Jeremy W. Sherman

stay a while, and listen

Get more done with Terminal.app

A terminal with a few tabs. The selected tab shows the text of this post in an Emacs buffer.

You use a Mac. You are comfortable with your Mac. But the terminal remains a foreign land. When forced into Terminal.app, you type what you’re told to, hit enter, and cross your fingers that you didn’t break anything.

You once felt the same way about using the Finder. With exposure and guidance, you will become as comfortable typing commands into the terminal as clicking around the Finder.

Why go through the pain of learning the terminal when you’re already comfortable with the Finder?

  • Do you want to be a power user? If you’re not using the terminal, you’re not making the most of your computer. Want to rename all your documents to start with the date they were created? Not hard from the terminal; slow as can be using the Finder.
  • Do you want to be able to choose the best tool? Without the terminal, what you can do is limited to what there are graphical tools to do. There are great tools that don’t – or even can’t – have a graphical interface. You want to be able to use those tools.
  • Do you want to be able to use your computer from anywhere? You can use the terminal when you can’t use the Finder. You can get terminal access to your Mac from your iPhone, from your office, from your parents' ancient Win95 machine.
  • Do you want to be comfortable using any computer? Once you can use a Mac terminal, you can use a Linux terminal. Even a Windows terminal won’t be all that strange. You can bring your commandline knowledge to bear on any platform.

Power, choice, availability, and portability. That’s why you should learn the terminal.

In the coming weeks, we’re going to throw out Finder, Aqua, and the Apple Human Interface Guidelines. We’ll hear tales of the days of tele-typewriters, time-sharing, and bearded wizards. We’ll learn their secrets, we’ll learn their language, we’ll learn their tools: We’ll learn to be wizards. (Beard optional.)