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macOS command-line tools you might not know about (saurabhs.org)
2039 points by Gadiguibou 87 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 442 comments

You can use sips together with iconutil to generate a complete .icns file for your app from a single 1024 by 1024 PNG without any third party software:

    mkdir MyIcon.iconset
    cp Icon1024.png MyIcon.iconset/icon_512x512@2x.png
    sips -z 16 16     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_16x16.png
    sips -z 32 32     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_16x16@2x.png
    sips -z 32 32     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_32x32.png
    sips -z 64 64     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_32x32@2x.png
    sips -z 128 128   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_128x128.png
    sips -z 256 256   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_128x128@2x.png
    sips -z 256 256   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_256x256.png
    sips -z 512 512   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_256x256@2x.png
    sips -z 512 512   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_512x512.png
    iconutil -c icns MyIcon.iconset
As a bonus, generate .ico with ffmpeg:

    ffmpeg -i MyIcon.iconset/icon_256x256.png icon.ico
Incidentally, does anyone know enough about the way sips scales PNGs to confirm that it makes sense to create the 16px version straight from 1024px, as opposed to basing it off 32px (and all the way up)? I.e., is it better to downscale in fewer steps (as currently) or in smaller steps?

additional bonus, you can input an SVG at the start if you use qlmanage first instead of the cp command:

qlmanage -t -s 1024x1024 -o MyIcon.iconset/Icon1024.png icon.svg

Note of caution: if qlmanage uses QuickLook SVG rendering, YMMV. I recently had to deal with SVGs that render broken in Finder but correctly in, say, Affinity or Adobe tools.

Rasterization feels sufficiently finicky that I personally would consider it part of designer’s workflow rather than automated conversion pipeline; but then some would say the same about raster versions at different sizes, so in the end it depends on what you can and want spend resources at.

If it does work for you, though, you could generate every size from SVG directly and skip sips altogether (but you should check both methods to see which gives you a better quality icon, at small sizes single pixels can matter and so it would depend on how qlmanage handles rasterization to different sizes).

That’s fair. I will say, I’ve found that svgs that only rendered “right” in Adobe/Affinity to be broken most other places too.

May be a version thing, may be some extended stuff that more common parsers do not support, not sure.

If you really want nice looking smaller icons (16x16, 32x32) you'll have to hand edit them after scaling down to get something that looks crisp.

That said I just checked some macOS system icons (get info on app, select icon, copy, create new document in Preview.app) and they don't seem to be hand adjusted any more.

I’d say hand-crafting pixel-perfect icons with different versions for extreme sizes is worthwhile (and I don’t believe in simple rasterization from vector for the same reason), but not every developer would have resources to spare for that.

I was lucky enough to oversee a project replacing seven hundred icons back in 2017, and we hand-adjusted the low resolution versions of 16x16 and 24x24.

> “…notice that the icons are not simply the same image scaled up or down. TTrackBar is a good example of this: at each size, the small indicator marks are different. An icon designed for 16×16 or 32×32 won’t resize and scale to look good at 24×24, because the pixel grid is different. Even if we support antialiasing, a 1-pixel-wide line looks much cleaner when it takes up one pixel in the image, rather than being approximated through antialiasing over several pixels, which makes it look blurry. Similarly, shape edges should be snapped to the pixel grid for each size. We’ve gone through and tweaked the icons for each different pixel grid.”

This meant that not only did we tweak the icons at the small sizes (in the example above for a track bar control, we don’t use the large size 128x one scaled down to 16x even though they are both built on a 16x grid) but that we used a different base grid for the 24x and 48x versions compared to all other sizes.

It took time. And not everyone has those resources. But if you can, it is the right thing to do.


Thanks for the insight. My script targets a solo dev such as myself, but crafting icons is always superior.

As a designer, the way I recommend to do it is not by tweaking icons but by having a specific process separating design from deliverables. Define branding language, come up with your symbols and marks and mascots and their use guidelines, and then prepare deliverables based on that. Icons intended to be used at extremely different sizes (16px vs. 512px) and in different contexts are different deliverables.

