List of macOS Terminal commands

This article lists out different macOS terminal commands you might encounter. You can use this list as a starting point in your search for a command to perform a specific task. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Basic terminal commands are not listed here. Some of them are listed in the following Terminal command articles.
Terminal Commands – Basic
Terminal Commands – Part 2
Terminal Commands – Part 3

Many of the commands have also been used in the article I wrote some time back. You can have a look at the scripts to see some of the commands being used.

To get more information about the commands simply run the following command from within Terminal Application. For example, to view the manual page for tmutil simply type:

man tmutil

For fdesetup

man fdesetup
Here is a nice command to quickly open the man page in the Preview App.
man -t tmutil | open -f -a /System/Applications/Preview.app

Note

  • This is not a complete list of commands
  • Some commands are available through the macOS Recovery Volume only
  • Some commands required other resources such as the OS installer
  • Some commands are available with certain versions of the OS only

Please read the documentation for more details. Use the commands with care. Improper use of commands may result in loss of data or damage to the computer.

Commands


Installation

CommandDescription
startosinstallUsed to start the installation of macOS from the command line.
createinstallmediaUsed to create an external install disk.

Security

CommandDescription
fdesetupManage FileVault configuration.
securityManage keychain and security settings
spctlManage security assessment policy
csrutilConfigure System Integrity Protection (SIP) settings
resetpasswordPassword reset utility located in the Recovery Partition

File System

CommandDescription
hdiutilUsed to manipulate and manage disk images.
diskutilUsed to modify, verify, & repair local disks.

Data Management

CommandDescription
tmutilUsed to configure Time Machine settings in macOS
screencaptureTakes screenshot of the specified screen and saves the image at the specified location.
mdlsUsed to get metadata attributes for a given file
mdutilUsed to manage metadata stores that are used by Spotlight

Settings

CommandDescription
defaultsUsed to modify plist files. Typically used to update preference files.
ioregUsed to view the I/O kit registry
system_profilerUsed to generate system hardware & software reports.
plutilUsed to check syntax of property lists or covert property lists from one format to another
AssetCacheManagerUtilUsed to configure content caching settings.
openUsed to open documents from within the command line.
networksetupPerform network configuration.
systemsetupUsed to configure machine settings in System Preferences.
launchctlUsed to manage and inspect daemons, agents, & XPC Services

Applications

CommandDescription
codesignUsed to create, check, display code signatures.
pkgbuildUsed to build installer packages
productbuildBuilds a product archive
installerSystem software and package installer tool

User Account Management

CommandDescription
dsclThis is a command line Directory service utility that allows us to create, read, and manage Directory Service data.
sysadminctlUser account management
passwdChange user password
loginUsed to login to another user account.

Server & Device Management

CommandDescription
profilesUsed to install, remove, list, or manage Configuration profiles.
serveradminUsed to manage the services in macOS
mdmclientLocated in /usr/libexec/mdmclient it is used to manage interactions with the MDM.
asrApple Software restore: Used to copy volumes.

Scripting

CommandDescription
osascriptUsed to execute the given AppleScript

Share any commands you may know of in the comments window.

Disclaimer

The information Is Provided “As Is”, Without Warranty Of Any Kind, Express Or Implied, Including But Not Limited To The Warranties Of Merchantability, Fitness For A Particular Purpose And Noninfringement. In No Event Shall The Authors Or Copyright Holders Be Liable For Any Claim, Damages Or Other Liability, Whether In An Action Of Contract, Tort Or Otherwise, Arising From, Out Of Or In Connection With The information provided Or The Use Or Other Dealings In The information.

Automation on the Mac

Automating tasks on the Mac is very useful for a wide variety of reasons. In this article we are going to look at the different technologies available for automating tasks.

TOOLS

Automator

The simplest way of achieving automation. Automator which is a built in application allows you to create task workflows by simply dragging in a set of predefined routines into a specified sequence. Let us explore how it works by creating a watermarking print plugin

Let us look at how we can create a print plugin that automatically adds a watermark to the pdf file.

