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Linux apropos Command Summary with Examples

Linux apropos allows you to search manual titles and descriptions.
  1. Purpose - Learn what apropos is for and how to find help.
  2. Options - Review a few common options and arguments.
  3. Examples - Walk through code examples with apropos.
  4. A tip - Finish off with one more insight.
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Updated: February 23, 2021
In this tutorial on Linux apropos, 29 of 100, below find a 3-4 minute introductory video, a text-based tutorial and all of the code examples from the video.

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Examples of the Linux apropos Command


Video Tutorial

Videos can also be accessed from the Linux Essentials Playlist on YouTube.

Linux apropos Command Summary with Examples (3:48)

Video Script

The Command and Why You Need It

Our twenty-ninth word, or command to memorize is apropos from our category Help.

apropos allows you to search manual titles and descriptions.

Common Linux apropos Options
-options description
-?, --help To access help
-w, --wildcard Use shell-type wildcards in the search
-e, --exact Match keyword against both titles and descriptions

Recall from the previous videos, we've become pretty comfortable with reviewing text files, so now it's time to enhance our search skills.

Before we start, it helps to think of commands as mini programs and most follow this structure: command -option(s) argument(s).

The apropos command has 15 options, and arguments represent the single or multiple keywords you'd like to search for.

Like most commands, help is available with double-dash --help and the -w option gives you more search flexibility using wildcards. And the -e option searches both fields in a case-insensitive way.

So why is apropos an important command? Well, there may be multiple ways to solve a problem so it helps if you can find other related commands. And now you know how to do that.


Okay, the best way to embed this in your memory is by typing in your own terminal window.

Find this on your Mac using a program called Terminal. On Linux use Terminal or Konsole, and currently Microsoft is adding this functionality to Windows.

Here we go, let's start with a whatis from way back in video #2, on apropos.

$ whatis apropos apropos (1) - search the manual page names and descriptions

whatis pulls two items, the title and short description from the manual page, and apropos searches these two fields for argument keywords.

Next, let's use the tail command from the last video and search for it.

$ apropos tail jmap (1) - Prints shared object memory maps or heap memory details for a process, core fi... tail (1) - output the last part of files tailf (1) - follow the growth of a log file tc-cbq-details (8) - Class Based Queueing zipdetails (1) - display the internal structure of zip files zipinfo (1) - list detailed information about a ZIP archive

Notice how it returned the word 'tail' in either field? And the word 'detail' here really isn't helpful. So apropos can be a crude way to find help, but with practice it may save you time.

And last, let's improve this search using a wildcard. Typing apropos -w tail* will include words that start with 'tail', but not words like 'detail'.

$ apropos -w tail* tail (1) - output the last part of files tailf (1) - follow the growth of a log file


A Final Tip

Okay now you know how to use apropos. And you know the syntax for commands, options and arguments.

One last tip about the apropos command. Like other commands, for apropos to be effective, it's helpful to learn those wildcards.

Okay, thanks for visiting today. I hope this was a helpful introduction to the apropos command.

Learn More About The Series

For an overview of the 100 videos, the 8 quizzes, a cheat sheet, the categories and a Q&A section, visit:

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