Perfect timing. I need to generate an.icns today and I'm going to try this. Thanks :)

`pbcopy` and `pbpaste` are one of my most-loved in the list.

Dealing with some minified json, switching to iTerm, doing `pbpaste | json_pp | pbcopy` and having a clean output is _so_ nice.

I find that the `pbpaste | something | pbcopy` idiom is common enough that it's worth having a shell function for it:

  pbfilter() {
      if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then
          pbpaste | "$@" | pbcopy
          pbpaste | pbcopy

Then you can use something like `pbfilter json_pp` or `pbfilter base64 -d` or `pbfilter sed 's/this/that/'` or whatever.

This version also can also act as a plain-text-only filter. If you just use `pbfilter` with no argument, it'll remove any formatting from the text in the pasteboard, leaving just straight plain text.

It does have a some limitations, though: you can't use it with an alias, or pipeline, or anything complex like that. The filter command must be a single regular command (or function) and its arguments.

I love this flow! Such a powerful and clean way to solve text issues.

    # This will remove Windows double-spaced empty lines from your copy/paste buffer
    alias winlines="sed '/^$/{$!{N;s/\n//;};}'"
    # pbw = [P]aste [B]uffer to fix [W]indows line endings
    alias pbw="pbpaste | winlines | pbcopy"
Also - if you want `pbpaste` and `pbcopy` on Linux...

    # imitate MacOS's paste buffer copy/paste:
    alias pbcopy='xsel --clipboard --input'
    alias pbpaste='xsel --clipboard --output'

Here's the xclip way (almost the same actually).

    alias pbcopy="xclip -selection clipboard"
    alias pbpaste="xclip -selection clipboard -o"

I use this, and another Mac affordance I copy in Linux is

    alias open="xdg-open"

There's `wl-copy` and `wl-paste` for Wayland users too, via https://github.com/bugaevc/wl-clipboard

And `cb` which works cross-platform, via https://github.com/Slackadays/clipboard

I find it so annoying that these only work with plain text and RTF. On X11 there is `xclip`[0] and on Wayland there is `wl-clipboard`[1] both of which support binary file formats either through parsing the header or explicitly setting the MIME type.

This means you can do things like copy an image from the terminal and paste it into a graphical program like a browser or chat client and vice-versa. Also can be very useful in shell scripts for desktop automation.

The workaround on MacOS is to use AppleScript via `osascript` to `set the clipboard to...`.

  [0] https://github.com/astrand/xclip
  [1] https://github.com/bugaevc/wl-clipboard

It's cool to use pbcopy and pbpaste with your phone! Copy some text on the phone, and you can pbpaste it onto the Mac command line. So cool.

It creeps me out when the clipboard is unexpectedly shared between my phone and computer. And since the feature seems to turn on randomly but not reliably when I want it to, I’d rather it just didn’t exist.

I have a clipboard manager application called "Paste" (creative i know). Its an awesome app for a million reasons. But one thing I like is that it allows me to see and hear when my iphone copy worked.

So I have it enabled so there is a sound when something goes into the clipboard. Even on my mac, I have come to rely on that audio feedback. But it has the added benefit that when I am using my phone in front of my computer and I copy something on my phone, I immediate (and it is impressively fast... maybe a 200ms delay), I hear the chime that something was added to my clipboard on my mac. So it gives you that good feedback that a copy "worked".

You can also shift+cmd+V to see the clipboard history, which is another complimentary tool with universal clipboard because if a paste isn't working as expected you can see if the universal copy never "took" (as you mentioned it is semi-unreliable), or if it just got overridden. You can then use the navigator to paste the older item.

I wonder if it's this one: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/paste-clipboard-manager/id9678...

