Ubuntu help: Finding answers fast

"The only source of knowledge is experience." - Albert Einstein.

Thankfully for Ubuntu users who need a bit of help, there is a wealth of knowledge easily available. Beginning with the installed help files, you can also turn to the wiki, the Ubuntu forums and, lastly, the greater Internet.

First, let's look at the installed help files. Every program that Ubuntu ships with, and nearly every program from the respositories, comes with some sort of help. In the program itself the help menu is usually furthest to the right. Alternatively, in most programs, F1 will launch the help browser.

If the offline help files can't help you, the next place to try is help.ubuntu.com. Beyond an online copy of all the offline documentation for each supported version of Ubuntu, there is also the community contributed documentation wiki. Type your question in the search bar in the upper right to search both the wiki and the official documentation. If you want to refine your results to just the official docs, the wiki or the technical documentation, the results page offers that.

Can't find what you want in the official documentation or the wiki? It is time to harness the power of the Ubuntu community. Let's turn back to the help menu for a second. Most programs will have a "Get Help Online" option, which, if you are online, will take you to Launchpad Answers. Answers allows you to ask members of the Ubuntu community for help with your problem.

If that doesn't work or you want to try another venue, the official Ubuntu forums await. Found at ubuntuforums.org, the fastest way to get help is to post your question in the Absolute Beginner Talk, just under the Ubuntu Forum Community header. For more experienced users, you can try a specific section in the Main Support Section just below that. If you are worried about asking a stupid question, don't be. The forums and all official Ubuntu community resources are governed by the Code of Conduct, which helps keep conversation civil and accessible for everybody.

If at this point you are truly stuck, Google can help you. Simply type in your search query and off you go. To refine your search query further, use the terms Linux or Ubuntu to get better results. Be very wary of what you find in this manner. Unlike the official docs, the wiki and the forums, this is the wild west. Make certain you verify any advice with at least a few sources. You can also try other distributions' help files, although be aware that they might not apply perfectly to Ubuntu. Two of the better options are Gentoo, which has an excellent set of docs at gentoo-wiki.com or Fedora, which can be found at docs.fedoraproject.org.

Just before I finish I will mention a few paper resources: The Official Ubuntu Book, of which I am a co-author, or the Official Ubuntu Server Book are just two of dozens of books about Ubuntu on the market. You can also purchase paper copies of the official help at Lulu.com. Hopefully I have given you some good information about where to find help. Good luck and have fun with Ubuntu.


The Official Ubuntu Book
Today's Tip is derived from the new 4th Ed. of The Official Ubuntu Book, authored by Benjamin Mako Hill, Matthew Helmke and Corey Burger, published by Prentice Hall Professional, June 2009, ISBN 0137021208, Copyright 2009 Canonical, Ltd. For a complete sample chapter, please visit the publisher site: www.informit.com/title/0137021208
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