Mac Terminal: key points and the list of alternative solutions

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As it is known, the capabilities of OS X do not end with “System Preferences”. When using Mac Terminal application, you can do almost anything with the system. In this article, we will tell you about the command line, its tricks that will help you make the Mac even more convenient as well as will provide you with a list of top 10 macOS Terminal emulators. Let’s go.

What is the macOS command line?

To begin with, it is important to understand what the command line is. This is a special utility due to which the user can work with the operating system. You can configure many parameters, open some functions, etc. Of course, most of the settings are reproduced through the usual settings, but some of them can only be done using the command line. This is required in cases when:

  • There are no such parameters in the usual settings.
  • The opened utility does not have a graphical interface.
  • It is necessary to configure several settings at once.

Sometimes it’s much easier to make settings using the command line. You can configure dozens of parameters at the same time, the main thing is to know how Mac Terminal works, and its commands.

How to open macOS Terminal: 6 different ways

If you want to open Terminal on Mac then you should be aware that it can be done the same way as you open any other programs and in different ways. Below you can find the detailed list of how to open Terminal on your Mac computer.

1. By using Finder

The most direct way is to open Mac Terminal from a general list of programs. To do this, open Finder (it is situated in the Dock menu always on the left), select Applications in the left menu and find the Utilities folder in the list of all programs that will open. Here you will find application. Double-click to open it. The terminal is open.

2. By using the Spotlight search bar

If you need an even faster way to open the program you need to use the Spotlight search bar on Mac. To do this, hold down the CTRL + Space bar shortcut at the same time, and in the pop-up window, start typing the word "Terminal". You will see the application you need, just click on it to make Terminal open.

3. By using programs in the Dock

Like the previous two methods, this one is not difficult. On the right side of the macOS Dock, there is usually a shortcut to the Application folder that opens a list of all installed programs on your Mac. Click on it and in the pop-up window open the Utilities folder, and in the next list find and open the program Click it to open macOS Terminal.

4. By using Siri

Another easiest way to open Terminal on Mac is of course by using Siri. Select the Siri icon on the menu bar or open Siri from the Applications folder. Here you need just to say: “Open Terminal”. That’s it.

5. Quick access to Terminal

If you will often use Terminal, the most rational and convenient way is to add the program directly to the Dock. So after Terminal icon appears in the Dock among the recent apps, do the following:

  • Hold down the CTRL button and click the Terminal icon in the Dock or just right-click on it;
  • Choose Options from the context menu;
  • Click “Keep to Dock”.

6. By using Launchpad

You can open Mac Terminal through Launchpad in two ways. By default, Launchpad contains the Other folder with the Terminal application in it.

  • Open Launchpad from the Dock or with the Fn + F4 keyboard shortcut;
  • Go to the Other folder;
  • Find and open

If you changed the Launchpad organization and deleted this folder, there is another way.

  • Open Launchpad with the Fn + F4 keyboard shortcut;
  • Type “Terminal” in the search bar at the top;
  • When the Terminal icon appears, click it.

How to work with the command line?

The command line is a black window, with the ability to enter text into it. Most users absolutely do not know how to work with it. This utility works with the help of special commands. Each of these commands is responsible for a specific action. There are commands to open other programs, configure them, etc. There are also commands that help you work with the command line itself.

Basic macOS Terminal commands you should know

1. Automatic check for updates

By default, OS X checks for system updates and new versions of applications weekly. To make automatic verification daily, just enter the following command in the Terminal: defaults write ScheduleFrequency -int 1

2. Show hidden files and folders

By default, all hidden files and folders in OS X are invisible to ordinary users. Just use the Terminal if you want to correct this situation: defaults write AppleShowAllFiles -bool true

To disable the display of hidden files and folders, use the following command: defaults write AppleShowAllFiles -bool false

3. Selective display of hidden files and folders

If you do not want to see all hidden files and folders in the system, but want only hidden files or folders to be displayed in a specific place, enter the command: chflags nohidden / Library / specify the path to the desired folder

4. View the contents of any file

Sometimes you can face up with files in an unknown format. You can try to open it with different apps, but this does not always work. You can examine any file from Terminal using: $ cat / path / to / file

Regardless of the format, the file will open.

