User interfaces are over-rated anyway

Tuesday, Apr 28, 2020


Moving Around

Shortcut Output
⌃ A Go to the beginning of the line
⌃ E Go to the end of the line
⌥ F Move forward one word
⌥ B Move back one word

Clearing Text

Shortcut Output
⌘ K Erase the entire terminal
⌘ L Erase the last command’s terminal output

Modifying Chars

Shortcut Output
⌃ F Move forward 1 char
⌃ B Move backward 1 char
⌃ H Delete char left of cursor
⌃ D Delete char right of cursor
⌃ T Swap the last two chars

Modifying Words

Shortcut Output
⌥ L lowercase word right of cursor
⌥ U uppercase word right of cursor
⌥ C title-case word of cursor
⌃ Y Paste the word that was deleted
⌥ T Push the word left of the cursor forward by one word

Modifying Lines

Shortcut Output
⌃ K Erase line right of cursor
⌃ U Erase line left of cursor
⌃ W Erase argument left of cursor
⌃ Y Paste what was just erased
⌃ A Go to the beginning of the line
⌃ E Go to the end of the line

Undo Action

Shortcut Output
⌃ - Undo last keystroke

Command Selection

Shortcut Output
⌃ P Select previous command
⌃ N Select next command
⌃ R (1) Recall a previous command
⌃ R (2) Recall the next match
⌃ G Exit from command recall mode
⌥ R Restore altered command back to it’s original state
⌃ J Submit command

Completion Shortcuts

There are a bunch of shortcuts that will help you complete the filename, or the command name, etc., but let’s be real here. You’re just going to keep using tab anyway. Save your energy for learning some of the other great shortcuts on here.

Misc Input

Many of the keys you normally press can be entered with a control key combo instead.

Shortcut Output
⌃ I tab
⌃ J newline
⌃ M enter
⌃ [ escape
⌃ D $ exit closes the entire terminal session
Shortcut Output
⌃ < Go to beginning of history
⌃ > Go to end of history


Ranked from weakest to strongest

Shortcut Output Signal Number Notes
⌃ Z (1) Pause a job SIGTSTP 20 Also known as suspending a job
⌃ Z (2) Continue a job SIGCONT 18 Pressing ⌃Z again will continue a process that was just suspended
^ C Interrupt a job SIGINT 2 Tell a process that it should not continue, the most common way to end a program
⌃ \ Quit a job SIGQUIT 3 Similar to an interrupt, but a little stronger (can still be caught), and will produce a core dump. The strongest of the signals that can be called via keyboard shortcuts

Tip: Many people don’t know that on Mac OS, there’s an alternative to using ⌃ C to end a program: ⌘ .


Various signals can be sent in UNIX to interact with a program. Many of these contain keyboard shortcuts, but first it is important to go over the most common types of signals. Programs can customize how they react to signals by catching, handling, or ignoring them.

To view all signals, type $ trap -l

To view all signal keyboard shortcuts, type $ stty -e or $ stty all

Signal Definitions

The Foreground & Background

The jobs Program

The jobs program lets you see information about the current jobs running from this terminal.

# [View the jobID, job status, and call-command]
# [Additionally report the PID of each job]
jobs -l

If you begin running a process, but it looks like it will take a long time to run, there’s no need to open a new terminal tab. Instead, you can run the current process in the background. First, suspend (pause) the job with ⌃Z

If you have suspended multiple jobs, you can bring a specific job back to the foreground.

# [Resume the 2nd suspended job in the foreground]
fg %2
# [Resume the 3rd suspended job to the background]
bg %3

The ps Program

To find out information about processes, use the ps program

# [View info about all active processes]

The pgrep Program

To find out the process ID of a particular program, use the pgrep program.

# [View the PID of all matches to the regular expression "java"]
pgrep java
# [View the id and name of every process matching the regular expression "ja"]
pgrep -l ja

Managing active processes

Every process has a process ID or “PID” and there are a variety of commands that you can use to manage your active processes.

# [Find an active process's PID by name]
pgrep <process_name>

The kill Program

Using the kill program, you can send any active process a signal.

# [Kill a processes by PID]
kill -9 <process_id>
# [Kill a process by name]
pkill "java"
# [Kill a process running on a specific port]
kill $(lsof -t -i :4000)
# [Send the SIGTERM (15) to process 123]
kill -15 123
# [Send the SIGTERM (15) signal to process 123 & process 456]
kill -TERM 123 456
# [Send the SIGINT (2) signal to process 123]
kill -2 123
# [Send the SIGSTOP () signal to process 123]
kill -TSTP 123
# [Send the SIGINT (2) signal to job ID # 1]
kill -2 %1

The pkill Program

Similar to kill except instead of killing processes by id, it kills processes by name.

