Mac OS X Misc Command Line Tips

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Sys Admin

How to start Remote Login on the command line?

Type sudo /usr/bin/sshd. You may need to generate a passphrase if this is run for the first time. Simply go to System Prefences, Sharing, and check mark Remote Login, will automatically generate the passphrase.

How to start Windows File Sharing on the command line?

Type sudo smbd restart or sudo nmbd restart.

Launching Applications

How to launch a Mac GUI application using command line tool?

Use “open”. For example, open /Applications/ Note that the “open” command behaves as if doubling clicking on finder. In particular, if a application is already running, it will just switch to it, not launch a new process.

open man page

How to launch a GUI application while passing it a command line argument?

Sometimes, you want to launch a separate process of Carbon Emacs or Aquamacs, and want to pass it command line arguments. You can do like this: nohup /Applications/ -q &.

Note, however, Terminal has a feature such that if you close the window, it'll quit all command launched from it, even if you have used “nohub”. The “nohub” will only prevent the app from quitting if you exit the shell by Ctrl+d.

How to open a URL in a running browser?

open -a safari myUrlStr. This will open the URL in a currently running Safari browser if one has been launched. To specify other browsers, use “firefox” or “icab” for example.


How to make Finder show hidden files?

In Terminal, type:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
killall Finder

This will set a config and restart Finder.

How to make the mouse speed faster?

defaults write -g

The above will show your current scaling value. To make it faster, do:

defaults read -g 5

You need to relog for this to take effect.

What is the command to put system to sleep?

Use applescript, like this: osascript -e 'tell application "System Events" to sleep'.

What is the command to turn on screen saver?

/System/Library/Frameworks/ScreenSaver.framework/Versions/A/Resources/ &

You can make a bash shell alias, like this: alias ssaver="…"; and put in ~/.bash_profile.

You can also run the screen saver on your Desktop's background. Give the command the “-background” argument.

How to do a screenshot with command line?


screencapture man page

How to kill the Dashboard?

You can use the command line to set a preference, then you need to relaunch Dock. Type the following code in Terminal.

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES
killall Dock

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