40 OS X Terminal tips and tricks you never thought you needed

“The Terminal is an exceptionally powerful tool, providing a command line interface to the underpinnings of OS X,” Jordan Merrick reports for Mactuts+.

“There’s a great deal that Terminal can do, from moving large numbers of files to changing preferences that we didn’t even know exist,” Merrick reports. “To demonstrate just how versatile the Terminal is, I’ve rounded up 40 truly excellent Terminal tips and tricks that can come in very handy.”

Advertisement: Limited time offer – 25% off Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac – Run windows on your Mac – Faster

Merrick reports, “All of the Terminal commands I’ll be showing you are perfectly safe to use and, when it comes to changing preferences, are completely reversible.”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. yet it is the beauty of the command line and apple scripting which assists application development with one trick ponies – that bring the rest of us back to leaving the command line alone. yes in deed its weird, funny and wonderful

  1. I’ve been using CLIs since circa 1975. I loathe CLIs. In the future we will be pitied for the crap we had to deal with in order to use computers. CLIs are hell. But I still know how to use them.

    MANY people LOVE CLIs. They have distinctly different personalities from mine.

    In geek world, CLIs are the quickest way to get access to geek computer stuff. It’s sadly common for geeky translations of CLI stuff into GUIs to be crap. Therefore, it can be, to my horror, easier to use CLI commands than deal with someone’s crap GUI. Here’s an excellent example:

    MacPorts. This is an extension of X11 whereby a lot of not-Mac, is-UNIX software is accessible to Mac users. Some of that software is INCREDIBLE. But if you want a decent GUI application for dealing with MacPorts, forget it. OMG are they crap! I’ve been through three of them, two of which are thankfully now quite dead. But that leaves Pallet. Despite improving upon the previous garbage, Pallet is still supremely clunky and a PITA to use. Therefore, I use the raw CLI commands instead. Because I loathe having to accurately type commands, I wrote them out once, pulled out the text as clippings, and now simply drop them into the Terminal whenever I want to do anything MacPorts related. It is soooo much easier than fighting with the crappy GUI app. Shocking but true. 😯

    1. BTW: If you want access to every CLI command in OS X, here’s a free downloadable book to get you started. Just about every command in FreeBSD is applicable to OS X, since both OSes are BSD UNIX:


      For a quick list of OS X CLI commands, search for “OS X CLI Commands” at DuckDuckGo.com. Here is one shortlist of interest. This page’s links go to the MAN pages for each command:


      Share and Enjoy! 😀

      1. ‘Whining’ troll comment from an anonymous coward. That’s useful. /sarcasm

        As I frequently post here, and as one would surmise from my loathing of CLIs, I suck at programming. As a rabid futurist, I demand something more reliable and sane than the C series of languages.

        As I also frequently post here, the plague of modern programming is memory management. Java was supposed to solve the problem and FAILed miserably. Next please! Sorry I’m not engineering skilled enough to be the inventor. Why aren’t I perfect?! 😉

    2. I have a similar experience to yours: managing Data General systems running RDOS, AOS and AOS/VS (the 32-bit version) through their CLIs from 1984 through to 1990 or thereabouts.

      Curiously, because I know manage a set of Macs for a client using Apple Remote Desktop, I’ve had to go back and acquaint myself with bits of command line in order to do things like updating Chrome and Firefox, where the first thing you have to do is remove the old version given there is no PKG-based installer.

      I wouldn’t say it was enjoyable per se, but the ‘Send Unix Command’ in ARD does save a lot of time which is great when you only have a day in any given month to work in.

  2. This article was filled with really good stuff. But I have to say, I think the first tip sucked. Typing ‘clear’ and hitting enter takes way more time than just hitting control + L.

    A few of my favorite Terminal tips:
    – Using the Up arrow key to repeat previous commands
    – Using the Tab key for autocomplete file names
    – “sudo !!” to repeat the last command as a super user.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.