How To Open The Terminal On A Mac

The whole point of using Macs is an easy interaction with the GUI (Graphics user interface).

Even with an easy to navigate and manipulate interface, you might find yourself asking if you need to learn the particulars of the GUI, like what Terminal and commands are. The short answer is yes!

The more you can learn about your Mac the better you’ll be able to interact with it. Part of really getting to know your new best friend is learning how to open Terminal on your Mac. Here I’ll show you exactly how to do that, and provide some useful tips like always at the end.

For server uses of a Mac (and sometimes issues), see other articles here like Error Updating the PID file for MySQL.

Quick Video Guide

According to this tech YouTuber, “When installing programs in Mac OS X, sometimes you are required to open a new terminal session and enter commands. Find out how to open the terminal window to get in a position to start entering commands”:

Wait, What Is Terminal, Exactly?

According to Macworld, “Terminal provides a command line interface to control the UNIX-based operating system that lurks below OS X.” Essentially, Terminal is the go-between for you and your operating system.

Anything you’d like to do to your OS is done through Terminal- so right off the bat, it’s easy to see that knowing how to utilize this command interface is very important.

Great, So I Can Change Things Up! Now, How Do I Do That?

Terminal.App will help you with that. Apple has provided their OS users with a Terminal app that lets them interact and tweak with the coding of your computer’s software. In other words, it’s a command-line interface that lets you control your UNIX-based operating system.

There are a number of things that you can do once you master the basic commands. That said, it is not that simple but that’s where I come in to make it as easy as 1 2 3 for you. All you require is an access to the administrator account and its password. If you have absolutely no idea on what Terminal does here is a list of things you can do in Terminal.

Keep in mind that Terminal is only for those who like to do things from scratch. To become a pro at terminal you obviously need to start with the basics, but there are thousands of commands that you can learn to fully use Terminal to its fullest extent. Not sure how to find it on your Mac? Read on and I’ll tell you an easy way to open it.

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Before We Proceed

Before we get started with the Terminal, it’s really important for us to learn more about another really important app on the mac: Finder.

For those of you who are familiar with Windows, Finder works sort of as a “My Computer” on the mac and you can access all of your files through it. Finder is, therefore, a search utility, which helps you locate specific files on your Mac.

In fact, if you should want to open Terminal directly without confusing yourself, use Finder to search up Terminal and open it directly from there.

This saves you the trouble of searching for it yourself. There is an even simpler guide to opening Terminal using Finder which will make an already easy task a piece of cake.

The image below will give you an idea of what the interface of Finder looks like.

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“A reality that is electronic… Once everybody’s got a computer terminal in their home, to satisfy all their needs, all the domestic needs, there’ll be a dismantling of the present broadcasting structure, which is far too limited and limiting”. – J.G. Ballard

So Exactly How Do I Use Terminal?

The Terminal can also be used as a safe alternative while connecting to other devices, web servers, and creating scripts when coding. In the beginning, you might feel like you’re being sucked into a matrix of complexities but don’t panic!

Getting overwhelmed by it is natural in the beginning, once you master the basics it’s all pretty straightforward from there.

Hang around just a little while longer and I guarantee you the pure bliss that comes from running a code without any errors.

For starters, open Terminal, type in a command and run it. Easy peasy isn’t it? But you need to know that there is so much more to Terminal than just typing and running your commands. I hope my article will help you understand the troubles IT guys have to go through while helping out their customers.

Maybe you’ll feel sorry for the IT guy down at the store after reading this article.

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How To Open The Command Line

This step is pretty simple: go to the Application folder and open Utilities folder. The TUtilities folder is a collection of a whole lot of different tools which you certainly do not need to worry about right now. There you will have to spot the Terminal application but let me make it easier for you guys. Try looking for a black screen with Terminal written beneath. Yep! That’s it.

A blank screen shows up with some text that you can hardly comprehend but if you know where you’re going then you will certainly feel the great power on your fingertips. With great power, however, comes great responsibility, so you have to be careful before executing any command as it might end up posing problems for you. So if you’re new to this, double check what you’re typing into Terminal before pressing the ‘enter’ key. You might save yourself from a major problem!.

With that being said there are a few terms associated with Terminal that can be really helpful if you know them. In case you don’t, don’t panic! I will have them explained before we get to the fun part.

Terminal: This is the interface you use to interact with the console.

Prompt: You type commands after prompt. It is basically the beginning of the command line.

Command Line: The name pretty much tells the story. It is the line where you are supposed to type your command.

Console: The whole system, as in command plus its output.