5. Download a file without a browser

If you want to download a file without using a browser, we can give the following command: $ curl -O specify the URL

This will download any URL you enter into the folder. Some browsers try to automatically open files when they are downloaded or add tedious file extensions when you do not want them (especially when working with text files other than the .txt extension).

6. Copying the contents of a folder from one place to another

Of course, you can simply “copy-paste” the entire contents of the folder, but in cases where you need to simplify and/or automate this process, the following command will help you: ditto -V ~ / source / folder / ~ / new / folder /

7. View all active processes

To monitor system resources in macOS, there is a special program for that. It is quite convenient and informative, nevertheless, with the same success, you can view the most resource-intensive processes in Terminal. $ top

8. Prevent sleep mode

When a task is performed on a Mac after a while, the computer goes into sleep mode if you do not press keys or touch the trackpad thus pausing the process. This can be avoided by prohibiting the transition to this mode using the settings or using the special utility. $ caffeinate -t number of seconds

Why do people look for alternatives to Default macOS Terminal?

In OS X, an ordinary user practically does not face the need to use the command line, since most of his needs are covered by what is implemented in the graphical interface of the system. However, if it is needed, the default Mac Terminal application can cope with any task you have for it. However, it is not the only one solution that is there on the market and you can find a lot of other alternatives with wider range of features or even can be customized according to your whim.

List of the best Terminal emulator Mac solutions

Commander One

Commander One is a great file manager with the built-in Terminal emulator for Mac. The app offers a great variety of features to facilitate the work with your data both on your computer and online, as it supports the work with cloud storages and remote servers. Commander One has a flexible Terminal configuration allowing you to open it with the help of a hotkey. This Terminal emulator includes all the necessary capabilities, as a great plus is that you do not need to switch between applications while working with it, as all the terminal commands can be executed directly from the application window.


  • • highly customizable;
  • • cloud storage integration;
  • • support for iOS/Android devices.


  • • multi-rename feature is absent;
  • • synchronize directories feature is absent.


ZOC is a TELNET / SSH / SSH2 client and Terminal emulator for Mac. The app offers many functions, including support for multiple sessions, rollback, support for creating several separate processes, support for full-color Xterm emulation, meta keys, VT102, VT220, scripts in REXX and other languages, and much more. Due to an impressive list of emulations and features, it is not difficult to access hosts and mainframes through a secure shell, telnet, serial cable, modem / isdn, and other communication methods.


  • • ability to work with the mouse mode;
  • • history of commands;
  • • ability to automatically connect.


  • • the only drawback is that it is not free.


MacTerm previously known as MacTelnet is one more best Terminal for Mac solution. With its help, you can access both local and remote applications. The app has an impressive list of features, including powerful terminals (with or without tabs), a very flexible setting system, dynamic search, support for macros, floating command line window and much more.


  • • highly customizable;
  • • growl integration;
  • • session manager.


  • • the version for macOS 10.15 Catalina is still under development.


Terminator allows you to have many terminals in one window. Thanks to this app you can use many terminals in one console with the ability to split and resize them, all in one window. Besides that, you can drag and drop terminals to change their location. This macOS emulator of Terminal has many attached keyboard shortcuts that quickly perform common actions. Terminator is recommended for those who want more interactivity with the terminal, and for those who want to know the command line better.


  • • automatically keeps logs of all terminal sessions;
  • • support for horizontal scrolling;
  • • convenient vertical scrolling;
  • • support for tabbed browsing;
  • • support for UTF8.


  • • sometimes drag and drop feature does not work properly.

PowerTerm InterConnect

PowerTerm InterConnect is a fairly powerful and user-friendly Terminal for Mac that maximizes the capabilities of the native on the Mac. The application supports a wide range of hosts and mainframes, including IBM Mainframe, IBM AS / 400, UNIX, OpenVMS, Tandem, ANSI, Data General, Wyse, Televideo and others. In addition, terminal emulation can be established via various communication modes, including TN3270, TN5250, Microsoft SNA Server and Telnet.


  • • multiple simultaneous sessions;
  • • scripts;
  • • customizable function keys;
  • • smart copy and paste;
  • • SSH and SSL security.


