman -Syu make
And of course, we won’t achieve any success in building something from source code without a compiler. We’ll definitely need
gcc, the GNU Compiler Collection. This command will install it for you:
sudo pacman -Syu gcc
And finally, with the build dependencies met, and
trizen installed, we can issue the command to actually install
trizen -S netkit-bsd-finger
As the installation progresses, you’ll be presented with various questions. Just press “Enter” to accept the defaults.
finger and hitting “Enter” causes
finger to generate its default output.
This displays a single line of information about each of the people who are logged in. The columns are:
- Login: The user account name of the person who is logged in.
- Name: The full name of the person, if this is known to the system.
- Tty: The type of terminal they are logged in at. This will usually be a pts (a pseudo-teletype). “:0” means the physical keyboard and screen connected to the computer.
- Idle: The idle time of the user. If it is a single digit, it means minutes. If a colon is present, it means hours and minutes, and if a “d” is present, it means days and hours.
- Login Time: The time the person logged in.
- Office: This is a historical hangover. It was used to display the name or number of the room in which the person worked. This is very rarely set up by root nowadays. Instead,
fingerwill display the ip address of the machine the user has logged in from. “:0” means the physical keyboard and screen connected to the computer.
- Office Phone: This is another legacy item. If root hasn’t recorded the office phone number for a person, it will show a blank.
Using finger With One User
To see the details of a single person, pass their account name on the command line.
When finger works on a single user, it provides a longer display. We get some additional information.
- Directory: The person’s home directory.
- Shell: The shell they are using.
- On Since: The time and date the user logged in, from which tty and which IP address.
- Mail: If they have mail this is shown. If they have recently checked their mail, the time they checked it is shown. Alec has no mail waiting for him.
- Plan: If the user creates a “.plan” and “.project” file in their home directory, and puts a bit of text inside them describing what they are working on, the contents of those files will be shown here. This is a system that is very rarely used today. We are told Alec has no plan. That’s not an indictment on his career strategy, it means he hasn’t bothered updating his “.plan” file.
If we repeat this command take a look at Mary, we’ll see that she has been diligent and has put some descriptive text in her “.plan” and “.project” files.
Using finger With Real Names
You can use a person’s real name with
finger . If you can’t recall their account name, use their real name.
finger alec tumovit
As a bonus, you get to find out their account name.
Omitting the .plan and .project FIles
If you don’t want to see the “.plan” and “.project” file summaries, use the
-p (no plan) option.
finger -p mary
Although Mary has active “.plan” and “.project” files,
finger ignores them and does not report on their contents.
Using the Long Listing Option
To see a list of all users in the long format display, use the
-l (long format) option.
finger list all of the logged in users in the long display format.
Raise your pinky Or Point Your finger
As is often the case, Linux gives you choices. You can use
pinky , or you can use
The real difference between them is the extra finesse that
pinky has in allowing you to be quite granular in removing the data you’re not interested. And of course, it is pre-installed.