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Last updated on 4/19/22

Discover Terminal

 Welcome to this course about Terminal and the command line!

Terminal might be the scariest application on your computer right now, but by the end of this course you'll better understand:

  • why Terminal is important,

  • what you can do with it,

  • how to avoid messy situations (hint: you'll be fine!),

  • how to run useful commands for everyday situations and developer careers!

It may have a hacker reputation, but that’s only because fictional characters in CIA movies use it to do wild and fake stuff.

Yes, you can use Terminal and the command line for powerful operations, but you can also use it for simple tasks like listing the contents of a folder. 😅

Let's explore some background on the terminal. No need to open up Terminal yet though! At the end of this chapter, we'll open it for the first time.

What is the terminal?

Terminal is an application that lets you interact with your computer. You usually give instructions to your computer through clicking around in applications or typing keys to make things happen.

Terminal lets you do many of the same things; it’s just more direct. You can give clear, structured orders to your computer using the terminal. You just have to be patient and willing to try them!

What can I do in Terminal?

Here are several classic ways you already interact with your computer for which you can also use Terminal.

Menus to interact with files

You're already familiar with dropdown menus like this if you're on Mac, Windows, or other types of machines. In applications such as Microsoft Word, you can have a "Save" option, "Open," etc:

Classic File menu
Classic File menu

When you edit text, image, or other files, you often have a visual menu like the screenshot above that let you do stuff to the file. You can update the file, duplicate it, see information about it, and more. You know what's up!

Good news: you can use Terminal to perform these same operations.

Interfaces to browse files

If you're on Mac, you may be familiar with Finder. On Windows, you can find files and programs you want using the Start menu.

Either way, you're already at ease finding what you need on your computer by searching and clicking for programs or content:

Browsing programs and files via Finder (on Mac)
Browsing programs and files via Finder (on Mac)

You can also use Terminal to create, open, and update files, which will save you hours of time if you ever want to become a web developer or designer.

Soon, you'll learn how to perform the same above operations in the terminal, and you’ll find that it’s much more efficient to use Terminal to do many basic operations instead of fumbling and clicking around on your machine!

Open the terminal

How you open Terminal depends on your operating system.

If you're on a Mac, open your Applications folder and find the Utilities folder inside. You can open Terminal from here.

If you're on Windows, you'll need to install Cygwin. Follow instructions here. If you have any issues with the installation, check out this page

If you're on Linux, open the following series of files to find Terminal inside: Applications > System > Utilities.

Why is terminal capitalized sometimes? 

During your learning, you may hear different words to refer to the terminal, like:

  • Terminal (capitalized)

  • The terminal (not capitalized)

  • Shell

  • Console

  • Command line

These differences will matter once you go further with development, but they're unimportant right now. 💁

Let's get started in the next chapter with some commands!

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