# [Send the SIGTERM signal to all programs matching "java"]
pkill -15 java
# [Send the SIGTSTP signal to all programs named exactly "java"]
pkill -TSTP -x java

Managing Disk Space

The df Program

The df program, can be used to “display free” storage available on the computer.

# Get a report of the last recorded amount of memory
$ df -kh
# Refresh this value
$ du -chs

Useful df flags

Warning: The snapshot that you’re given with $ df -kh is not always recent. If you’ve made some big changes to the available amount of storage, the discrepancy could be very large. To get an up-to-date version of the available storage on your computer, type $ du -chs


Custom Bash Prompt

The bash prompt is actually a collection of several prompts.

Directory Structure


When you type the name of a function on the command line, it usually requires that you tell it the language and the directory. (e.g. $ python3 greet.py)

However, if the executable file is located in one of the directories specified by your $PATH, then it will automatically find and run the program without you needing to provide those specifications. It searches every directory specified in your PATH and runs the first file it finds with a matching name.

Seeing which directories are in your $PATH

echo -e ${PATH//:/\\n}

Normally each directory in the path is seperated by a : not a newline, but I find this to be a clearer output.

Using #! the “hashbang”

Sometimes you open up a file and it contains the first line, or something similar, to the one I’ve written below in a program called greet that prints Hello world!


print("Hello world!")

That first line uses a hashbang. What it does, is it tells your computer what program to use when trying to run the code specified in the lines below. In this case, it says to use the python3 program located in the directory /usr/local/bin

Assuming this was a file in your present working directory with executable permissions (if it isn’t, type $ chmod +x greet in your terminal) then you could type $ ./greet and this file would run fine. You didn’t need to specify that it needed to run with $ python3 greet

# [Hard way]
/usr/local/bin/python3 greet
# [Medium way]
python3 greet
# [Easy way]

Typical $PATH directories

The root directories

Note that / itself is the root directory, these are directories inside the root directory

The /bin directories

These are programs that are needed if you start the system with single user mode. Single user mode is a startup mode even more barebones than recovery mode.

The /local directories


This is for programs that are local to your user account. If you install a program here (and you should), then the other accounts on the computer won’t be able to use it. Also, it’s automatically in your ${path}


This is the local system bin, which is used for programs that are needed to boot the system, but that you won’t be executing directly.

The command path

If you want to add a directory to ${path} you’ll need to edit your ~/.zshrc. To add the directory /Users/tommytrojan/programs to your path, you would add the following line.

This will append /Users/tommytrojan/programs to the existing value of ${path} which is accessed by typing ${path}.

The export keyword

We used the export keyword when we updated the $PATH in our .zshrc but it’s important to understand what it does. The export keyword will save a variable in the shell, but it will also save the variable in any sub-shells. That means if you called a function from your terminal, and that function checked for a variable $(PATH) it would still “remember” what that variable’s value was set to be.

The Root User

On UNIX systems, the root user has capabilities that are disabled when you are logged in as a regular user. Type the command below to run a shell as the root user

sudo -i

From here, you can type any command without having to use the sudo command.

Opening applications

on MacOS

But there are very useful flags you can use, to type these out in the future

# [Open the Postman.app file explicitly]
open ~/Applications/Postman
# [Open the application "Postman"]
open -a Postman
# [Open a website in Safari]
open -a Safari 'https://google.com'
# [Open with the default text editor]
open -t textfile.txt
# Launch a new instance of the application
open -n sample.png

on Linux

Opening an application on Linux is as easy as typing

# [Launch any application located in $PATH]

The Welcome Message

Silencing the Welcome Message

Usually when you open your mac, you’ll see a message such as

“Last login: Fri May 3 21:14:20 on ttys000”

But you can disable this message by adding a .hushlogin file to your home directory.

# [Silence the login message]
touch ~/.hushlogin

Alternatively, you can customize the message by modifying the contents of the file located in /etc/motd

Hidden Programs

On Mac OS, there are some really cool hidden programs that most people don’t know about.


Many people don’t know about caffeinate, a program you can use to prevent your computer from falling asleep.

Wake up a sleeping remote computer with ssh

# For a moment
ssh tommy@remote.net 'caffeinate -u -t 1'

Useful Flags

Add this line to your .inputrc so that when you type cd and try to tab-complete to a symbolic link to a directory, it will include the trailing / at the end.

set mark-symlinked-directories on

Advanced Tab Completion

If you are typing out a command, and you include environment variables (e.g. $PATH) or an event designator (e.g. !!) then you can press after typing it, and the terminal will immediately replace that reference with the actual argument that it evaluates to.

echo $HOME<TAB>
echo /Users/austin

Speak from Terminal

# Speaking from terminal
say 'hello world'

# Singing from terminal
say -v 'good news' di di di di di di