Get to know your terminal

Every operating system comes with a text-based command line interface (CLI) for inputting commands. This provides a powerful way of doing lots of things beyond the graphical user interface you already know.

If you’ve time traveled from the past, your operating system may only have a command line interface. Our GUIs are going to blow your mind.

# Find your OS terminal

There are other apps like Hyper (opens new window) (cross-platform) and iTerm2 (opens new window) (Mac), but your system’s terminal will work fine!

# Run a command

Once you’ve launched your terminal, you’ll be greeted by an empty prompt that’s ready for input.

Later on we’ll refer to “running” commands, in a format that looks like this:

echo "hello world"

In this example, you would copy+paste or type echo "hello world" exactly as you see it above, then hit return or enter to execute the command. The result, or output, will be printed and you’ll be returned to the empty prompt.

The echo console command just repeats back whatever you pass to it. Here’s what you’d see after running that command:

echo "hello world"
hello world

Try it! Copy and paste echo "hello world" into your terminal and hit return or enter. If your console says “hello world” back, you know everything you need to run a terminal command!

We’ll eventually want to run commands alongside your site’s code, so you’ll need to know how to get there.

Every time you use the console, your commands will be executed from a specific directory on your system even when they’re not doing anything to files. This context is called the working directory. You can change the working directory, much like you would using a file browser, using terminal commands.

To output the current working directory:

  • Run pwd on Mac or Linux.
  • Run cd on Windows.

This will print the current path you’re working in.

The pwd command stands for “print working directory”, and cd stands for “change directory”. Commands like this are shortened so they’re quicker to type.

To list files in the current directory:

  • Run ls on Mac or Linux.
  • Run dir on Windows.

To move up one directory, run cd .. on any platform.

To move down into a specific directory, like Documents, use cd Documents on any platform.

To start at the topmost directory on your disk, use cd / on any platform.

To start from your user directory, use cd ~ on Mac or Linux and cd %HOMEPATH% on Windows.

You can always use these commands to see where you’re at or move to a different folder on your machine.

Once you’re able to pick a folder and navigate to it, you’re all set!