OS X Command Line Utilities

What I love about OSX is its UNIX(-like) foundation. There are the default UNIX command line tools but also lots of OSX specific commands. This is a compilation of some of these commands you might not know. Feel free to comment.

This is a mere list of commands with a short description and one or two examples. To find out more of course use man command.

Commands may destroy all your data or cause a nuclear meltdown — use only if you know what you are doing.

Configuration and networking


– Manage a variety of configuration stuff.

sudo systemsetup -getdate # view system date systemsetup -getcomputername # display computer name

– Execute Apple Software update from the commandline

softwareupdate -l # list available updates sudo softwareupdate -i -a # install all available updates

– Manage the network configuration

sudo networksetup -listallhardwareports # list all network interfaces with MAC addresses sudo networksetup -switchtolocation home # switch network locations

– Directory service management, for example users, groups etc. – complex stuff, mostly for use on OSX server

dscl localhost -list /Local/Default/Users # list all local users

– Manage DNS cache

dscacheutil -flushcache # clear local DNS cache

– View system information (Like SystemProfiler.app in Utilities)

system_profiler # list lots of information



– Change file flags, like “hidden”, “archived”..

ls -l0 # View flags in the current directory

– View extended file attributes, like icon, creator and so on. To write these attributes use SetFileInfo

GetFileInfo any.txt # list the attributes

Disks and images


– Manage local disks

diskutil list # list local drives and partitions sudo diskutil repairPermissions / # repair permissions

– Manage disk images

hdiutil burn animage.dmg # burn imagefile to cd/dvd hdiutil create -srcfolder path any.dmg # create dmg-image from folder

– Format a disk

# dangerous enough...

– Interact with CD/DVD drives

drutil eject # eject media drutil status # show detailed information about drives and media



– Open a file with a given application.

open example.txt # opens the file in the default text editor open . # opens a new finder window with the current commandline path

– Access OSX clipboard

ls | pbcopy # copy dir listing to clipboard

– Manage Spotlight

mdutil -s / # show indexing status on root drive

– Take a screenshot

screencapture ~/Desktop/scr.png # make a screenshot and save it to the given file

– Run Applescript from the shell

osascript -e 'tell app "Terminal" to close every window whose frontmost is true' # close all terminal windows sudo osascript -e "set Volume 0" # set system volume to zero

– Manage QuickLook

qlmanage -m # list QuickLook plugins and handlers

– Run periodic system jobs

sudo periodic daily # run daily stuff


More in-depth information can be found here:

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