Mac OS X Command Line Tools

We only present a few of the many command line tools available. Please have a look at Apple's Command-Line Administration Guide for a completer introduction.

List System Information


This shows the version and build number of the installed Mac OS X.


This will list the hardware and software configuration for the MacOS X workstation. Among the useful information you can find the type of the CPU, the serial number of the Macintosh, the amount of RAM, the size, type, and serial number of the hard disk(s) and the installed major software packages. This is the command line equivalent of "Apple -> About this Mac".

Open Applications or Files

Applications or files can be opened without any clicks from the command line.

open file                    # open file with default application
open -e file                 # open file in TextEditor
open -a Calculator           # open application Calculator
open -a Preview doc.pdf      # open doc.pdf in Preview
open -g file                 # open file in the background with default application
open # open webpage in default browser
open # compose new email with default client
opendiff file1 file2         # open FileMerge (Xcode) with differences between file1 and file2

Apple Software Updates

The updates for Apple software can be checked for and installed from the menu "Apple -> Software Update" or the command line

/usr/sbin/softwareupdate -l           # list all available updates
/usr/sbin/softwareupdate -i <name>    # install specific update
/usr/sbin/softwareupdate -ia          # install all updates

read/write user settings

To view your user configuration settings you can type

defaults read /

To enable showing hidden dotfiles in Finder you can run defaults write AppleShowAllFiles -bool TRUE; killall Finder (substitute FALSE to disable it again)

See for instance for more examples of defaults write hacks.