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How to Use the Terminal

Terminal Guide

Here are the most important commands that you’ll need to know for CS61B:

cd: change your working directory

  cd hw 

This command will change your directory to hw.

pwd: print working directory


This command will tell you the full absolute path for the current directory you are in if you are not sure where you are.

Shorthand Commands

  • ~: shorthand for your home directory

  • .: shorthand for your current directory

    cd .       

    This command will change your directory to the current directory (aka. do nothing).

  • ..: shorthand for one parent directory above your current directory

    cd ..

    This command will change your directory to its parent. If you are in /workspace/day1/, the command will place you in /workspace/.

ls: list files/folders in a directory


This command will list all the files and folders in your current directory. You can also use ls <directory> to list the contents of a different directory – try ls ..!

mkdir: make a directory

  mkdir [dirname]

This command will make a new directory within the current directory called dirname. You can think of a directory as creating another folder on your local computer.

touch: create a new file

  touch [filename]

This command will create a file within the current directory called filename. To create a text file, you would run the command touch filename.txt.

rm: remove (delete) a file

  rm [file]

This command will remove file from the current directory. It will not work if file does not exist.

  rm -r [dir]

This command will remove the dir directory recursively. In other words, it will delete all the files and directories in dir in addition to dir itself. Be careful with this command!

cat: display the contents of a file

  cat [file]

This command is useful for inspecting the contents of files in the terminal without having to open them in a program. It is not as useful for large files (which can clutter the terminal) or non-text files (which will likely output gibberish).

cp: copy a file

  cp lab1/original lab2/duplicate

This command will copy the original file in the lab1 directory and create a duplicate file in the lab2 directory.

mv: move or rename a file

  mv lab1/original lab2/original

This command moves original from lab1 to lab2. Unlike cp, mv does not leave original in the lab1 directory.

  mv lab1/original lab1/newname

This command does not move the file but rather renames it from original to newname.

Here are some other useful tricks when working in a terminal.

  • Your shell can complete file names and directory names for you with tab completion. When you have an incomplete name (for something that already exists), try pressing the tab key for autocomplete or a list of possible names.
  • You can copy-paste into the terminal. This is straightforward on Mac, but on Windows, right-click to copy and paste highlighted text.
  • If you want to run the same command used recently, press the up arrow key on your keyboard until you see the correct instruction. If you go too far, use the down key to go back. This saves typing time if you are doing repetitive instructions.
  • You can have multiple terminals open at a time - this might help speed up your workflow if you’re running separate tasks that require the terminal.