Terminal basics for the truly newbies

Gaining access and having knowledge of terminal basics is the first step towards a path of geekdom.  Terminal skills will give you programming flexibility and will enable you to accomplish  tasks more efficiently in your computer, not to mention that  it is the requirement 0.0. for performing some of the exercises  found in this collaborative blog.  This post is intended for the beginner crowd, if you are a terminal-cognizant, please stop reading this post and do something productive.  In the other hand, if you are wondering what the terminal is? why do you need it?  how do you get it?  and how to use it? … this post may suit you.  Just to be clear, this is not a comprehensive introduction on terminal use, I’m just trying to give you brief background and point you in the right direction.

What is the Terminal ? 

In simple terms, the terminal is an interface that allows you to type and execute commands rapidly on your computer.

Why do you need it?

The terminal does wonders for a wide range of tasks. The first example that comes to mind is data management; the terminal enables you to create, move, remove and edit files and folders efficiently using a single line, you practically will never want to use a GUI for this purpose again.   As you advance in your programming skills, you’ll find yourself compiling and running programs through the terminal, and doing more cool things,  such as working remotely (check out The Cluster and Basic Unix Commands ).

How to get it?

If you are a Windows user, you need to install a Unix-like shell such as Cygwin.  This platform takes the Windows Command Prompt (which is unpleasant and less useful) and converts it into a UNIX terminal (which is neat and powerful).

For Windows users:  Download the latest version of Cygwin from the following link:  https://cygwin.com/install.html, then click on the “setup*.exe” link.  If you have trouble during the installation process, you can find step by step guides (including screenshots) in the following links:



For Mac users:  You don’t need to install a thing!  You just need to type “command + spacebar” and a search bar will pop up, just type” terminal + enter” and voilà,  a terminal will open.

Own the terminal! 

This last part may require some time and patience; however, there are plenty of available resources to help you become a terminal expert or at least become terminal conversant.    I found the following links especially useful:

This first link gives a quick course on terminal use: http://cli.learncodethehardway.org/book/

I also like this life-hacker link; it provides a list of common commands by topic:  http://lifehacker.com/5633909/who-needs-a-mouse-learn-to-use-the-command-line-for-almost-anything

Common terminal nicknames

When looking for more documentation, do not get confused by the lingo: terminal, console, shell, command line and command prompt, are the same thing.


3 thoughts on “Terminal basics for the truly newbies

  1. Pingback: Basic Borg MOEA use for the truly newbies Part 1/2 | Water Programming: A Collaborative Research Blog

  2. Pingback: Random Seed Analysis for the Borg MOEA using DTLZ2, 3 objective instance | Water Programming: A Collaborative Research Blog

  3. Pingback: Water Programming Blog Guide (Part I) – Water Programming: A Collaborative Research Blog

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