Let’s make your boring default terminal awesome and boost your productivity with some cool customizations and power-user commands.

Terminal? What’s That?

Terminal is just a text-based way to talk to your computer. Instead of clicking icons (like in Finder on Mac or Explorer on Windows), you type commands.

As a developer, you’ll use Terminal a LOT, especially as you become more senior in your role. So, let’s make that experience better!

Why Go Terminal?

You can do many things ONLY from the terminal: run scripts, work with databases, use git…the list goes on. Plus, once you get the hang of it, the terminal is way faster for navigating files and executing commands than clicking around.

What’s a Shell?

You’ll hear this term, too. The shell is the actual program running within your terminal window.

The default shell on MacOS used to use Bash by default, but now it’s ZSH. Linux often defaults to Bash, and Windows to PowerShell.

My preference is ZSH because it’s more customizable than Bash.

Customizing Your Terminal

I’ll drop links below for customizing on Windows, Linux, and Mac.

Windows: Microsoft’s Guide, Beebom Tips

Linux: Geeksforgeeks, Make Tech Easier

Mac: Apple Support

My Setup

I use iTerm2 on my Mac with ZSH, along with the Oh My ZSH framework. If you want a similar look, you can copy my settings.

Pro-Tips: You can also tweak that first part of your prompt. If you’re on Zshell, you can pick one you like from here; the same goes for Bash and PowerShell users.

My Favorite Plugins

Oh My ZSH has 300+ plugins. But don’t go overboard; too many can slow down your terminal. Here are the ones that I use:

zsh-autosuggestions: Repeats complex commands I’ve used before – a time-saver!zsh-syntax-highlighting: Provides syntax highlighting for the shell zsh.dirhistory: Jump between past folders with Alt+Left/Righthistory: Handy shortcuts for searching past commandsgit: Git command shortcuts galore (like ‘ga’ instead of ‘git add’)

Most useful Terminal Commands

The commands I will show you work on both Mac OS and Linux.


ls: Lists files/foldersls -l: Extra details (who modified, when, etc.)cd [folder_name]: Go into a folderpwd: “Where am I?” Prints current locationcd ..: Go up one levelcd -: Jump to the previous locationcd ~: Back to your home directory

Creating Files and Folders

mkdir [name]: Make a directorytouch [name]: Create a filecp [old_name] [new_name]: Copy a filecp -r [old_dir] [new_dir]: Copy a whole directory

Deletion Danger Zone

rmdir [name]: Delete an empty directoryrm -rf [name]: Delete a directory and everything in it!rm [name]: Delete a filerm -f [name]: Force deletion

Move + Rename

mv [old] [new]: Move a file/folder OR rename it

Useful Shortcuts

Up Arrow: Get your last command backTab: Auto-complete nameshistory: View your command historyclear: Tidy up your terminal window

If you want to enhance the appearance and functionality of your code-writing environment to match your terminal, take a look at this article on 20 VS Code Extensions to Increase Productivity, 2024 + Themes, Icons, and Shortcuts.

How To Make Your Boring Terminal So Much Better was originally published in Level Up Coding on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

​ Level Up Coding – Medium

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