Command line primer
Now that you're set up, fire up Terminal or Cmder and let's do some Command Line practice.
In the following notes, you'll follow along with a series of commands. In all the notes, each command is prefixed with a
$ to signify that the line is being run in command line. You don't have to actually type in the
Navigating around directories
One of the things you'll do most in CL is work with files on your computer and navigate around directories.
When you first open Terminal/Cmder you should be in your home directory, and you can confirm this by typing in the command
pwd which is short for present working directory, i.e. where am I?
In my case, on a Mac I see this as a result of
$ pwd /Users/Susan
On Windows, I see this:
$ pwd c:\Users\Susan
Next, type in the command
ls (list) which will show you everything in your home directory.
One of the directories you should see listed is your Desktop.
Move to your Desktop folder using the
cd (change directory command).
$ cd Desktop
ls (list) command again to see the contents of your Desktop:
On the desktop let's create a new, empty directory using the
mkdir command. We'll call the directory
$ mkdir practice
Now, move into this new directory:
$ cd practice
You can use the
pwd command again to confirm you're in the
$ pwd /Users/Susan/Desktop/practice
Creating text files
In our new practice directory, let's create a new file called
example.txt with the
$ touch example.txt
ls command again to see that the file was created:
$ ls example.txt
Now let's edit this file...
Editing text files with nano
To edit text files directly from the command line, you can use the simple CL text editor called nano. Nano is installed by default on Mac and is built into the Cmder program we're using in this class.
$ nano example.txt
Enter the text
This is just a test into the file.
Then, here are the steps to save your changes in nano:
xto save your changes.
- Nano will ask you to type in the letter
yto confirm your save.
- After typing in
y, hit Enter.
To confirm your changes were made, you can use the
cat (concatenate) command which will output the contents of any text file directly in the console:
$ cat example.txt This is just a test
example.txt in nano again, making some edit to the text and saving again. Use
cat to confirm your save worked.
Deleting text files
We've created a file, we've edited it, now let's delete it by running this command:
$ rm -i example.txt remove example.text? (type 'y' for yes and hit Enter)
Note the addition of the
-i... this is a flag which is how you send extra instructions when using commands.
In this case the
i flag is short for
interactive, meaning it'll ask you before deleting files. It's a good habit to use the
i flag when working with
rm so you don't accidentally delete anything you didn't mean to.
Using man pages
Mac users: To learn more about any of the commands so far, you can type
man followed by the command name. This will tell you how to use the command and all the flag options you have. These “manuals” are called “man pages” and they exist for almost all command line programs.
$ man rm
The output from the
man command will often span multiple screens. Use the
Enter key to page through the output, or hit
z to exit.
Windows/Cmder users: Unfortunately
man does not work in Cmder, but you can learn more about common commands by typing them in at ExplainShell.
Before we wrap up, let's clean up the
practice directory we created.
First, run the following command to move up one directory (i.e., out of the
$ cd ../
Confirm you're back on your Desktop:
$ pwd /Users/Susan/Desktop
And now remove
$ rm -ir practice
Note the addition of the
r flag, which is needed for recursively removing directories and their contents.
In the notes on Windows Cmder and Mac Terminal, I touched on aliases which allow you to create shortcuts for commands.
For example, a command you'll see me using in lecture is
ll. This is just an alias for the command
ls -laFG (
ls with flags that make the output optimal for reading).
This is a common alias many system administrators use. Given that, I built it into the course version of the Cmder app and the instructions for configuring Mac Terminal.
There is a lot more you can do in CL besides working with files and directories. The above exercise was just to get you familiar with working with commands and some basic directory navigation.
See Common Commands for a quick cheat sheet on all the commands used above.