  • • high price of this Terminal app Mac solution.


iTerm has a set of useful features that make it a great Terminal emulator for Mac. The app supports tabs, split panes, configurable scrollback, autocomplete features, etc. Besides that iTerm2 gives you unlimited independent terminals in one tab. In addition, by default the app offers opening windows in full-screen mode, nevertheless, it is possible to use custom full-screen windows.


  • • autocomplete features;
  • • growl integration;
  • • great mouse and clipboard support.


  • • doesn't support RTL;
  • • a bit slow compared to the rest of the apps.


Kitty is a powerful, cross-platform GPU-based Terminal emulator for Mac. The app supports all modern terminal functions, including graphics, Unicode, focus tracking, parentheses and much more. This app can be seamlessly controlled from scripts or command line even through SSH.

As you can see, it includes many features, but the one that should be paid special attention is support for ligatures in code.


  • • cross-platform solution;
  • • supports the startup session;
  • • scroll buffer can be opened in a separate window;
  • • super fast.


  • • does not support dynamic reload of configuration;
  • • does not support bright colors for bold text.


Another cross-platform solution is Hyper formerly known as HyperTerm. This tiny Terminal app is based on Electron and perhaps this can be called its greatest advantage compared to other Terminal emulator Mac solutions because everything that can be done on the web, can also be done in Hyper. Besides that, Hyper supports a large number of plugins that can help you to extend basic functionalities of the app. In addition, it is able to make Tabs and Split where the latest can be done vertically and horizontally. In conclusion, the latest version of the app began to use WebGL for rendering.


  • • easy to configure;
  • • customizable;
  • • wide variety of themes;
  • • wide variety of plugins.


  • • some themes don't work properly;
  • • inability to apply some configurations.


MacWise is a minimalistic Mac OS Terminal emulator designed to work with a large number of different protocols, connection modes (serial / modem, telnet, secure shell, or even Kermit), and can emulate a wide range of terminals, including Prism, TV925, VT100, VT220, Viewpoint, Wyse 50, Wyse 60, Wyse 370. Besides that, the app allows logging into Mac Unix Shell, if there is a need. MacWise also offers the use of function keys that you can adjust according to your needs or even add special functions. Furthermore, thanks to its intuitive interface you will find MacWise rather easy to use.


  • • ability to run 10 different sessions at the same time;
  • • ability to manage multiple hosts at the same time.


  • • high price of the app.


Byobu is a text-based window manager and open-source terminal multiplexer that was originally based on the GNU Screen utility. Its goal is to provide the best user experience for terminal sessions when connecting to remote servers. While using Byobu, users can quickly create and move between different windows on top of one SSH connection or TTY terminal, monitor a lot of important statistics about their system, disconnect or reconnect to sessions later, while programs continue to work in the background.


  • • advanced profiles;
  • • convenient keyboard shortcuts;
  • • configuration utilities;
  • • switchable system status notifications for tmux and GNU Screen.


  • • seems to be a bit difficult for use.

MacOS Terminal: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Terminal?

A Terminal is an application that gives you access to your Mac’s internal work through the command line interface (CLI). This application gives you the opportunity to make many changes to the operating system that are not available from the graphical user interface (GUI). As a rule, it is not intended for the average client. Instead, it serves as a great tool for experienced users and developers.

What is the default shell in OS X?

In OS X, the default shell is bash.

Why is Terminal emulator Mac solution important?

  • • manipulations with files and folders in the OS can be programmed with the help of Terminal;
  • • other programs can be run within Terminal;
  • • the work with servers can be carried out via Terminal.

What are the basic Terminal emulator commands?

  • cat - a list of the contents of the file or folder;
  • cd - like DOS, use this command to change directories;
  • cp - copy a file or folder;
  • defaults - this command changes settings that are not specified in the settings;
  • ls - this command lists the contents of the directory;
  • mkdir - make a directory;
  • mv - move the file or folder;
  • nano - open the terminal editor.

What kind of command allows you to create a secure encrypted connection?

ssh - short for Secure Shell, creates a secure encrypted connection between two hosts.

What kind of command provides you with administrator rights?

sudo - provides you with administrator (superuser) rights and requires a password.

Commander One

This dual panel file manager for Mac is fully compatible with MacOS 10.10 and later. Requires 58.88MB free space, latest version 3.2(3489). Released 26 Jul, 2021.

4.5 rank based on 90+ users, Reviews (15)