I've noticed that more and more apps on both macOS and iOS sniff the clipboard contents and randomly clobber it. I usually notice it in apps like Sourcetree, where I'll click something or do a certain action and suddenly I can't paste anymore. I even get a feel for it, like my mind detects the pattern that empties the clipboard so I sense when I can no longer paste, but I can't figure out concrete repeatable steps to make it happen. On iOS it's more random, and I feel like it's probably Facebook doing it, or maybe websites in Safari. I just assume that everything is spying on my clipboard contents now, hoping to log secrets/passwords and PII to sell to scammers.

I have to say, this is one of the more disappointing developments from Apple, that they certainly must know by now about these clipboard shenanigans, but have done nothing to stop them. They need to implement permissions that deny all apps the ability to get/set the clipboard by default, and have an option to ask the user whether so-and-so app can access the clipboard (outside of normal copy/paste), every time with the option to allow always. And all clipboard access attempts should probably get logged somewhere.

I would think requiring opt-in for clipboard functionality would be the more radical option that would leave most users (myself included, I would imagine) scratching their heads when they can’t copy/paste as a matter of course. Maybe you meant something more specifically related to 3rd-party sniffing/modifying clipboard contents, but I haven’t really encountered that outside of apps such as CopyQ and Paste, and they are pretty explicit and intentional about their functions.

I have found a lot of utility with cross-device copy/paste. I know it requires the somewhat mysterious phantom Bluetooth/Wi-Fi connectivity that AirPlay/Airdrop use, so if I have disabled Bluetooth on my device, for example, it will no longer work. I could see where it might not be fully reliable enough to count on, I have experienced inexplicable failures, not often but enough to understand that it might not be some folks’ default preference. As part of the “handoff” function, it can be disabled in Settings at least.

I think iOS now has per-app permissions/notifications around clipboard reads.

For me it’s one of the top benefits of the Apple ecosystem.

The only drawback is that yes it only works most of the time. And when it doesn’t I get infuriated.

Glitches happen without any change to settings or network on my side - it works now, and 5 min later doesn’t.

Some of the “not working” cases may be due to the application you’re copying from setting the items as `localOnly`, ex: from a password manager. I don’t have an explanation for other failures.


Yes it’s 1Password. I use the very old, iOS only non subscription version 7.something. But I think sometimes it works (copy from iOS paste on MacOS).

I’m on the same version of 1password, probably for similar reasons.

In their iOS app, there’s an entry in Settings -> Security -> Allow Universal Clipboard which lets you opt-in to passwords through the clipboard. I suspect there’s something similar on macOS.

Wonder how many of us are out there!? Long live this app and workflow, iCloud sync ftw.

Yes, I use this app multiple times a day, each time with the added satisfaction of knowing I own the app and not a subscription. Even if my credit card expires I will still have access to my passwords.

Integration is the primary reason I enjoy using Apple ecosystem. My phone, laptop, tablet and watch all work seamlessly together.

I use most of Apple's "built in" applications like Mail, Notes, Photos, etc. with Firefox (instead of Safari) probably the only exception to that.

It’s wonderful when it works. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the Watch unlock for my Mac only works ~10% of the time.

There’s a fix for it where you remove all the unlock entries in Keychain, and then re-enable it. Only thing that worked for me long term (but it did fix it 100%)


I tried this yesterday. It... helped. But what I've now found is that if I escape out of the password prompt (which will turn the screen off again) and then try to unlock it a second time, the watch unlock will be triggered. I wonder if it's something about waking from sleep. (I also wonder if it would have worked before to do the same thing, but it never occurred to me to try.)

> is unexpectedly shared between my phone and computer

There was a prompt asking if I wanted to enable it, when I set up my phone/Mac. Same setup screen that asks if you want to enable location, Siri, etc.

Make sure both your phone and computer have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on.

I'm curious why the Bluetooth is required?

Requiring WiFi makes (so the phone/computer is on a network and can communicate with the other devices), but what's the benefit of Bluetooth? Does it only work when the phone and computer are near each other?