  1. First get hold of an image that you will use as a watermark.
  2. Open Automator.
  3. Click on “New Document”
  4. Choose Print Plugin as the type of task to createScreen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.58.26 AM
  5. From the left hand side drag the “Watermark PDF Documents” option. You will be able to locate this from the PDF library on the extreme right.1
  6. Add the image that will be used as a watermark. Customise the settings to your desired level. You may have to use trial and error till you get the desired output.
  7. Similarly drag the Move finder Items to the right. You will be able to locate this from the Files & Folders library.2
  8. Save the task as WatermarkCreator.
  9. Open a text file.
  10. Select File > Print
  11. Click on the PDF drop down in the print dialog.3.4
  12. Select the newly created task.
    3
  13. You have now successfully setup your own watermark creator.

Shell Scripting

For those coming from a Linux/Unix background this might be a familiar option. Very often users need to run a series of terminal commands repeatedly. While it is not difficult to do this, wouldn’t it be nice if we could write all the commands in a single file? Shell Scripts help users do just that.

To create a shell script:

  1. Open TextEdit
  2. Write the following code in there (We will write code to create a series of files and folders in our home folder for a user called admin):
    #! /bin/sh
    cd /Users/admin/
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Applications/" ]; then
    echo "Applications Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir Applications
    fi
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Sites/" ]; then
    echo "Sites Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir Sites
    fi
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Developer/" ]; then
    echo "Developer Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir Developer
    fi
    cd Developer
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Developer/iOSProjects/" ]; then
    echo "iOSProjects Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir iOSProjects
    fi
    if [ -d "/Users/admin/Developer/macOSProjects/" ]; then
    echo "macOSProjects Folder Exists"
    else
    mkdir macOSProjects
    fi
    
  3. Save the file with the name FolderCreator on the Desktop.
  4. Open the Terminal Application
  5. Let us make the script executable. To do that, run the commands:
    cd ~/Desktop
    chmod 777 FolderCreator
    
  6. Now run the command:
    ./FolderCreator

You have now easily created your own shell script. For more information about terminal commands you can read the following articles: Terminal Commands for OS X – BasicTerminal Commands for OS X – Part 2Terminal Commands – Part 3, & Configuring/Troubleshooting OS X Using Command Line

AppleScript

AppleScript is Apple’s proprietary scripting technology. It comes bundled as a part of macOS. To create AppleScript tasks we need to use the built in AppleScript editor.

Here is an example of a small AppleScript

tell application “Finder” to set the view for all Finder Windows as column view
tell application “Finder” to close every Finder Window
tell application “Safari”
open location “<a href="http://www.arunpatwardhan.com">http://www.arunpatwardhan.com</a>
open location “<a href="http://www.amaranthine.in/feedback">http://www.amaranthine.in/feedback</a>
open location “<a href="http://www.amaranthine.in/gallery">http://www.amaranthine.in/gallery</a>
end tell

Copy that block of commands in your AppleScript editor and see what comes up.

There are many more things that can be done with AppleScript. You can have popup windows asking users for commands, turn off the computer. Change the settings for different parts of the OS and for different applications. All this with commands written in a single file. All the user has to do is double click the file.

For more information about AppleScript visit Apple’s Developer site.

Launch Agents, Launch Daemons

NOTE: Scheduling Launch Agents/Launch Daemons improperly may leave your computer in an unusable state. Always test this on a computer that does not contain important data. If you are unsure, please consult someone with knowledge of the same before proceeding ahead.

Launch Agents/Launch Daemons allow you to schedule tasks which are to be performed at intervals. You can also use them to ensure that tasks are kept running and that the user does not have the possibility to quit them. To setup a launch daemon:

  1. First create a Plist file that looks like the one below. I have created a script called echoer and placed it in the /Users/admin/Applications folder where admin is the user.Screen Shot 2018-03-22 at 10.34.18 AM
  2. Place the file in the ~/Library/LaunchAgents folder. Name it in.amaranthine.demod.plist
  3. Run the command in terminal to load the Launch Agent.
    launchctl load ~/Library/LaunchAgent/in.amaranthine.demod.plist

That’s it you have just setup a simple launch agent which will ensure that your script runs every 6 seconds.

