A collection of books, howtos and documentation on GNU/Linux for offline use

February 09, 2006
If I am asked which is one of the most important strengths of GNU/Linux, then I would tell you that it is the documentation. That is right! What makes GNU/Linux such a pleasure to use is the excellent documentation that is included with it for each and every tool bundled with it. Just try learning to use iptables without reading the documentation even once, and you will get the idea. The documentation in Linux is available in a variety of formats - as man pages, info, HTML pages, postscript and in some cases even pdf. These documents are so good that many a times when I have asked questions in the past in various forums and Linux chat rooms, I have often got the now popular RTFM reply which means Read The Fine Manual.

But not many people are aware that you can have additional documentation and even whole books available locally for making your GNU/Linux experience that much richer. Here are a few of them that have come to my notice.

Note: In each of the cases below, I have given the package name (in bold and blue color) and you have to first install them using the apt-get command if you are using Debian Linux, which means you run the command:
# apt-get install <package name>
Apt documentation
  • apt-doc - A detailed documentation on apt package management.
  • apt-howto - A HOW-TO on the popular subject of apt package management.
  • apt-dpkg-ref - This is a apt dpkg quick reference sheet which forms a handy reference for those who find difficult to memorize the commands.
Bash documentation
  • bash-doc - The complete documentation for bash in info format.
  • absguide - This is an advanced bash scripting guide which explores the art of shell scripting. It serves as a textbook, a manual for self-study, and a reference and source of knowledge on shell scripting techniques. The exercises and heavily-commented examples invite active reader participation, under the premise that the only way to really learn scripting is to write scripts.
Books on Debian
  • debian-installer-manual - This package contains the Debian installation manual, in a variety of languages. It also includes the installation HOWTO, and a variety of developer documentation for the Debian Installer.This is the right documentation to read if you are thinking of installing Debian on your machine.
  • debian-reference - This book covers many aspects of system administration through shell command examples. The book is hosted online at qref.sourceforge.net but by installing this package, you get to read the whole book offline.
HOW-TOs and FAQs
  • doc-linux-text and doc-linux-nonfree-html - Any long time Linux user will know that in the past the HOW-TOs and FAQs formed the life line of anybody hoping to install and configure Linux on their machine. This was especially true when the machine had some obscure hardware. These packages download all the HOW-TOs and FAQs hosted on the tldp.org site and make available for offline use.
  • linux-doc - This package makes available the Linux kernel documentation. Might come handy if you intend to compile a kernel yourself or you want to dig deep into understanding the working of the kernel.
PC Hardware
  • hwb - This is a hardware book which contains miscellaneous technical information about computers and other electronic devices. Among other things, you will find the pin out to most common and uncommon connectors available as well as information about how to build cables.
Linux books
  • rutebook - Rute's Exposition is one of the finest books available for any aspiring and even established Linux user. It is actually a book available on print but the author has released it online for free. You may read this book online too but by downloading this package, you get to read the book offline. (I highly recommend reading this book by anyone interested in using Linux).
  • grokking-the-gimp - Linux has a top class graphics suite in Gimp. I have been using gimp to manipulate images published on this site as well as for other uses. This book which is also available online, covers all the aspects of working with Gimp in detail, all the while giving excellent practical examples interspersed with images. You may install this package if you wish to read the whole book offline. It is a 24 MB download though.
Now that you know which all packages to download and install, you are faced with the big question. That is how does one find in which all places the files are installed ? That is simple; just use the following dpkg command to find the files for a particular package:
$ dpkg -L <package name>


  • I like the book on Gimp. It is awesome. Thanks for the good collection of packages. I didn't know that you can download all these offline for viewing.


  • The proper name for absguide is abs-guide (at least under Ubuntu Breezy).

    Thanks a lot for all these excellent pointers!


  • yep! i second the rute comment; best linux doc i've ever read.

  • Bobber

    I cannot find a rutebook package in testing or unstable.

  • I found the debian repository down so I googled for rutebook, downloaded it from a nearby mirror, and extracted the PDF. Worked fine.

    The mirrors have both .deb and gzipped packages.

    HTH, Doug

  • I had some problems too with download from repositories, so i googled, still cant find "linux-doc" ??

  • No problem here. Was able to download the guides from the repositories I added. I guess it is a matter of adding the right repositories .

  • i think everyone knows what RTFM really means.

  • Ravi,
    Thanks for the collection of books. I especially liked the rutebook. It is a gem of a book ideal for people interested in learning Linux.

    Fran Treble

  • I'd also suggest reading the "Securing Debian Manual", which is available online or in the harden-doc package.