If you’re no coding pro, opening and using Terminal is a terrifying prospect. I was in your shoes less than a year ago. Fear not! It’s actually great, and now I use it more than Finder. I kid you not! Here’s a super-simple intro of commands:

the “prompt”

First up, the “prompt”. This is not a command, but I thought you ought to know what it is. It will likely look like “ComputerName:CurrentDirectory UserName$” or something. I’ve configured mine to be simpler, since I’m the only user and I already know the name of my computer. Mine looks like “~$”, which I’ll be using here, as it’s shorter and (ahem) prettier. The prompt just means “okay, user, I’m ready for you.” I imagine it saying “Bring it!” with a nod of its head every time I open my terminal or a command completes. Think what you will, it means “TYPE SOMETHING”.


cd is the best. It means “Change Directory” or “go somewhere”. It’s harmless. You use it by typing “cd Directory/That/You/Want/” but you can leave off the trailing slash even. cd is smart. You can even tab complete if you can’t remember the full name of whatever directory (in Finder we call directories “folders”, same thing) you’re looking for, start to type it and hit the tab key. If you’ve typed enough letters for the terminal to uniquely identify it, it’ll auto-fill. If not, hit tab twice and it’ll show you the options. Amazing! Anyway, first up, cd yourself around a bit. cd into your Downloads folder or your Applications folder. To go back up a folder, type “cd ../”. Cool, huh? Love it!


ls “LiSts” whatever’s in the folder (directory) that you’re in. If you want it to show invisible stuff, type “ls -a”. Very handy.


pwd DOES NOT STAND FOR PASSWORD. Go figure. But know that. It stands for “Print Working Directory”. It’s not incredibly useful to me, as my prompt shows me where I’m at, but still, you could use it to pipe that into other commands, I suppose (I don’t yet know how to do that, I just know it can be done). I’m listing it here so you don’t sound like an idiot by calling it “password”. Geeze!


mv means “Move”, dammit! Not you, just your files. To mv something, type “mv Where/It/Currently.is Where/You/Want.it”. Note, you can use this to rename a file, just go to the directory that the file is in (cd Into/DirectoryName) and type “mv oldname.txt newname.txt”. Really cool!


cp means “CoPy”, and it works just like mv except the first parameter is where the shit you want to copy is now and the second parameter is where you want it to be copied to. *It will not move, delete or alter the original stuff!* So fear not.


rm means “ReMove”, which means DELETE, so BE CAREFUL HERE. rm only deletes one file at a time. Use it like so: “rm toDelete.txt”. Bam! GONE. No gettin’ ‘er back.


mkdir means what you’d expect, “MaKe DIRectory”. (Kidding, I would NOT have expected that, but it seems logical enough.) It makes a folder. Use: “mkdir NewFolderName”. Done. Created.


open “opens” a file. Cool.


sudo, (pronounced su-du) means “SuperUser Do”. It means do this thing as the Root User of the computer. It gives Terminal permission to do necessary things at times, and scary things at other times. I would recommend against using it unless you know (at least vaguely) what you are trying to do and you don’t have the computer’s permission to do it without saying you’re the SuperUser (heh). It requires you to type in your computer’s password.

That’s enough for now. Go forth and type!


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