Bluetooth is used to discover peers and to initiate communication. Thus handoff works even on a wifi network that blocks broadcasts. It even works when no wifi network is present, by setting up an ad hoc network for the connection. (Disclaimer: This is all I know. The details seem rather murky, as handoff is a proprietary Apple protocol.)

The requirements are here: https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT209455

Turning off Bluetooth or wifi may be one of the more common reasons it doesn’t work. Some people never do that, but others do.


Disabling Handoff is currently the only way to disable Universal Clipboard.

* Mac: Go to System Preferences > General > uncheck Allow Handoff.

* iPhone: Go to Settings > General > Handoff > uncheck Handoff.

I use the following to edit contents of my clipboard:

    pbpaste | vipe | pbcopy

Where vipe is a util for inserting your editor (vim) in the middle of a pipe. From: https://joeyh.name/code/moreutils/

This is great utility I didn't know about! Thanks!

But do you know why it doesn't seem to work with the `pbfilter` function?

If I do directly `pbpaste | vipe | pbcopy`, then it opens vim and the clipboard text is pasted there. But if I run `pbfilter | vipe`, then vim opens with a blank buffer.

   function pbfilter() {
      if [ $# -gt 0 ]; then
          pbpaste | "$@" | pbcopy
          pbpaste | pbcopy

It seems that the number of args is 0 for some reason

I think you have to use `pbfilter vipe`, as the argument to pbfilter is inserted into the middle of the pipe.

I have a script always running that polls for youtube URLs using pbpaste and runs yt-dl

then just highlight any youtube link and COPY

later when I have time, I can use quicklook to browse directory of youtube videos.

That’s a great hack thanks for the tip.

FYI: yt-dlp is more up to date and faster, AFIK: https://github.com/yt-dlp/yt-dlp

I download and save it as 'ytdl' for convenience, but I use it all the time on twitter too.

sorry mistyped, that's what I use

So much of my Linux use is over ssh from a MacOS client that I've made a `pbcopy` executable that just pipes stdin over ssh to my MacBook to its pbcopy (with a dedicated ssh key that runs this as a forced command). Makes it super nice to be on an SSH session and `pbcopy` some content to my MacOS clipboard!

That sounds amazing, I always wanted to do that! Do you have a guide or some script to help with it? Otherwise, I will try to do it on my own.

Happy to share, but I'm away from my MacBook for the next 2-3 weeks. I'll ping you when I have access to the code again.

I'm also super interested in this! I've had many amusing moments of instinctively typing either `pbcopy` or `pbpaste` on remote boxes followed by a brief moment of confusion when my local clipboard isn't updated :)

You might want to have a look at osc52

I have! Unfortunately not supported in MacOS Terminal.app, which I'm otherwise very satisfied with (have tried iTerm2, use Alacritty on Linux, just like Terminal.app).

Simply wrap your shell with osc52pty to get OSC52 support in Terminal.app


I don't think wrapping my entire shell session in a moderately complex third party tool (that maybe just uses pbcopy under the hood[1]) counts as "simply" when compared to my existing solution which just pipes over ssh and a couple bash scripts.

But thank you for the share, it is interesting!

[1]: https://github.com/roy2220/osc52pty/blob/master/oscexecutor....

This tool isn’t doing anything particularly complex. It sets up a new pty, attaches the child process to it, listens for OSC52 control codes, and calls pbcopy when appropriate.

You can wrap your ssh session with it and you’re done.

It’s very elegant and multiple orders of magnitude less complex than something like tmux.

Another frequent use I have, applying random diffs with git:

    git diff | pbcopy
    pbpaste | git apply

You can also use `git format-patch` and `git am` if you want to apply the same commit to multiple repos, a use-case I sometimes I have.

I should use `git format-patch` instead of creating a mock draft PR (which I end up deleting) and modifying the URL to add `.patch` and then downloading the patch file haha. `git format-patch` would probably be faster :)

If I had a nickel for each `cat foo.json | jq | pbcopy`, I'd be a rich man :)

That's a useless use of cat. You can use `jq . foo.json | pbcopy` or `jq < foo.json | pbcopy`.

