Quick Tip: View All Mac OS Terminal Commands and What They Do

Recently, the Rocket Yard introduced you to one of macOS and OS X’s most powerful apps – the Terminal app. (If you missed it, you can catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2).

While the Terminal app is quite powerful, it can also be quite confusing. And making sense of the hundreds of different terminal commands can feel like a Sisyphean task. Fortunately, there is a quick and easy way to view all of the nearly 1,500 possible commands. There’s also a simple way to find out what those esoteric phrases actually do.

Read on to find out how to view the commands. As far as putting them into use … that’s a conversation for another day.

Viewing the commands
1) Open the Terminal app which is located at /Applications/Utilities/
2) Once you’re at the bash prompt, simply hold the Escape key, or hit it two times (depending on your OS).
3) You will then be asked if you want to “Display all 1445 possibilites? (y or n).” Type “y” to see the commands. (This total may vary based on your OS version).

4.) Press Return continuously to scroll through all of the commands.

Discovering what they mean
1) With the Terminal window still open, right click on any command that you’re curious about.
2) Select “Open man Page” from the list.

3) You will then see an explanation of the command in a new window similar to the image below.

4) Repeat this process about 1,400 times and memorize the explanations to become a true Terminal command expert!

Have a favorite Terminal command? Let us know in the comments section. And for more tricks and guides, be sure to check out the Rocket Yard’s Tech Tips section.