Note that this site is in currently in version 1.0.0-alpha.   Some functionality may be limited.

4. Getting to the Command Line

macOS

If you’re using macOS:

  1. Click the Spotlight Search button (the magnifying glass) in the top right of your desktop.

  2. Type terminal into the bar that appears.

  3. Select the first item that appears in the list.

  4. When the Terminal pops up, you will likely see either a window with black text over white background or colored text over a black background.

    Terminal in macOS

Please note: You can change the color of your Terminal or BashShell background and text by selecting Shell from the top menu bar, then selecting a theme from the menu under New Window.

Bonus points: if you really want to get the groove of just typing instead of pointing and clicking, you can hold the command (⌘) key while and press space to pull up Spotlight search, start typing Terminal, and then hit enter to open a terminal window. This will pull up a terminal window without touching your mousepad. For super bonus points, try to navigate like this for the next fifteen minutes, or even the rest of this session—it is tricky and sometimes a bit tiring when you start, but you can really pick up speed when you practice!

Windows

We won’t be using Windows’s own non-UNIX version of the command line. Instead, we will use Git Bash. If you haven’t installed it yet, you can follow these instructions. The reason we use Git Bash as the command line on Windows is that it makes you able to run the same commands as you would on a computer running macOS or Linux. Git Bash includes core utilities available on Linux that are not available on Windows.

  1. Look for Git Bash in your programs menu and open.

  2. If you can’t find the git folder, just type git bash in the search box and select git bash when it appears.

  3. Open the program.

  4. When the terminal pops up, you will likely see either a window with black text over white background or colored text over a black background.You know you’re in the right place when you see the $.

Note that the sign for you being in the right place might also be a % or a # depending on your operating system.

Terminal on Windows

Bonus points: if you really want to get the groove of just typing instead of pointing and clicking, you can press windows to open the Start menu, start typing git bash and then hit enter to open a git bash window. This will pull up a command window without touching your mousepad.

Command Prompt $

$, which we will refer to as the “command prompt,” is the place you type commands you wish the computer to execute. We will now learn some of the most common commands.

When you see the $, you’re in the right place. As noted above, however, the sign varies somewhat between systems, and sometimes the sign is a % or a #. We call the sign the command prompt; it lets us know the computer is ready to receive a command.

In the following lessons, we will refer to the command prompt using a $. Just make a note now of your sign, if it differs from the dollar sign. You will be able to follow along just fine as long as you understand that they all are different ways of knowing that you are “at the command prompt.”

Workshop overall progress