10 Unix commands every Mac and Linux user should know

GUIs are great—we wouldn’t want to live without them. But if you’re a Mac or Linux user and you want to get the most out of your operating system (and your keystrokes), you owe it to yourself to get acquainted with the Unix command line. Point-and-click is wonderful whenever you need to do something once or twice. But if you need to repeat that task many times, the command line is your savior.

The command line is a window into the full, awesome power of your computer. If you long to break free of the constraints of the GUI or think that programming or administering remote machines is in your future, then learning the Unix command line is definitely for you.

Don’t worry if Unix commands seem like magical incantations or the mysterious internals of the system seem beyond your grasp. They aren’t that difficult to learn, and this article will give you the 10 essential commands you need to get started. Before long those cryptic strings will be second nature.

Shell basics

The Unix command line shell is roughly equivalent to the command window in Microsoft Windows (cmd or PowerShell). The commands we walk through below will work on any Unix-like system, including Linux, Darwin (the foundation of MacOS), FreeBSD, and even Windows with something like Git Bash or the new Bash shell in Windows 10. The options and output vary slightly, but you should have no trouble making sense of them.

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