Top 11 Terminal Command Tricks for Mac That You Should Know

Samir Makwana

Apple's macOS platform includes Terminal, which is equivalent to Command Prompt in Windows OS. Since the macOS is based on UNIX, Terminal might give you a vibe of a dangerous tool where one wrong command can wreck your system. Sure, it is valid only to an extent. There are a bunch of harmless commands that are usable in customizing the interface and other settings of macOS.

Top Terminal Commands Mac Macos Lead

The Terminal on macOS can be extremely useful in tweaking the performance of your Mac. Now it entirely depends on what you want to achieve. In case you have been dreading to use it, you can always get comfortable by using simpler tricks. Here are the top 11 terminal command tricks to try on your Mac.

Note: While selecting/copying a command, make sure you scroll all the way towards right to select the complete command in the gray box. Otherwise partial commands will not work as intended.

1. Open Folders

One of the coolest ways to get familiar with the Terminal is to use it to open files and folders. I know that clicking on Finder will do the same. However, using Terminal, you can open a specific folder or a file without exposing your file structure to anyone.

Let's say you want to open your Documents folder. Then you can type the following command and then hit Enter.

Open ~/Documents


And that opens my Documents folder. There's a DOCX file in there. I can use Terminal to open that too. For that, you need to type out the command with some requirements — the path of the respective file:

Open -a "Application Name" /Path/to/File

Open Top Terminal Commands Mac Macos

So for opening the DOCX file in the Documents folder of my Mac, I typed in the command below and then hit Enter:

Open -a "Microsoft Word" ~/Documents/SoP_Prajith_New.docx


That opens up the specific file using the predefined program. You can also use the wildcard character (*.extension) instead of the full filename. However, if you have more than one file in carrying the same extension, then it might freeze your Mac for a bit.

2. Change Default Save Screenshot Location

By default, the macOS Mojave stores the screenshots on the Mac's desktop. Now if you have iCloud sync enabled, which I am sure you do, then it keeps uploading to your account. Thankfully, you can change the save location for the screenshots instead of crowding your desktop.

Here's the command you need to type before hitting Enter:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Downloads


In the above command, you can provide any specific file location instead of ~/Downloads as shown.

Screenshot Location Terminal Commands Mac Maco S

After hitting Enter, I need to reset the SystemUIServer for the changes to take effect immediately. So feed in the following command.

killall SystemUIServer


Though it is not required, I would recommend restarting your Mac.

3. Change Screenshot Image Type

The macOS saves the screenshots in JPG format by default. You can change that to save them in PNG or PDF formats too. Here's how to do that quickly with this specific command:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type PNG


After that, you need to kill the SystemUIServer again.
Most commands which require some system changes shall mandate shutting down the SystemUIServer. So do that quickly.

killall SystemUIServer


Now, your new screenshots will save in the PNG format. Do note that PNG files are generally larger than JPG files. So keep an eye on how much storage space they consume.

4. Show Hidden Files

Have you tried looking for the option to let the Finder show hidden files? Well, it is tougher than picking the show hidden files on Windows. I always forget how to enable that. Thankfully there is a helpful command that makes it happen in a few seconds.

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool TRUE
Show Hidden Files Terminal Commands Macos


After that, you need to force shut the Finder.

killall Finder


Now you should see a lot of hidden files in the Finder. They would be greyed out but still visible. If you roll back this change, then you need to change TRUE to FALSE in the command.

5. Switch Off the Dashboard

Apple promoted the Dashboard view to access calculator and sticky notes quickly. I bet you rarely use that one for you can launch the Calculator app or Sticky Notes app using Mission Control of Spotlight. So you can switch it off and don't have to worry about opening it by mistake.

Here's the command to turn off the Dashboard.

defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean TRUE


Next, you must kill the Dock so that the changes are correctly applied.

killall Dock


Now I don't have to worry about accidentally opening the Dashboard. If you want to switch it on again, then change TRUE to FALSE in the command.

