How To Use Terminal On Your Mac

The Terminal app lets you control your Mac. In this article, we explain what is Mac Terminal,  how to use it, and what it can do for you. In many articles, we recommend our readers to use the Terminal app to troubleshoot various problems that our readers may be having with your Mac. Basically, Terminal is a command-line interface (CLI – or the language you type to interact with your computer) for macOS. It is an app included in the Mac operating system.

Terminal app icon

What is the Mac Terminal

Terminal is a utility app. It lets you enter commands in the command line. The Terminal app provides a command-line interface to let you control and customize your Mac. The command-line interface (CLI) is called bash (Bourne again shell).

See also: macOS Won’t Go To Sleep? Fix

How to open Terminal on your Mac

There are a number of different ways to open Terminal. So you may do one of the following:

As I stated above Terminal an app that can be found in /Applications/Utilities. To open it:

  1. Open Finder
  2. Click Applications
  3. Click Utilities
  4. And Click TerminalHow to open Terminal

Another way to open the Terminal app is to use Spotlight (Spotlight not working?). Here is how:

  1. Open the Spotlight window (you may press the Command and Space keys together or you may use the search icon in the menu bar)
  2. Type Terminal
  3. When it is highlighted, click to open it.

And a different way to open is to use Launchpad. Here is how:

  1. Click Launchpad in the Dock
  2. In the search field, type Terminal
  3. And the click Terminal

Now, you’ll see a small window open on your desktop, as you can see below. The window will say your username and the word bash in the title. The window will include your last login info. Now you can run commands. Simply type it and hit enter to execute. Let’s try.

Terminal window

To quit Terminal, you may go to Terminal > Quit Terminal.

To close a shell session, enter exit and hit enter.

See also: How Do I Password Protect My Files & Folders In macOS?

Basic Terminal Commands

If you look at the Terminal window above, it says:

Serhats-MacBook-Pro:~ fskurt$

This means that the user (fskurt – this is me) is logged in to a Mac named Serthats-MacBook-Pro. The ~ sing indicates that my current folder is my home folder.

If you want to use Terminal, you need to know the most important commands. In this article, we will not give a lot of details but we will give you a few examples to give you ideas:

Please note that be extra careful when executing the sudo command. This command requires you to be logged in with an administrator account. 

Example 1:

Let’s use Terminal to lists files and directories within a directory. Enter the following code in Terminal and hit enter:

ls -l ~

Terminal example
In this command, ls is short for list. -l is an option, short for long. This means that with this option ls command will list out files and directories in long list format. And ~ is object. ~ means home folder. So this command will list all of our files in our home folder in a long list format.

Example 2:

Let’s ping a website. Please note that we can also do this using Network Utility.

Enter the following command in Terminal:


Please note that completing this command may take a little longer.

Similarly, you can also run a traceroute command:


Example 3:

Do you want your Mac talking? Here is how you can do this. Enter the following command:

say hello

and hit enter.

Now your computer will say hello

Example 4:

You can restart your Mac. Simply enter the following command in Terminal:

% sudo shutdown -r now

Keyboard shortcuts

Here are some useful shortcuts that can help you save time when using Terminal:

  • New window: Command-N
  • New tab: Command-T
  • Next Tab: Control-Tab
  • Previous Tab: Control-Shift-Tab
  • New command: Shift-Command-N
  • Show or hide tab bar: Shift-Command-T
  • Edit title: Shift-Command-I
  • Edit background-color: Option-Command-I
  • Make fonts bigger or smaller: Command-Plus (+) or (-)
  • Close all: Option-Shift-Command-W
  • Page up or down: Command-Page Up or Page Down
  • Line up or down: Option-Command-Page Up or Page Down
  • Scroll to top or bottom: Command-Home or End
  • Make fonts bigger or smaller: Command-Plus (+) or Minus (-)

How to change the look of the Terminal window

You can customize your Terminal window. You can customize many elements such as colors, fonts, background styles, etc. Here is how:

  1. Open the Terminal app
  2. Click Terminal and Preferences (from the Terminal’s menu bar).Terminal preferences
  3. Click the Profiles tab.

On the left pane, there are a number of pre-existing profiles. You can select one. And then customize it. The one you are using will say “Default” under it.

Terminal profiles

If you want to change it, select one then click the Default icon.

Customize terminalYou can also further customize this profile if you want to do so. You can also create your own custom profiles by clicking the (+)  plus sign. You can also remove any of the pre-set profiles by clicking the (-) minus sign. You can also rename a profile by double-clicking the name of the profile and entering a new name.

Dr. Serhat Kurt worked as a Senior Technology Director. He holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from the University of Illinois at Urbana / Champaign and a master’s degree from Purdue University. Here is his LinkedIn profile.

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