How to display a list of recent commands in Ubuntu Linux

Linux has a rich command line experience that can sometimes be a little daunting for people switching over from Windows. Displaying the list of recent commands is pretty simple, though:

> history

1 ps -ef
2 kill 24188
3 ps -ef
4 tail logfile.log

If you want to find a command that you used before but you have a huge history list, you can quickly find it by passing it through grep. Let’s say we remember typing the ftp command, but can’t remember the domain name of the server:

> history | grep ftp

321 ftp

Pretty simple stuff! What if we want to display the list of items that we use the most often?  We can use a much more complicated command like this:

> history|awk ‘{print $2}’|awk ‘BEGIN {FS=”|”} {print $1}’|sort|uniq -c|sort -r

114 ls
105 ./
97 cd
24 uptime
15 mysql
13 vi

The last command was thanks to Lifehacker, which is a great site you should definitely subscribe to.

The techniques used in the last command are useful in other contexts. I’ll be posting more similar commands going forwards.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.