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Command line knowledge for macOS

Non-developer types (you know, you “normies” out there) tend to want to do everything using the mouse rather than the keyboard. Really true for people using macOS. Makes me hurt when I see it as there are many things easier to do with the command line than with multiple mouse clicks.

This isn’t going to be series talking about how to do stuff in Bash or zsh using the Terminal application. Lots of introductions out on the Intertubes about Shell programming and how one can use it to automate for fun and profit. This series is going to point out things that about using the command line in macOS that you don’t often hear about.

Like what things? Many of the tools you use to run macOS have lesser known command line interfaces. Classic examples are apps like Disk Utility and Software Update. Both have command line interfaces that allow you to do stuff in single commands that take multiple clicks in the GUI. That’s what we’re going to examine in this series of posts.

But there are some things available to you in the Terminal app and with Bash and/or zsh that you can use to make your life easier. Drag and drop is supported by Terminal… dragging a folder icon from Finder to the Terminal’s Dock icon opens a new window in the app and changes the current working folder to that that folder. Dragging files onto a Terminal window inserts their paths separated by spaces.

A really useful thing is the open command. Issuing the command by itself in a shell will open the current working folder in a Finder window. You can specify a file name as an option:

open ~/Library/Preferences
open ../..
open /etc

Provides a quick way to get to hidden folders when you need to do something “admin”-like on your machine.

You can open a specific file, which will use the current association for that file type to open the file, or use the -a option to specify the app to use to open the file. You have the -e or -t options to open a file using TextEdit or your favorite editor.

Really useful is the -f option which allows you to pipe text into the open command. This allows you to use open within shell pipelines, up to and including getting output from a command into a text editor.

Lots of things that you can do here and Terminal’s linkages into Finder and the open command give you way to link the things you do in the Terminal with the windowing system and vice-versa. So go grab a good tutorial in the use of zsh and enjoy!


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