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Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal

© Anthony Lawrence, aplawrence.com

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  • Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal
  • Joe Kissell
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  • 9781933671550

Old-timers like me couldn't avoid being exposed to command line interfaces - that's all we had when we started using computers. Actually, that's even wrong: when I started with computers, your input choices were front panel switches, punched cards or punched tape - command line interfaces were a big step up!

Younger people and people who simply started using computers a bit later weren't necessarily exposed to any command line. Any computer they ever used had a graphical user interface and while it still may have had a command line available, there was seldom any incentive to use it. That apparent lack of any compelling reason remains true, but in fact understanding the command line can give you much more control over your computer and allow you to accomplish some tasks much more quickly and easily.

That's especially true for Mac OS X which gives you a real Unix command line. The old DOS command line in Windows is weak and anemic; Unix shells such as are provided with OS X are very powerful tools. But how do you learn to use those tools effectively if you are starting from square one?

Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal is the answer. Joe Kissell leads you step by step from knowing absolutely nothing to having confident control of Mac OS X Terminal and the bash shell. If you have been fearful of the OS X command line, this is where you want to start.

Tony Lawrence 2009/05/04 Rating: 4.5

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Tue May 5 22:45:08 2009: 6333   drag

The different between the GUI and the command line is simple to understand, as is why the command line is so powerful.

With the GUI it is designed to offer you up a list of possible operations to choose from. It can be the form of a dialog box, wheels, menus, spinners, wizards, box full of icons, etc. Whatever. The main point is that you get lists of things of options. Unless your doing some sort of image creation thing like Photoshop or Blender3D or something like that.

So the GUI is asking "Do you want me to do this?"
Also the GUI is very difficult to script.

With the command line you get a simple prompt. It's not listing operations, it's not giving you any options. GUIs are easier to learn and navigate because you can simply visually scan the list of options they present to you, but there is no such thing in a command line.

With the command line it's waiting on your input, your decisions. With the GUI the programmer has to anticipate your desires and provide you the option you want... but with the command line there is no such thing. Since it's easy to build complex functionality by stringing a number of smaller programs together there is essentially nothing that your limited in doing. The programmer, if they are good, does not anticipate the requirements of the end user far beyond what the tool is immediately needed to do.

So with the command line your provided with essentially unlimited amount of functionality, but it's up to do to figure out how to take advantage of it. With no built-in limits and infinate functionality provided through scripting it makes for a very powerful user interface.

Of course the best is the combination of both a slick GUI and powerful and functional shell.

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