Return key: You can spend an entire day writing your code but it won’t run unless you hit the return key- also known as the ‘enter’ key. Feel the significance?

Case Sensitive: Keep in mind that every little space or character matters, so before copying a command from anywhere else be sure to double check! These commands are extremely case sensitive which means you have to make sure the capitalization and spellings are as accurate as possible.  

Path: You can get direct access to your files using Terminal.

But it is not as easy as finding them through Finder because in this case, you have to make a path tracing towards your final goal. Have you ever had the coincidence of looking at the sub-directories of a website? If yes then you can easily identify the path.

The path is exactly like the sub-directories but with the structure of your folders. Talking about paths, the starting point is from the absolute point that is your hard drive. The paths start with a forward slash, or  “/”, so if you ever want to go to the Application folder you define your path as “/Application/”.

Now that you have entered the Application folder you have to type in “/Utilities/” in order to get to utilities. In this case, you don’t have type in “/Application/Utilities”.

CWD: This is short for current working directory. When you open Terminal, you are starting in the current working directory of /Users/myusername/. It is also commonly known as User folder.

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Adding Absolute / Relative Path

When you want to view the Utilities folder inside Applications all you have to do is type “/Applications/Utilities/”. Not only will you remain in your current working directory but you can also view other directories in your hard drive.

There is another easier way to this pathfinding dilemma. Once you have located a file in the Finder simply drag and drop it in Terminal and it will show you the entire path and slot it in the command for you.

There Is Much More Complicated Stuff Than Just A Plain Directory! What Are All These Options?

Simply put, there are certain options that let you view information about a directory. I will describe them orderly below:

-l: this lets you view the permissions to each file in the directory.

-R: shows folders and their component files as well.

-a: those pesky little-hidden files you can spot directly, yep this will help locate them in your current directory.

Running Commands

Sometimes, you type a long command and after several tries, it’s running smoothly, so you move on ahead happily. Suddenly it hits you, hey I need to use that command once again, but how do I do that without going through the trouble of typing it all over again? Simply use the up arrow key to navigate back to the previous command and hit return key.

When you are running commands, keep in mind that they are executed in your current location, therefore, you have to specify your location before you press the return key. Your command is relative to the currently launched Terminal window. In case you want to change location use cd and type in the path location you want to move to.

When you type cd~/ it changes your current location to home no matter where you are.

There are a number of commands, which are all significant but there are some basic commands no Mac user can go without. This article lists 10 Terminal commands you must know before proceeding.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far in the article, congratulations! I hope you’ve learned something new about Terminal and how to communicate with your Mac.

It can be a daunting process at the beginning when trying to understand all those weird words and letters put together with forward slashes, but getting just a few of the commands down will help you in learning even more in the future. If you’re still struggling with using Terminal, don’t worry.

I’ve got a few more ideas for you to try out below- as well as a funny thing you can do on your Terminal that involves copying and pasting a command- easy and a good way to blow off some steam!

Pro Tips Galore

  1. Don’t be afraid to Google. Obviously, you used a search engine to find this article (go you!)- learning how to utilize Terminal is just as simple as entering the kind of command you’d like to make into a search bar and pressing ‘enter’. There are many people in the world that have the same questions you have, so don’t be afraid to explore and learn something new.
  2. Visit Apple’s website to learn more about Terminal and how to use it if other people’s dilemmas online are confusing you or sending you spiraling into a world of frustration. They should have a multitude of tips and tricks to help you figure out how to interact with Terminal.
  3. Find a free online class to teach you the basics. Sometimes sitting back and letting someone else do the researching for you and reaping the benefits is better than sifting through hundreds of discussion boards filled with “bump”ed threads and little to no answers. By taking a class- or even watching a couple of YouTube videos on the topic- you can relax and let someone else solve your problems for you- and if you’ve gotten this far in your Terminal journey, I’d say you’ve earned it!

Here’s A Trick:

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There are multiple Terminal tricks that you can play around with on your Mac, but let me tell you about my personal favorite. On Terminal, simply enter telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl then press ‘enter’ sit back, and relax.  Who wouldn’t enjoy a little Star Wars animation from time to time? Well, that is what exactly this command does. I won’t spoil much for you so go ahead and look for yourself. The fun geeky animation is going to look something like this:

 

Looking for more fun things to do with your Mac Terminal? Give this little article about fun things to do in terminal a read and counter boredom or just as an excuse from the oh-so-tiresome studies.

More Interested in Windows?

See this Ultimate List of Windows Error Codes I wrote!

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