Useful Unix Commands for macOS or Linux

The following commands work on Unix based operating systems such as Linux and macOS and are executed in the terminal. Some of them will also work on the Windows command line but we’re focusing on Unix based systems here.

Command Description
ls
Lists the contents of the current directory
ls -l
Long list including additional information about the contents
ls -a
List the contents of the current directory including hidden contents that are dot named e.g. .ruby_version
cd directoryName
Changes directory to the specified one
cd ..
Changes directory up one level
cd
Returns to the home directory
mkdir directoryName
Makes a new directory with the specified name
rmdir directoryName
Removes a directory with the specified name if it is empty
rm -rf directoryName
Removes a specified directory that is not empty
rm
Remove a file or files. e.g.

rm filename.extension
rm *.extension

* is the wildcard and will match anything so *.extension matches all files with the extension.

mv
Move or rename a file. e.g.

mv fileName.extension /path/to/move/to/
mv fileName.extension newFileName.extension
cp
Copy a file. e.g.

cp fileName.extension /path/to/copy/to/
pwd
Prints the current working directory path
tail fileName
Print the last 10 lines of a file
tail -f fileName
Prints the last 10 lines of a file but will continuously print new lines added to the file. Useful when monitoring log files.
history
 Lists all the commands you have run.

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