Top Terminal Commands Developers Must Know For Mac, Windows and Linux

All About the Unix and DOS Command Lines for Developers

by Alexandra Kropova from Mammoth Interactive INC.

Covered in this tutorial:

  • What is the terminal
  • Why all developers must know how to use the terminal
  • What is the terminal on Mac, Windows and Linux operating systems
  • Basic terminal commands you must know

What is the Terminal

The terminal allows you to interface with your operating system. You can do a lot of development tasks like connect to Github, install packages like nodemon, run servers for websites, automate tasks, run scripts and more.

Why all developers need to know the Terminal

Whether you’re a front-end, back-end or other developer, you need to know how to use the command prompt (also commonly called the shell, terminal, command line or console.) Using the terminal WILL be required for some project that you work on, guaranteed. Many jobs REQUIRE command line proficiency.

Mac vs Windows vs Linux Terminals

Mac Terminal

  • Mac’s Terminal application comes with your Mac.
  • Find the Terminal in your Applications folder or via Spotlight Search.

Windows Terminal

  • Windows’ Command Line application comes with your Windows operating system.
  • This is a DOS shell, which uses mostly different commands from a Unix or Linux shell.

Get a Linux Shell on Windows

  • Get 64-bit Windows (32-bit is outdated and won’t work)
  • In your Control Panel, search for “Turn Windows Features On Or Off”
  • Enable the “Windows Subsystem for Linux” option in the list.
  • Click OK.
  • You must restart your computer for changes to come into effect.


  • You can install a Linux operating system as a replacement for your Mac or Windows operating system if you wish.
  • Linux is free and open source.

Hint for the Terminal

Use the up/down arrow keys to re-do a prompt.

Enter a folder

cd path/to/project/folder

Hint: On Mac, right-click on a folder. You’ll see a list of functionalities, including ‘Copy’. Press and hold the Alt key on your keyboard. This will turn the ‘Copy’ button into the ‘Copy as pathname’

Warning: Make sure to use forward slashes vs backslashes if you’re on Mac vs Windows.

Print a statement

echo "Hello world!"

See the path you are at

Unix or Linux (Mac or Linux/Ubuntu)


DOS (Windows)


List out all the folders that exist where you currently are

Unix or Linux (Mac or Linux/Ubuntu)


DOS (Windows)


Make a new directory (folder)

mkdir newdirectory

Go up one folder (to the parent folder)

cd ..

Build a new file

Unix or Linux (Mac or Linux/Ubuntu)

touch newFile

DOS (Windows)

notepad newFile.txt


copy con newFile.txt

Copy a file

Unix or Linux (Mac or Linux/Ubuntu)

cp toCopy.txt copyName.txt

DOS (Windows)

copy toCopy.txt copyName.txt

Edit a file

Unix or Linux (Mac or Linux/Ubuntu)

nano file.txt

Steps to editing a file on Unix:

  1. Enter text
  2. Press Control+X to exit
  3. Press Y to save
  4. Press Enter to return to Terminal

DOS (Windows)

notepad newFile.txt


copy con newFile.txt

Move a file

Unix or Linux (Mac or Linux/Ubuntu)

mv fileToMove.txt pathOfNewFolder

DOS (Windows)

move fileToMove.txt pathOfNewFolder

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