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.

Useful scripts for macOS

Getting Started

You might find these articles useful

One of the advantages with scripts is the fact that you can easily automate many tasks. Here is an article that walks you through that process.

If you come across a situation where you want to perform a set of tasks on multiple computers then scripts come in very handy.

I will be providing the Shell Script version of the task. Feel free to make changes to the scripts as required. I will try to provide an AppleScript version of the tasks a little later.

This is not the only way to implement the scripts. There may be multiple approaches towards achieving the same result. You will have to explore and examine the correct approach.

This is not a comprehensive list. The scripts should give you some ideas and act as a useful reference when you are creating your own scripts.

I have tested these scripts on macOS Catalina 10.15

Download

You can download all the scripts from here.

Script CategoryPage Number
Settings and Accounts1
Security2
Data3
Information Collection4
File System5

Disclaimer

The Software 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 Software Or The Use Or Other Dealings In The Software.


WARNING

Please try these scripts on a test computer. Some of the scripts do make changes to the system. Always test before using these scripts.

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.

Configuring/Troubleshooting OS X Using Command Line

The following are some commands that you can use for Configuration &/or Troubleshooting. This list is by no means exhaustive. Do check the man pages for more information. This article assumes familiarity with Terminal commands. If you are new to the Terminal Application, please read the following articles before reading this one.

Terminal Commands for OS X – Basic
Terminal Commands for OS X – Part 2
Terminal Commands for OS X – Part 3

SYSTEM SETUP

softwareupdate

This command is used to install software updates remotely. View the following support article for more information.

dscl

This command is used to manage the different Users & Groups on your Mac. Using this command one can create, modify & view the different settings related to Users & Groups locally on the Mac. Amongst the other things, User Authentication through passwords can also be managed from here. View the man page for more information on the options available.

createhomedir

This command is used to create & populate home folders on the Mac. View the man page for more information on the options available.

systemsetup

As the name says, this command is used to setup the system. One of the more generic commands, using this we can set the date/time, energy preferences & various other settings. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

SECURITY

security

This is the command line version of the GUI application Keychain Access. Use this command to manage your Keychain. Some of the things that can be done using this command include: creating keychains, locking/unlocking keychains, finding your secure information within the Keychain. View the man page for more information on the options available.

FILE SYSTEM TROUBLESHOOTING

fsck

This command is used for running File System Checks. View the man page for more information on the options available.

diskutil

This command is used to run disk utility options. This is the command line equivalent of  the Disk Utility application. There are many operations available within this command line utility that are not available directly in the GUI version of the tool. View the man page for more information on the options available.

fdesetup

This command is used to control the FileVault settings on the Mac. Again, like the distil command this utility gives a lot more options than the GUI version of the Mac. Including the ability to change the recovery keys. View the man page for more information on the options available.

chmod

This command is used to modify permissions to files & folders. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

ln

This is the command used to create both hard links & soft links in the terminal. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

xattr

This command is used to examine &/or modify the attributes/metadata for a given file or folder. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

tmutil

This command allows you to configure &/or setup the Time Machine service. This is the command line version of the Time Machine settings located within System Preferences. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

locate

This command is used to search for files on the Mac. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

hdiutil

This command is also used to manage storage devices & Filesystems. The diskutil & hdiutil are command line versions of the Disk Utility app. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

NETWORK SETTINGS & TROUBLESHOOTING

networksetup

This command is used to set up & configure your network settings. This is the command line equivalent of the Network Preferences located under System Preferences. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

ipconfig

This command lets you view & control the IP configuration settings. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

ifconfig

This command is used to configure the Network Interface parameters. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

route

This command allows you to manually manipulate the routing tables. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

ping

Used to send ping diagnostic requests. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

scutil

Used to manage the System Configuration parameters. View the man page for more information on the different options available.

START/SLEEP/SHUTDOWN

shutdown

This command is used to shut down the Mac from the command line. View the man page for more information on the options available.

sleep

This command is used to put the system to sleep. View the man page for more information on the options available.

reboot/halt

This command is used for restarting the system. View the man page for more information on the options available.

caffeinate

Used to prevent the system from sleeping. View the man page for more information on the options available.

FILE EDITING

There are various editors available for command line. I am just listing a few. A lot of the editing can also be done in the GUI but in some cases the changes have to be done as a Super User. In Such situations loading one of the following editors using the sudo command can come in handy.

Emacs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emacs
https://www.gnu.org/software/emacs/
http://www.xemacs.org

Vi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vi

Vim

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vim_(text_editor)
http://www.vim.org

GEdit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gedit