Donald L. Merand

OS X Terminal Tips and Tricks


These are some shortcuts and programs that make my life easier in the terminal on OS X.


  • CTRL-V then any character - will allow you to type special characters eg. tab in the terminal
  • CTRL-X-E - open Vim (actually whatever’s stored in $EDITOR) with whatever’s on the command line


  # Last error

  # # of commands passed to a script


  # All commands passed to a script


  filename=\$(basename \$fullfile)
  # Alternately:



  # Alternately:



  • pushd / popd - Same as cd but stores $PWD on the stack. Push and pop directories instead of always changing to full paths. Use this more.
  • dirs shows the stack
  • ps -cax - List each program by the program that called it - better for quitting GUI apps
  • osascript -e 'tell application "Application" to quit' - safely Quit a GUI program
  • open -a 'Program' file_name - Open a GUI program (with an optional file_name)
  • pbcopy/pbpaste - copy/paste to the OS X clipboard
  • awk '{gsub(/\r/, "\n", $0); print $0}' - convert Mac line endings to UNIX line endings
    • (used to use tr, but it doesn’t handle unicode very well. awk isn’t pretty, but it does it)
  • tr '<' '\n<' - find all < characters and put a newline before them (NOT ELEGANT IN OS X SED)
    • alternately awk '{sub(/</, "\n<", $0); print $0}'
  • sort -k 2.3,5 - sort based on the second column, third character through the fifth character
  • sort -M - sort based on months (closest to a date sort on text sorts)
  • ls -1 > ALLFILES; sort MANIFEST MANIFEST ALLFILES | uniq -u | xargs rm - to remove everything in the file list ALLFILES that’s not contained in MANIFEST
    • (you’d probably want to quote the results, because xargs isn’t friendly with space characters in filenames)
  • find . -name "REGEXP" - find a file, based on a regular expression
  • find . -iname "REGEXP" -exec COMMAND {} \; - find a file, case-insensitive, then exec COMMAND on every matched file
    • {} is a substitute for the filename
  • find . -type f -name ".*" - find all hidden files (type d for directories)
  • find / -type f -name *.zip -size +100M -exec rm -i {} \; - remove all .zip files on the computer, larger than 100M, interactively
  • syslog | grep -i "error" - Dump the entire system log file, check for errors
  • ruby -ne 'puts $_' - takes standard input, runs with $_ being current line until end-of-file (CTRL-D) character
  • jot 10 - prints 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 with newlines between them.
    • use “-r” for random
    • two numbers starts at the first and does the second number of prints
  • defaults write pinning -string end - dock in the lower-right corner
  • plutil -convert xml1 PLIST_FILE - convert a plist file into an XCode-readable format