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How to Use Terminal on Your Mac

Mac Terminal is one of the many built-in tool apps on every MacBook and iMac computer. It is necessary for troubleshooting any issue affecting your Mac, and it is a CLI, or Command Line Interface, which is a way to interact with technology in the form of successive lines of commands. The form of CLI that Macs specifically operate with is called Bash, or bourne again shell.


This is not to be confused with the older GUI, or Graphical User Interface, which the computer user interacts with via graphical elements like charts, menus, icons, and more. CLI is newer, quicker, and more powerful than GUI, if you can nail down some basic commands.

How to Open Terminal on Your Mac

The shortcut for opening Terminal is: /Applications/Utilities. You can either:

  • Open Finder
  • Click Go
  • Click Go to Folder
  • Enter the shortcut
  • Click Go
  • Click on Terminal

Or you can:

  • Open Finder
  • Click on Applications
  • Click on Utilities
  • Click Terminal

Either way you decide to do this, you will eventually see a page on your desktop that will have your username and the word Bash at the top of the page. It will also include the time and date of the last time you logged into your Mac.


How to Use Commands in Terminal


This article will not go in depth about every CLI command, or else it would end up being a novel. So here are some basic commands that you may use:


Is -I ~ If you were to enter this command into Terminal, you would be asking your Mac to show you lists from your home folder in the form of a long list, rather than short list. Is = list, -I = long list format, ~ = home folder.


Clear This one is fairly self-explanatory. Type this command into Terminal for all previous commands to be cleared.


Exit This one is also fairly self-explanatory. Type this command into Terminal to exit the app.


History Type this command into Terminal to reveal a list of every command you have typed into Terminal in the past.


Cp This command in Terminal will copy a file.


Rm This command in Terminal will delete a file.


Ps, jobs This command in Terminal will reveal all the processes or apps running. Every process has a specific PID (process identifier) number.


Top This will show you which apps or processes are taking up the most memory and energy, as well as CPU statistics.


& When this character is used at the end of any command in Terminal, that command will run in the background of whatever else you are doing or commanding.


Ping a Website with Terminal


Using Terminal to Ping a website may take a little longer than it would if you did this same action through Network Utility. If you would rather use the latter, the shortcut to open it is: /System/Library/CoreServices/Applications


However, if you wish to do this action through Terminal, enter the command:

ping www.google.com


This is just an example of a website to enter. You can enter any website address that you would be interested in seeing the response time.


How to Make Your Mac Talk with Terminal


Type the command into Terminal: say hello www.google.com


Click enter, and your Mac will repeat whatever you choose to type in place of the Google website address.


How to Disable Screenshot Shadows with Terminal


Type in the command:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture diasable-shadow -bool TRUE


This command works by telling your Mac to change the Boolean variable which disables the drop shadows whenever you screen shot an image on your Mac. If you ever want to enable the drop shadows in the future, type in the same command as before but replace “TRUE” with “FALSE.”


After typing in the first command, type in:


Killall SystemUIServer


This command saves all of your changes.


How to Keep Your Mac from Falling Asleep with Terminal


Do you hate when your Mac falls asleep, dims, or begins showing the screensaver after a few minutes of reading a page, for example? To prevent this, use this command:




If you want to set up periods of time for your Mac to stay awake instead of programming it to stay awake forever, use this command:


Caffeinate -t 150000


The number represents the number of seconds you want your Mac to stay awake before it begins to dim again.


To end either of these commands whenever you want to, press the Control + C keys.


How to Customize Your Terminal Page


If you want your Terminal app to look extra pretty when you open it by changing colors, backgrounds, fonts, and more, here’s what to do:


  • Open Terminal app
  • Click Terminal at the top left-hand side of the screen
  • Click Preferences in the drop-down bar
  • Click Profiles
  • Choose from a number of pre-made backgrounds and styles
  • Once you’ve chosen a style, click Default at the bottom of the page


Don’t like any of the pre-made styles? No worries, you can create your own like this:


  • Click the plus sign at the bottom of the page
  • Want to get rid of any the pre-made styles? Click the minus sign
  • Play with the font and color options on the other side of the page
  • Click Default when your style fits your heart’s desire


While all these CLI commands can be confusing and overwhelming, just remember that your reward for learning these basic commands can be making your Mac talk in public, just to freak someone out a bit. Have fun with it!

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