For more information or to create detailed Launch Agents/Launch Daemons visit:Creating Launch Agents & Launch Daemons

Login Items

An easy way to automatically load, Applications/Files/Folder, as soon as well login is to use Login Items. This is very easy to do.

  1. Open System Preferences > Users & Groups
  2. Switch to the Login Items tab.IMG_1560
  3. Click on the ‘+’ sign at the bottom to add new Applications. Let’s add Maps so that it launches as soon as we login. You should see it appear in the list.IMG_1561

That’s it. You have setup login items. You can repeat this process for as many applications as you wish.

Others

PHP, Perl, Python, Javascript, Swift allow you to create custom automated tasks and routines. These require knowledge of programming.

Choosing the right approach

Which one to choose depends on a lot of factors but we can break it down to 2:

  • You are a technically qualified person and understand things like programming, scripting and command line
  • You are an end user working either at home or in office.

End User

If you are an End user then you should really stick to Automator and Login Items. These are the ones that are the easiest to implement and least likely to cause any issues. You could venture and explore other options if you have a good understanding of them. Or you can ask the IT or Tech Support teams to help you with scripting and other technologies.

Tech Support or IT Person

Any of the tools mentioned above can be used by you. Make sure that you have a good command over the tools and are able to troubleshoot issues arising out of their usage.

Note: The programs/applications/tools and languages mentioned in this article may not cover all the available options. Also, anyone who uses or implements the items mentioned in the article does so at their own risk. The author does not take responsibility for any loss or damage that may arise from the use of the programs/applications/tools and languages mentioned above.

 

Creating multi-OS Install Disk

In this article we are going to look at how to create a multi-OS Install Disk. We are going to look at the example of creating a multi-OS Install Disk for the following versions of the OS:

  • 10.9.1
  • 10.10
  • 10.10.4
  • 10.11.5
  • 10.12
  • 10.12.1
  • 10.12.2
  • 10.12.3

The idea is to have a single disk with multiple versions of the Install Disk on it. The versions should reflect the need of the organisation.

REQUIREMENTS

  1. USB Drive at least 75GB in Size. This depends on the number of Install drives you wish to have. At the very least there should be enough space to create 2 partitions of 8 GB each. 
    While I have mentioned USB drive, it need not be restricted to that interface. You can use Thunderbolt, FireWire or even an SDXC slot for this. Ideally the port should be one that is supported on maximum possible computers.
  2. Install setup for each version of the OS for which you want to create the install disk. The setup must match the version desired.
  3. A Mac running the same major version of the OS. You can only create an install disk for 10.9.x on a Mac running OS X 10.9.x, the same applies for the other versions of the OS.

The process is the same. It’s just that it needs to be repeated.

STEPS

  1. Create 8 partitions on a USB Drive. Assume that the USB Drive is called Recovery Drive. Give the partitions names Partition 1, Partition 2,….
  2. Connect the USB Drive to a Mac running 10.9.1 or later.
  3. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  4. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 1 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Mavericks.app
  5. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.9.1, if necessary.
  6. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.10
  7. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  8. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 2 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app
  9. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.10, if necessary.
  10. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.10.4
  11. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  12. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 3 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ Yosemite.app
  13. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.10.4, if necessary.
  14. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.11.5 or later.
  15. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  16. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 4 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ El\ Capitan.app
  17. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.11.5, if necessary.
  18. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12 or later.
  19. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  20. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 5 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  21. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12., if necessary.
  22. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12.1 or later.
  23. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  24. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 6 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  25. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12.1., if necessary.
  26. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12.2 or later.
  27. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  28. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 7 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  29. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12.2, if necessary.
  30. Once completed eject the USB Drive & connect it to a Mac running 10.12.3 or later.
  31. Make sure that the OS Installer setup is located in the Applications folder.
  32. Run the following command in the command line.
    sudo /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app/Contents/Resources/createinstallmedia --volume /Volumes/Partition\ 8 --applicationpath  /Applications/Install\ macOS\ Sierra.app
  33. Rename the partition as Install disk for OS X 10.12.3, if necessary.

