How to Do Stuff in the Terminal

Moving from a GUI to a CLI can be difficult when we are so used to dragging our files from one folder to another. One of the difficulties is simply figuring out where we are in the filesystem! Here are some key indicators that the terminal gives us to show where we are:

LaunchCode-Super-Computer:~ lcstaffmember$

This line is called the prompt. The prompt lets us know that the terminal is ready to accept commands. LaunchCode-Super-Computer is the name of the computer. The ~ tells us we are currently in the Home directory. The Home directory is the folder that contains everything in the computer. lcstaffmember is the username of the person who has logged onto the terminal. We will be typing all of our commands after the $.

As we navigate through our filesystem, the terminal will rarely output a line to let us know that the change has occurred. We have to keep our eye out on our prompt as we enter our commands. The name of the computer and the username will not change, however, the space where the ~ is, will. That indicates our current directory.

Basic Commands

There are many commands you can use in the terminal to move through the filesystem of your computer and projects.

lsLists all files and folders in the current directory.
cd <new-directory>cd stands for change directory. Navigates from the current directory to new-directory.
pwdPrint working directory. Prints the path of the current directory.
mkdir <new-folder>Make directory. Creates new-folder inside the current directory.
touch <new-file>Creates a file called new-file in the current directory.
rm <old-file>Removes old-file from the current directory.
man <command>Manual. Prints to the screen the manual pages for the command. This includes the proper syntax and a description of how that command works.
clearEmpties the terminal window of previous commands and output.
cp <source-path> <target-path>Copies the file or directory at source-path and puts it in the target-path.
mv <source-path> <target-path>Moves the file or directory at source-path from its current location to target-path.
  1. rm will permanently remove items from the computer and cannot be undone.
  2. Git bash does not support man. Instead, <command> --help provides a scaled down alternative.

Beyond these basic commands, there are some shortcuts if you don’t want to type out the full name of a directory or simply can’t remember it.

ShortcutWhere it goes
~The Home directory
.The current directory
..The parent directory of the current directory

For an in-depth tutorial of how to use a CLI to move through your daily life, refer to the terminal commands tutorial .

Check Your Understanding


What line in a CLI indicates that the terminal is ready to accept commands?

  1. prompt
  2. command
  3. shell
  4. There isn’t a line that does that.

Which shortcut takes you to the parent directory?

  1. .
  2. ~
  3. ..