Speaking for myself, the first form is more natural- even if it’s a useless cat, because I’m always cat-ing files to see their structure. Then progressively tacking on different transforms. And then finally putting it in whatever I want as output.

It’s so ingrained, I’m more likely than not to just write it out that way even when I know exactly what I’m doing from the onset.

Yes, this iterative procedure is often why "useless" cats get put into it. It's a very effective way of processing regular text information.


I need to grab some info from textfile.txt to use as arguments to a function.

cat textfile.txt

looks like its comma delimited.

cat textfile.txt | cut -d, -f 2-5

ah, its the third and fourth column i need

cat textfile.txt | cut -d, -f 3-4 | grep '123456'


cat textfile.txt | cut -d, -f 3-4 | grep 123456 | tr , ' '

myfunc $(cat textfile.txt | cut -d, -f 3-4 | grep 123456 | tr , ' ')

> cat textfile.txt

> looks like its comma delimited.

Interesting; why wouldn't you use `head`? Who knows how big textfile.txt is?

generally, speaking, if you don't have an idea of how big the file is, or it would take up too much real-estate on your terminal window, sure. 100%. It was just an example.

lot's of times we sort of know what we are working with, but don't remember the particulars especially

Don't forget to pipe head into 'cat -v'... that text file could contain _anything_!

I really recommend folks use "less" over cat, especially keyboard oriented folks. Different terminal emulators don't always have the scroll behavior I want, not do they always allow me to search the file I'm looking at. "less" does all those things, in nearly every environment no matter the terminal emulator, and has other wonderful options to boot (chop long lines so they don't wrap can be nice for logs, line numbers can be VITAL, etc).

I still uselessly use cat though, it's such a nice way to build a pipeline.

I hate that when I use `less`, then quit, the output goes away.

You can run "less -X" for that, but it may have other problems depending on how you use less (e.g. scrolling up, etc.)

My useless cat is that I always use `cat file | less` when I could just `less file`.

I've been typing cat for over 25 years. Old habits die hard.

Thank you for pointing this out! This is much safer.

`file` will tell you too

Won't tell you the delimiter.

I've been using bat as a cat replacement for a while now. It includes paging, syntax highlighting, line numbers, and is generally very performant.


As a scientist who cares about reproducibility, the big difference between the "useless cat" and providing the input file name on the command line is that, in the latter case, the program can capture that file name and reproduce it. That is harder when using stdin.

Many of my programs and scripts start output with the line: # cmd arg1 arg2 arg3 ...

and simply echo back lines that start with '#'. That way, I have an internal record of the program that was run and the data file that was read (as well as previous parts of the analysis chain).

And, 'R' ignores lines starting with '#', so the record is there, but does not affect later analyses.

You could consider

    < foo.json jq | pbcopy

If you're using zsh, you can just replace any instance of

    $ cat somefile ...

    $ <somefile ...
For bash, this only works if you have at least one `|`.

I did this last time I saw it come up and was surprised! Doing it makes perfect sense in hindsight. Neato!

The “useless cat” meme needs to die. Everyone is aware that most commands accept a file argument, but looking up the arguments and their ordering is annoying and using cat for things like this is just fine.

The redirect always works though - that is not a program argument, that is handled by the shell. Apparently not everyone is aware of that.

Everyone is not aware, new people are joining all the time.

granted, it is a little snarky and maybe the snark isn't appropriate in today's tech environment. but no, things like "useless use of cat" do not need to go away, because they make me better at what I do in little ways. those little ways add up over time.

> but looking up the arguments and their ordering is annoying

you seem to be arguing for complacency. taking your idea to an extreme, why learn to do _anything_ well?

This. "Useless cat" is more useful than "useless file-arg".

In what way do you see those alternatives as superior?