The commands shown above might be different from what appears on your screen. A lot will depend on what you have named your partitions as, the name you may have given to the OS Installer file, and the location of the OS Installer.

The process of renaming the partitions post creation of the install disk is not necessary, but very useful because that will help you identify the appropriate partition when using the drive.

The above process is very scalable & can be done for even more versions of the OS if required.

Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.11.39 AM
This diagram illustrates the layout of the different partitions on a single USB Drive.

When to use Swift & when to use Objective-C?

Over the past few years I have received a number of questions with regards to Swift & Objective-C. Specifically related to the future of the 2. I will try to address those questions in the form of an FAQ.

Should I learn Swift or Objective-C?

This is a question that I get from developers new to iOS/macOS App Development. Ideally speaking, you should learn Swift. As that is going to become the main language for App development on Apple’s ecosystem. However, the reality is a little different. There are a large number of applications that are written in Objective-C. You are likely to encounter them at your workplace. You may also have to maintain, upgrade & improve those apps. In such a case, it makes sense to learn Objective-C too.

Can I mix Swift & Objective-C in the same project?

Yes! But remember that you should check for feature compatibility between the 2 languages. Adding Swift code to an Objective-C project may not be very beneficial as only those features that are compatible with Objective-C can be written in Swift.

Going the other way round is not a problem. You can read more about that here:Mixing Swift & Objective-C

Will Objective-C be deprecated in the future?

That is an interesting question. There is no formal announcement from Apple stating the Objective-C is going to be deprecated. However, one can expect more attention to be paid to Swift. That is where most of the newest techniques, tools & technologies are going to be available. Objective-C will keep running as it is as of now.

Can I mix Swift with other Programming Languages?

Swift can easily be mixed with Objective-C. If you wish to incorporate C++ or C code in your Swift Project then wrapping them in Objective-C code allows you to achieve this.

Apart from that Swift does support working with C code code. You can read about that here:Interacting with C APIs.

Swift does not provide interoperability support for any other languages as of now.

Which version of Swift should I use?

It is recommended that you use the latest available version of Swift. However, the actual version that you work on depends on many other factors like: compatibility with OS Versions, support & business related choices.

Why shouldn’t we just convert all our Objective-C code to Swift and keep things simple?

A very tempting proposition. However, practical realities prevent us from doing this. The process of converting from Objective-C to Swift is time consuming. Apart from having to convert the syntax, the code also needs to be optimised taking into account the new features that are available. This will mean extensive testing and quality assurance. Most companies will not invest their resources into this endeavour.

A better approach is to migrate to Swift gradually. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. If its a brand new product/app that you are creating, start it in Swift.
  2. Any new reusable code components that are being created should be done in Swift (they should be Objective-C compatible if you intend to use this code in Objective-C projects).
  3. If any part of a product is going to undergo heavy change, either due to a bug fix or a new feature. This is a good time to convert it into Swift.

A good example is how Apple is approaching the process of migrating to Swift. They are doing it component by component.

I have been developing apps in Objective-C for some time. I am able to create any reasonably complicated app now. If Objective-C hasn’t been deprecated then should I start making apps in Swift?

This is a choice that you have to make. It is recommended that new apps (at the very least) be made in Swift as that is the language that will undergo the maximum amount of changes & improvements in the future.

What do you suggest as a trainer?

Another question that I get very often. It depends on the situation. I would say learn both Swift & Objective-C. You can skip learning Objective-C if you are confident that you will not have to work with any projects written in that language.

If I am starting on a brand new project I would use Swift. But if its an Objective-C project I would stick to Objective-C.

Can Swift development only be done on macOS?

No! Swift development can also be done on Linux. However, iOS/macOS/tvOS/watchOS App Development can only be done on macOS through Xcode.

How should I migrate to Swift?

There are different approaches that one can use. It all depends on the situation and needs of your organisation. Here are some things that you can do:

  • Start development of brand new apps (from scratch) in Swift.
  • If you are creating a brand new library which will be used for future projects then go ahead with Swift.
  • If a major component of an existing app is going to be changed significantly then you can go ahead with Swift.

You can do all or some of the above. There may be other strategies too. You should also factor in the cost of migration from one language to another.