The Terminal is one of the most powerful programs that comes loaded in OS X on your Mac, even though you could go through years or even decades as a Mac user and never once open the terminal. Most Mac users will probably never aspire to becoming command line jockeys, but learning the basics of Terminal operation provides you with a useful skill and tool that can help you get jobs done more quickly and efficiently, and and potentially save you minutes, hours, or even days of work if you learn the right commands.
Daniel J Barrett’s Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide is, as its name suggests, a short guide to the Terminal (and its partner, the shell – see below), that shows you how to unlock the Terminal’s secrets and discover how this powerful tool solves problems the Finder can’t handle. With this guide, you’ll be able learn commands for a variety of tasks, such as killing programs that refuse to quit, renaming a large batch of files in seconds, or running jobs in the background while you do other work. It’s not a comprehensive reference manual, but it does cover the basics of teaching you to use the Terminal so you can utilize its functionality to increase your productivity and solve problems.
In brief, the Terminal is an application that runs UNIX commands (UNIX being the very advanced and robust operating system that underlies the user-friendly and attractive OS X graphical user interface (GUI). If you were familiar with DOS command lines in the old days or in Microsoft Windows, the Terminal is somewhat similar concept, but a lot more powerful.
The Terminal’s job is essentially to open windows and manage shells. Using the terminal you can resize the window, change their colors and fonts, and perform copy and paste operations, but In order to use command line on a Macintosh, you need a program that executes them. That program is called the shell, which runs inside the Terminal and is OS X’s command line user interface. When you type a command and press enter, the shell runs whatever program (or programs) you requested. For example, to list the files in your documents folder, it’s the shell that does the real work of reading and running commands.
OS X comes with over 1000 commands for file manipulation, including text editing, printing, mathematics, computer programming, typesetting, networking, and more. A typical command is run in the shell by typing it’s program name, followed by options and arguments, like this:
wc -1 myfile
As an introduction, Barrett gives us 10 simple commands to try, to help beginners get a feel for the Terminal. He also advises that you don’t have to read this book from start to finish, because much of it is a reference for daily work. He describes many commands in the book, each description beginning with a standard heading about the command.
There are also basic instructions on running the Terminal, which incidentally lives in your Mac’s utilities folder, and an interesting section on the OS X file system, which is something I’ve come to appreciate more from using my iPad, on which there’s no user access to the file system. The terminal, is something of the diametrical opposite of the iOS’s hide the works from the user motif.
Note that with the Terminal we’re not talking about the icons on your OS X desktop, although that’s as far into the filesystem is most Mac users ever go. However, essentially the Macintosh user interface is an illusion, a pretty and user-friendly facade laid on over the actual filesystem that can be viewed in the Terminal, which gives you a perspective on the file system that is definitely not the same as you’re seeing in Finder windows. The OS X Finder hides some folders from you because they contain operating system files that most users don’t need to (and usually shouldn’t access.
Note also that the terms “folder”, and “directory” are synonyms, since they both mean a digital container for file (and other folders) on your Mac. When using the Finder, people almost always say “folder,” but when using a command line (as in the Terminal shell), the word “directory” is more common. In Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide, Daniel Barrett uses the terms directory and subdirectory often as he shows us how to navigate the filesystem in the Terminal, and discusses your various directories in the filesystem, plus the skinny on file protections, also known as permissions. Barrett explains how to dive into commands that are neatly arranged into two dozen categories, including directory operations, file comparisons, and network connections. Each command includes a concise description of its purpose and features.
Anyway, you’re likely getting the idea. I’ll confess that didn’t read this book from cover to cover, and you’d have to be a thoroughgoing geek to want to do so, but I do expect I will be referring the Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide in the future to answer my questions about the sort of casual use I might put the Terminal to.
Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide -Take Command of Your Mac
By Daniel J. Barrett
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Released: June 2012
Ebook: $7.99 (Formats: DAISY, ePub, Mobi, PDF)
Print & Ebook: $16.49
Print ISBN:978-1-4493-2834-4 | ISBN 10:1-4493-2834-2
Ebook ISBN:978-1-4493-2833-7 | ISBN 10:1-4493-2833-4
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