The terminal is a powerful tool that allows users to interact with their computers and perform tasks in an efficient and automated way. While many users are accustomed to using a graphical user interface (GUI) with a mouse and keyboard, the terminal allows users to execute commands and perform tasks directly by typing in text commands.
Using the terminal can significantly improve productivity for many tasks, especially those that involve repetitive actions or the manipulation of large numbers of files. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of using terminal commands and introduce some of the most important and commonly used commands. We will also look at examples of how these commands can streamline various tasks and improve efficiency.
11 Important Terminal Commands
- The cd command.
- The is command.
- The pwd command.
- The mkdir command.
- The rmdir command.
- The rm command.
- The mv command.
- The cp command
- The cat command
- The less command
- The find command
1. The cd Command
cd command is used to change the current working directory (which is why it’s called cd) and navigate across the file directory of the host machine.
$ cd <path-to-dir>
cd is executed without a directory, it puts the user in their home directory. In other words,
cd is equivalent to
cd .. will move the user up one directory. So, if the current working directory is
cd .. will get us to
2. The ls Command
ls command is used to list files and directories under a specific path, or the current working directory whenever a path is not provided.
$ ls Desktop Downloads Templates index.html Videos
-l option can be used to show the size, last modified date-time as well as directory/file ownership and permissions.
$ ls -l total 12 -rw-r--r--. 1 root root 789 Feb 19 09:59 Desktop -rw-r--r--. 1 root root 6797 Aug 31 11:17 Downloads drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 2354 Sep 31 12:48 Templates -rw-r--r--. 2 root root 123 Jun 31 23:48 index.html drwxr-xr-x. 4 root root 7896 Jul 16 22:55 Videos
Apart from normal files or directories, the ls command can be used to show the hidden files too. Hidden files start with a dot (
.) prefix. To include such files in the output of
ls, you’ll have to provide the
$ ls -l total 12 -rw-r--r--. 1 root root 789 Feb 19 08:49 .gitignore -rw-r--r--. 1 root root 789 Feb 19 09:59 Desktop -rw-r--r--. 1 root root 6797 Aug 31 11:17 Downloads drwxr-xr-x. 2 root root 2354 Sep 31 12:48 Templates -rw-r--r--. 2 root root 123 Jun 31 23:48 index.html drwxr-xr-x. 4 root root 7896 Jul 16 22:55 Videos
3. The pwd Command
pwd command stands for print working directory, and as the name suggests, it is used to print out the absolute path to the current directory.
$ cd ~/Documents $ pwd /Users/username/Documents
4. The mkdir Command
mkdir command can be used to create new directories on the file system. When a relative path is provided, the newly created directory will be created down the current working directory.
$ mkdir projects
In order to create a directory with one or more sub-directories, you’ll then have to provide the
$ mkdir -p projects/first_project
Furthermore, when running the
mkdir command, you may also wish to specify a set of permissions for the newly created directory. For example, the following command will create a new directory called
projects under the current working directory with full read, write, execute permissions for all users:
$ mkdir –m777 projects
5. The rmdir Command
In contrast to
rmdir is used to remove empty directories from the file system:
$ rmdir projects
projects directory is non-empty, however, the above command will fail, with the following error:
rmdir: failed to remove `projects': Directory not empty
6. The rm Command
To remove non-empty directories along with their sub-directories and files, you’ll have to run the
rm command with
$ rm -rf projects
7. The mv Command
mv command is used to move directories or files from one place in the file system to another.
The following command will move the file
picture.png that currently resides in
~/Downloads directory into the
$ mv ~/Downloads/picture.png ~/Documents/Photography/picture.png
8. The cp Command
If, instead of moving directories or files, you would like to create a copy of them, the
cp command is your friend.
$ cp ~/Downloads/picture.png ~/Documents/Photography
If you’d like to copy a whole directory and its content instead, make sure to include the
$ cp ~/Projects ~/Documents/Projects
Note that the folder name does not end with a slash, which would change how
cp copies the folder.
9. The cat Command
cat (concatenate) command is used to read data from a specified file and print the output.
Assume we have a Python script called
hello_world.py with the following content:
cat command will print its content to the standard output:
$ cat hello_world.py print('Hello World')
You can even print the line numbers for every row observed in the file by providing the
$ cat hello_world.py 1 print('Hello World') 2
Note, however, that the
cat command usually concatenates the content of multiple files. You can provide several files as input to the command, as shown below:
$ cat file1.txt file2.txt
10. The less Command
less command is a terminal pager that outputs the content of the specified file one screen at a time. Therefore, this command is useful when it comes to inspecting the content of large files, such as logs.
$ less run-2022-12-12.log
11. The find Command
find command can be used to search for files on the file system. Let’s suppose that we want to find where exactly a file called
my_file.txt resides on the file system. To do so, we can specify the
/ path (that corresponds to the home directory, meaning that we would like
find to start searching for that file from the top directory), and then specify the filename in
find / -name 'my_file.txt'
We can even specify wildcards in order to find, for example, all CSV files on the file system:
find / -name '*.csv'
In conclusion, the terminal is a powerful tool that allows users to interact with their computer in an efficient and automated way. The article discussed the benefits of using terminal commands, and introduced some of the most important and commonly used commands such as
rm, among others. These commands can be used to streamline various tasks and improve efficiency. Understanding how to take advantage of these commands can help users to perform their tasks more efficiently and much quicker than performing the same action on the user interface.
These are just a few examples of the many terminal commands that are available. It is always a good idea to consult the documentation for more information on specific commands and their options.