Introduction to the Command Line for Genomics

Command line interface (CLI) and graphic user interface (GUI) are different ways of interacting with a computer’s operating system. They have different pros and cons. Most people are familiar with the GUI as it is the default interface for most software, particularly on Windows and Mac OS. When using the GUI, you see visual representations of files, folders, applications etc. When using the CLI, you work largely with text representations of files, folders, input and output etc. The shell is a program that presents a command line interface that allows you to control your computer by typing instructions with a keyboard.

There are several reasons to learn how to use the CLI:

Getting Started

This lesson assumes no prior experience with the tools covered in the workshop. However, learners are expected to have some familiarity with biological concepts, including the concept of genomic variation within a population. Participants should bring their laptops and plan to participate actively.

This lesson is part of a workshop that uses data hosted on an Amazon Machine Instance (AMI). Workshop participants will be given information on how to log-in to the AMI during the workshop. Learners using these materials for self-directed study will need to set up their own AMI. Information on setting up an AMI and accessing the required data is provided on the Genomics Workshop setup page.

For Instructors

If you are teaching this lesson in a workshop, please see the Instructor notes.


Setup Download files required for the lesson
00:00 1. Introducing the Shell What is a command shell and why would I use one?
How can I move around on my computer?
How can I see what files and directories I have?
How can I specify the location of a file or directory on my computer?
00:30 2. Navigating Files and Directories How can I perform operations on files outside of my working directory?
What are some navigational shortcuts I can use to make my work more efficient?
01:20 3. Working with Files and Directories How can I view and search file contents?
How can I create, copy and delete files and directories?
How can I control who has permission to modify a file?
How can I repeat recently used commands?
02:05 4. Redirection How can I search within files?
How can I combine existing commands to do new things?
02:50 5. Writing Scripts and Working with Data How can we automate a commonly used set of commands?
03:30 6. Project Organization How can I organize my file system for a new bioinformatics project?
How can I document my work?
04:00 Finish

The actual schedule may vary slightly depending on the topics and exercises chosen by the instructor.