6. Download Files

Did you know that you can download files using the Terminal? Yes, you don't need to keep the browser running just for that file. The only requirement here is that you must have the file's download link. So the command syntax is:

curl -0 downloadlink

First, navigate to the folder where you want to download the file. For that, you need to switch to the Downloads directory.

Downloads Terminal Commands Mac Maco S
cd ~/Downloads

After that, you can feed the command to download the VLC for macOS from the official site. It would appear something like this:

curl -O https://get.videolan.org/vlc/3.0.7.1/macosx/vlc-3.0.7.1.dmg
Note: There is a letter O in the command and not the 0 (zero).

7. Ditto for Backups

Copying files and taking backups on macOS is quite swift — thanks to the SSDs and the flash storage. However, it does take a while to copy a large amount of data. Thankfully, Terminal offers a useful command to copy files. Here's how you can do it while watching the name of files that the command copies.

ditto -V /currentpath/ /new/path/

So I want to copy the DMG downloaded in the previous section to the desktop.

ditto -V ~/Downloads/vlc-3.0.7.1.dmg ~/Desktop
Ditto Terminal Commands Mac Macos

That should do the needful. If you want to copy the files to an external drive, then you need to provide the destination path correctly.

8. Always Show File Path in the Finder

If you have switched from Windows recently, you would have noticed that the Finder on macOS doesn't show file path like the Explorer in Windows. However, you can force Finder to show you the file path with this command:

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -boolean true
Show Path Terminal Commands Mac Macos

After hitting enter, you need to stop the Finder.

killall Finder

After you hit Enter, the Finder will relaunch. Then you should see the file paths at the top of the Finder window.

9. Power Chime on Connecting the Charger

Has it ever happened that you've connected the MagSafe charger to your Mac but forgot to flip on the power switch? I have lost the count. Thankfully, I stumbled upon this useful command that provides an audio feedback chime whenever I connect the MagSafe charger.

Feed this command in the Terminal and hit Enter.

defaults write com.apple.PowerChime ChimeOnAllHardware -bool true; open /System/Library/CoreServices/PowerChime.app

10. Stop Your Mac from Sleeping

Often you are downloading a massive file, and you don't want your Mac go to sleep. If it is a temporary requirement, then a simple command can make it happen. Just type the following command, hit Enter and walk away from your Mac.

caffeinate -u -t 600
Sleep Wake Terminal Commands Mac Macos

In this command, the number 600 signifies seconds. So with this command, the Mac won't sleep until 10 minutes (600 seconds). You can enter a relevant number of seconds or just the word "caffeinate" to prevent your Mac from sleeping.

However, if you close that Terminal window, then the command will stop executing and the Mac will go to sleep on a predefined time.

11. Check Your Mac's Uptime

Wondering how long it has been since you've restarted your Mac? A simple restart can sort a lot of things in order and boost your Mac's performance. Here's a command to check your how long your Mac has been running without a Restart or a Shutdown

uptime
Uptime Terminal Commands Mac Macos

That should give you all the details with a timestamp.

Using Terminal Is Fun

The Terminal is an absolute delight to use and tinker around in the macOS. However, we would strictly advise against using random commands provided by unverified sources or strangers. Other than that, these commands should run on latest macOS Mojave update till last few versions.

You should always double-check the Terminal commands that involve removing, deleting or disabling any service. If you stick to our list, then you would be confident of using Terminal like a pro.

Next up: Are you bored of the same old Lock Screen on your Mac? Here is a nifty guide that will show how to customize the lock screen on your macOS Mojave running Mac.

Read Next
How to Customize the Lock Screen on macOS 10.14 Mojave
Also See
#terminal #macos

Join the newsletter

Samir Makwana

Written By

Samir Makwana

Samir follows and writes about his myriad interests in technology — from mobile platforms to computing hardware. As a recovering RSS feeds addict, he dabbles between reading books, watching TV shows, and curbing the next impulsive gadget splurge.