The Mac Terminal – A Short Introduction


No doubt, Apple’s Mac OSX has the most streamlined and user-friendly user interface of the commonly used operating systems on the market. Sometimes, however, using your mouse to complete a task can be cumbersome. This is where the Terminal can come in handy.

The Terminal is a command line tool which lets you send commands to your Mac by typing text instead of using your mouse with the user interface.

To start the Terminal application navigate into your Application folder, and from there into the Utilities folder. Alternatively you can press CMD+Space and type ‘Terminal’.

The ls command

When you start Terminal you will be presented with the so-called prompt. This prompt tells you when you last logged on and what folder in your file structure the terminal is currently pointed at (if this is the first time you use Terminal this will be your account’s home folder)

To see what files are in this currently active folder type the ‘ls’ (without the quotation marks) command (a small L, not an I) and hit enter. ‘ls’ is short for list, not surprisingly terminal will list all the files and folders in your home directory. One of those folders should be ‘Desktop’. This is the folder where everything you see on your Desktop is located.

If you want to see what files and folders are in this Desktop folder type the command ‘ls Desktop’ (again, without the quotation marks, and hit enter).

The cd command

The ‘cd’ command (short for change directory) will let you navigate to a specific folder. Assuming that you are still inside your account’s home folder type ‘cd Desktop’. The Terminal is now ‘pointing’ at your Desktop folder. If you use the ‘ls’ command now, you will we presented with a list of files and folders in your Desktop folder.

To navigate back to your home folder type ‘cd ~’. Alternatively you also use ‘cd $Home’.

To navigate to the current folder’s parent folder type ‘cd ..’

The help command

Probably the most helpful command for a Terminal beginner is the ‘help’ command. Type ‘help’ (without quotation marks) and hit enter. Terminal will present you with a list of all available commands.

If you need help with a specific command, simply follow the ‘help’ command with the name of the command you need help with. For instance, ‘help cd’ will offer you help with the change directory command.
Brian Leanza

One thought on “The Mac Terminal – A Short Introduction”

  1. very helpful for me, since I don’t know about the terminal command, it’s complicated, and had to learn a little bit about terminal command to run special application on my Mac ,

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