When newbies ask me how to be good at Linux command-line, I usually tell them to avoid using GUI mode as much as possible. I suggest them to learn how to do stuffs from Terminal. Ask any Linux expert, and they will always say - "Command line mode is more powerful and easy". I fully concur with this statement. In case, you don't know how to do a specific task from command line, just google your question and start from there. Linux command line is not that difficult as you may think. However, some users are not much interested in CLI mode. They always prefer to use GUI mode only. If you're one of them, meet "Betty", a command-line virtual assistant for Linux.
What Is Betty?
Betty is somewhat similar to Apple's Siri personal assistant or Google Voice Search feature. Betty is a friendly English-like interface for your command line that translates English-like phrases into Linux commands.
You don't need to google your question or don't even need to refer the man pages. Just ask your questions in simple English sentences, and Betty will instantly do what you just said.
In this brief tutorial, I will show you how to install and use Betty in Linux.
Install Betty In Linux
First, Install the necessary prerequisites.
On Arch Linux and derivatives:
$ sudo pacman -S git curl ruby
On Debian based systems:
$ sudo apt-get install git curl ruby
On RPM based systems:
$ sudo yum install git curl ruby
On SUSE, openSUSE:
$ sudo zypper install git curl ruby
Then, git clone the Betty repository using the following command:
$ git clone https://github.com/pickhardt/betty
I have cloned Betty repository in my $HOME directory.
Add the betty alias in .bashrc file.
To do so, edit .bashrc file:
$ vi ~/.bashrc
Press 'i' to switch to interactive mode and paste the following line at the end:
Then, press ESC and type :wq to save and quit the file.
Alternatively, you can use the following one-liner command to add betty alias in .bashrc file.
echo 'alias betty="/home/sk/betty/main.rb"' >> ~/.bashrc
Replace /home/sk/betty/ path with your own. Since I have cloned the betty repository in my HOME directory, I have used the above path.
Finally, update the changes made in your bashrc file using the following command:
$ source ~/.bashrc
Recommended Download - Free Cheat Sheet: "Linux Command Line Cheat Sheet"
How To Use Betty Commandline Virtual Assistant In Linux
Betty usage is trivial. Allow me show you some practical examples.
Let us say, you want to find your username.
To do so, you would type:
However, you don't need to run the actual command. You don’t have to memorize and remember all Linux commands any more. Just ask the Betty in plain English phrases.
Say for example, to know your username, just type:
$ betty whats my username
Sample output would be:
Betty: Running whoami sk
Cool, isn't? Betty is smart enough to understand your question and It will execute the command "whoami" and display the result.
Here are more examples.
$ betty whats my kernel version Betty: Running uname -a Linux ubuntuserver 4.15.0-30-generic #32-Ubuntu SMP Thu Jul 26 17:42:43 UTC 2018 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux
$ betty what time is it Betty: Running date +"%r (%T)" 06:59:17 PM (18:59:17)
$ betty what month is it Betty: Running date +%B August
If there's more than one way Betty could respond, she'll ask you to select the one you want. Have a look at the following example.
I asked Betty what is the IP address of my system. She asked me back - Internal or External IP. I wanted her to display my internal IP, so I entered 1 (number one). She ran "ifconfig" command and displayed the IP address.
$ betty whats my ip address Betty: Okay, I have multiple ways to respond. Betty: Enter the number of the command you want me to run, or N (no) if you don't want me to run any.  ifconfig Gets your internal ip address.  curl -sL http://pannous.net/ip.php Gets your external ip address. 1 Betty: Running ifconfig lo: flags=73<UP,LOOPBACK,RUNNING> mtu 65536 inet 127.0.0.1 netmask 255.0.0.0 inet6 ::1 prefixlen 128 scopeid 0x10<host> loop txqueuelen 1000 (Local Loopback) RX packets 0 bytes 0 (0.0 B) RX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 frame 0 TX packets 0 bytes 0 (0.0 B) TX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 carrier 0 collisions 0 wlp9s0: flags=4163<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,MULTICAST> mtu 1500 inet 192.168.43.192 netmask 255.255.255.0 broadcast 192.168.43.255 inet6 fe80::c218:85ff:fe50:474f prefixlen 64 scopeid 0x20<link> ether a0:38:73:10:99:5h txqueuelen 1000 (Ethernet) RX packets 102938 bytes 101205525 (96.5 MiB) RX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 frame 0 TX packets 75264 bytes 12390762 (11.8 MiB) TX errors 0 dropped 0 overruns 0 carrier 0 collisions 0
If Betty can't understand your question, she will display the following message:
Betty: I don't understand. Hopefully someone will make a pull request so that one day I will understand.
For more examples, see Betty GitHub project page.
Don't think Betty will do all complex things, for instance deploying a Web server. Betty can't do such complex tasks on her own.
You can use Betty to perform some simple commands only. If you want to add more features, send a pull request and contribute to the project in GitHub (Link is provided at the end of this guide).
Even though Betty is not being actively maintained, it's still fully functional. If you're too lazy to learn Linux commands, Betty might be a perfect companion for you.
A command line Siri? I don’t think so…
How can I REMOVE betty? It’s not for me but it’s embedded in the system and I need to clear it out as though it was never there. Nobody seems to have any remove instructions
Just remove the betty directory and its entry in your ~/.bashrc file.
Folks who find this interesting may also wanna look at the “navi” project. It’s a slightly different approach, but approximately the same goal of “find me the command I need”.