Toolin' around the terminal

Disclaimer: If you aren’t familiar with the terminal yet, you might want to get introduced first.

We know where we are in the terminal, and we can examine our surroundings. The only thing we need to know now is how to get around. Luckily, most terminals have a number of really useful features to help you navigate. Not the least of which is cd.

The cd(change directory) command is the go to command for getting places in a *nix shell. Try it out.

joel@monolith:~$ cd Documents
joel@monolith:~/Documents$ _

This is a great start, but what about going backwards? We just need to cd to the parent directory. How, though? Well, the parent directory, and also the current directory, have special donations to them in, you might have even seen them before. The parent directory can be referenced to through .. and the current directory can be referenced through .. Yup, a couple dots.

Lets get back.

joel@monolith:~/Documents$ cd ..

It worked!

Need for speed, terminal velocity

With cd and the parent directory reference, .., you are armed with the knowledge necessary to get just about anywhere with the terminal. It can be pretty slow typing all those directories though, so lets get this things motor revving.

If used a computer at all in the last ten years you probably know about auto-completion, where you start to type and the application finishes it for you. Well, quite a few terminals have <tab> triggered auto-completion, and it makes all the difference when it comes to speed in the terminal.

joel@monolith:~$ cd Doc<tab>
joel@monolith:~$ cd Documents
joel@monolith:~/Documents$ _

Booyah, that saved me having to type five characters. Tab completion has its caveats though. If what you have so far is too ambiguous, can’t be uniquely matched, you’ll have to keep typing. It can also get hairy trying to tab complete a name that occurs a lot in a directory. For example:

joel@monolith:~$ cd D<tab><tab>
Desktop/  Documents/  Downloads/  Dropbox/
joel@monolith:~$ cd Doc<tab>
joel@monolith:~/Documents$ _

If you noticed, double-tapping tab will show all the possibly results if their is any ambiguity. This is usually very useful, but not always.

joel@monolith:~$ cd /usr/share/<tab><tab>
Display all 23598 possibilities? (y or n)_

Yeah, no.

Tab complete gets you places pretty fast, but we can still go faster. Remember the values that are referenced to the current directory, and how fast it is to type those couple dots. Well, there are other references like that too. One of the best ones is ~. The ~ references the home directory of the current user. This can be used to get back home from anywhere.

dorothy@munchkinBox:/someplace/that/definitely/is/not/kansas$ cd ~
dorothy@munchkinBox:~$ _

So what? Anybody with magic slippers can get back home, but what if you want to return to /someplace/that/definitely/is/not/kansas/ again? Well, you could cd to the directory again, but who wants that hassle. Our terminal has something even ruby slipers don’t, the ability to take you to the last place you’ve been.

How? With the - reference. - references the directory you were in prior to your most recent cd command. Now, lets try getting back to oz.

dorothy@munchkinBox:~$ cd -
dorothy@munchkinBox:/someplace/that/definitely/is/not/kansas$ _

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