Computers, Laptops & Tablets > Apple 25 25 people found this article helpful How to Use Mac Terminal Commands Your cheat sheet to boosting Mac productivity By Dawna Roberts Dawna Roberts Facebook Twitter Writer University of Phoenix Dawna M. Roberts has 20+ years' experience in technology. Her works have appeared in Forbes, Huffington Post, Actiontec, Hackernoon, and other publications. lifewire's editorial guidelines Updated on April 21, 2021 Tweet Share Email Apple Macs iPad In This Article What Is Mac Terminal, Anyway? How to Open Terminal Keyboard Shortcuts to Use With Terminal Working With Files and Folders Special Commands Control Permissions Network and Server Commands Bonus: Most Popular Commands If you are looking to get the most power out of your Mac, you need to embrace the Mac's terminal and learn some helpful terminal commands. Most users are fine using menus and the mouse to control settings, files, and folders, but if you want to get down under the hood of macOS, terminal can get you there quickly and get the job done. What Is Mac Terminal? Mac terminal is an included program on macOS that allows you to use Unix commands (think DOS) to perform dozens of functions quickly and easily without any interference from the operating system. The technical term for it is a command-line interface (CLI). Using the terminal can be very powerful and efficient, but also dangerous. Be very careful when using terminal commands. If misused, you could end up deleting files and folders faster than you can react (to the point where you might need to restore it from a backup.) Terminal is sometimes compared to Windows command prompt program. They are similar; however terminal uses Unix commands to function. Windows uses its own command prompt language. Some users (think IT administrators and developers) use the terminal because it can be faster than the graphical interface most of us use and, the real kicker, it allows access to functions not available through the regular macOS interface. When using terminal commands, precision matters (including capitalization), so be careful of every character, even spaces. How to Open Terminal (Command Prompt) on Mac You can use terminal by opening Finder > Applications > Utilities > Terminal. A window will open, and you will see a command prompt ending with a $. The command line shown is ComputerName:CurrentDirectory ~Username$. At the top of the window, you will see the word Bash; it stands for 'Bourne again shell.' Bash is the language used for terminal on a Mac. You are ready to start typing commands. After every command, press the Return key to execute it. You can also copy and paste into the terminal window. Keyboard Shortcuts to Use With Terminal Tab Auto-completes files and folder names Ctrl + A Moves to the beginning of the line you are typing on Ctrl + E Moves to the end of the line you are typing on Ctrl + W Deletes the word before the cursor Ctrl + T Swaps the last two characters before the cursor Esc + T Swaps the last two words before the cursor Ctrl + L Clears the screen Ctrl + C Kills the current process Ctrl + R Search through previously used commands Option + → Move the cursor one word forward Option + ← Move the cursor one word backward Ctrl + F Move the cursor one character forward Ctrl + B Move the cursor one character backward Ctrl + Y Paste whatever was cut by the last command Ctrl + _ Undo the last command Ctrl + D Exit the current shell Working With Files and Folders cd Shows your home directory cd <folder> Change to a specific directory cd ~ Home directory, e.g. ‘cd ~/folder/’ cd / Root of drive ls Shows a listing of all files in the current directory ls -C Sort files or entries by size ls -lt List the files sorted by time modified (most recent first) ls -l Shows a long listing of all files in the current directory. ls -a Listing including hidden files ls -lh Long listing with human readable file sizes ( KB, MB, or GB) ls -R Shows the entire contents of folder recursively top Displays the active processes. Press q to quit q Exit clear Clear the screen touch <file> Create a new file with no extension pwd Full path to the working directory .. Parent directory ls -l .. Long listing of parent directory cd ../../ Move 2 levels up . Current folder cat The current folder rm <file> Remove a file rm -i <file> Remove with confirmation rm -r <dir> Remove a directory and its contents - Use with caution! rm -f <file> Force a removal without confirmation rm -i <file> Will display prompt before removal cp <file> <newfile> Copy a file to file cp <file> <dir> Copy a file to a directory mv <file> <new filename> Move/Rename a file mkdir <dir> Create new directory named <dir> mkdir <dir> <dir2> <dir3> Create multiple directories at once mkdir -p <dir>/<dir> Create nested directories rmdir <dir> Remove an entire directory ( only works on empty directories ) find <dir> -name <"file"> Find all files named <file> inside <dir>. Use wildcards (*) to search for partial filenames Special Commands sudo <command> Run a command with the security privileges of super user nano <file> Opens the Terminal editor open <file> Opens a file <command> -h Show help about a command man <command> Show the help manual of the command Control Permissions ls -ld Display the default permission for a home directory ls -ld/<dir> Display the read, write, and access permission of a particular folder chmod 755 <file> Change the permission of a file to 755 chmod -R 600 <dir> Change the permission of a folder (and its contents) to 600 chown <user>:<group> <file> Change the ownership of a file to user and group. Add -R to include folder contents Network and Server Commands ping <host> Ping a host and display its status whois <domain> Output WHOIS information about a domain curl -O <url/to/file> Download a file via HTTP, HTTPS, or FTP ssh <username>@<host> Establish an SSH connection to <host> with user <username> scp <file><user>@<host>:/remote/path Copy a <file> to a remote <host> The Most Popular Mac Terminal Commands As a bonus to our terminal cheat sheet, here are some of the most popular terminal commands to get the most out of your Mac. Show/Hide Hidden Files and Folders There are times when you need to view hidden files and folders on a Mac, and there is a command for that. defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUEkillall Finder To reverse the command above, change TRUE to FALSE. Download Files From the Internet To quickly download a file from the internet use the command below. curl -O URL of the file you want to download Change the Default Location for Screen Shots Not everyone wants their screenshots saved to the Desktop. With a single command, you can change where they go. defaults write com.apple.screencapture location path to folder where you want screenshots to be saved Press Return. killall SystemUIServer Press Return. Change the Default File Type for Screenshots If you want to change the default file type of screenshots, use the following command. defaults write com.apple.screencapture type JPG Press Return. killall SystemUIServer Press Return. Delete All Files in a Folder You can easily delete all files in a folder using a single command. However, be warned there is no undo button, once you press Return, the files are gone. rm -R foldername You must include the entire path for the folder name. Read the Manual Bash has a complete manual built-in, and you can access the pages through terminal using the “man” command. For example, if you wanted to know how to use the cd command, you would type in: man cd You can scroll through pages of the manual by pressing the spacebar. These are the most common commands, but there are thousands (you can even combine them into one series of commands) you can try in terminal to make your Mac experience more powerful and more enjoyable. But remember, there's a lot of power in these commands so make sure you type them in correctly. Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Get the Latest Tech News Delivered Every Day Email Address Sign up There was an error. Please try again. You're in! Thanks for signing up. There was an error. Please try again. Thank you for signing up! Tell us why! 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