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how2: stackoverflow from the terminal

NPM Version Dependency Status devDependency Status

how2 finds the simplest way to do something in a unix shell. It's like man, but you can query it in natural language:

Demo of using how2


You can install it via npm:

npm install -g how2

if it gives you EACCES errors, you need to fix npm permissions. Or you can just use sudo npm install -g how2 if you don't care.

If you don't have npm

Then just install NodeJS.

On Ubuntu

Install node: sudo apt-get install nodejs npm

Make a symlink: ln -s /usr/bin/nodejs /usr/bin/node

Then install how2: npm install -g how2

On Mac

Install node with brew: brew install node.

If you don't have brew, download nodejs from here

Then install how2: npm install -g how2

If you get "/usr/bin/env: node: No such file or directory"

Your Linux distro (like Ubuntu) probably uses "nodejs" instead of "node".

Make a symlink and it should work: ln -s /usr/bin/nodejs /usr/bin/node


If you don't specify a language it defaults to Bash unix command line. how2 tries to give you immediately the most likely answer:

how2 unzip bz2

After that you can press SPACE to go to the interactive mode, where you can choose a different stackoverflow question/answer.

how2 interactive mode

how2 interactive mode 2

You can use -l lang to find answers for other languages:

-l python

Copy-Paste with mouse

When you are in "interactive mode" (after you press SPACE), if you want to copy-paste more than one line you can use block-select:

With Ubuntu try holding Ctrl+Alt before you select, or Alt+Cmd if you're in iTerm on Mac.

(thanks to @danielkop for this suggestion).

Can i use it behind Proxy ?

Yes, you need to use HTTP_PROXY or HTTPS_PROXY environment variables.

For example, you could alias the proxy seetings in your ~/.bash_profile:

alias how2="HTTPS_PROXY='your_proxy:8888' how2"

How does it work?

It uses Google and Stackoverflow APIs, because Stackoverflow search on its own doesn't works as well.


Because I can never remember how to do certain things. And reading man pages always takes too long.


Taken from


  • Add automatic copy/paste from -i to command line