It usually doesn't matter much, but there are some situations where it can matter a lot. For one thing, you can't use seek() on a pipe, so e.g. `cat bigfile | tail` has to read through the entire file to find the end, but `tail bigfile` will read the file backward from the end, completely skipping the irrelevant beginning and middle. With `pv bigfile | whatever`, pv (which is basically a pipeline progress indicator) can tell how big file is and tell you how for through you are as a percentage; with `cat bigfile | pv | whatever`, it has no idea (unless you add a flag to tell it). Also, `cat bigfile | head` will end up killing cat with a SIGPIPE signal after head exits; if you're using something like "Unofficial bash strict mode" [1], this will cause your script to exit prematurely.

Another sometimes-important difference is that if there are multiple input files, `somecommand file1 file2 file3` can tell what data is coming from which file; with `cat file1 file2 file3 | somecommand` they're all mashed together, and the program has no idea what's coming from where.

In general, though, I think it's mostly a matter of people's expertise level in using the shell. If you're a beginner, it makes sense to learn one very general way to do things (`cat |`), and use it everywhere. But as you gain expertise, you learn other ways of doing it, and will choose the best method for each specific situation. While `cat |` is usually an ok method to read from a file, it's almost never the best method, so expert shell users will almost never use it.

[1] http://redsymbol.net/articles/unofficial-bash-strict-mode/

If the command is meant to stream through something really fast by using a large buffer size, then prepending a cat(1) will limit the incoming buffer size to ~4k.


Maybe use dd with one of its blocksize options, then?

Not at a terminal, can't check.

They avoid an unnecessary invocation of the cat executable.

Instead, they open a file descriptor and pass that.

Tiny difference but there you go.

I teach shell scripting. Cat invocations are cheap and help learners understand and keep clear where input is coming from, and where it is going. There are no awards or benefits to reducing the number of lines, commands invoked, or finding the shortest possible way to perform a task in a script. There are plenty of detriments to reading and understanding though when we try to obfuscate this to save 1ms of execution time on a script that is going to execute near instantaneously anyways.

In short, I straight up don't care.

I 100% agree with you. My only defense of OP is that `<` is something tends to be forgotten. Like everyone else in this thread I go to `cat` first for things like this. But sometimes I forget that even `<` exists, and the callout is a nice reminder.

Not just that, but also all the bytes have to go through an extra pipe. Presumably they're copied an extra time because of this.

When you run "cmd < file", the command reads from stdin, which pulls directly from the file. When you do "cat file | cmd", "cat" opens the file, reads from there, and writes to a pipe. Then "cmd" reads from its stdin, which is a pipe.

GNU cat will use the copy_file_range syscall when possible!

copy_file_range allows a user land program to copy data between two files without doing any user space work. Instead of reading data into a buffer and writing it back out to the destination, the kernel will somehow manage to move the data for you.

I think this will prevent any extra copies from occurring in situations where it can be used.



>They avoid an unnecessary invocation of the cat executable.

And ... ?

To add, searching for “useless use of cat” will yield several results for those interested in learning more. Other examples include “useless use of echo” and “useless use of ls *”.


Even the Wikipedia page on cat has a section about that, titled eponymously.


Is there any shell that has cat as a built-in?

Such a shell could remove some of the more common cases.

All of them do. Including bash. It’s just not the same syntax (ie ‘< filename’).

But I honestly think people who try to optimise away ‘cat’ are optimising the wrong thing. If one extra fork() is that detrimental then don’t use a shell scripting language.

For a lot of people, “useless” ‘cat’ enables them to write a pipeline in the order that their brain farts out the requirements for the pipeline. So they’ve optimised for human productivity. And given the human brain is slower than a few extra fork()s, I think optimising for one’s brain makes more sense here.

Literally the next sentence after the one you quoted explains my point:

> It’s just not the same syntax (ie ‘< filename’).

Reading from a file isn’t a hard problem. Having a good UX for doing that is where most shells fall apart. And that’s basically what ‘cat’ offers here: an improved UX.

Having ‘cat’ as a shell builtin wouldn’t really solve the complaints raised by “useless use of” anyway because you’d still be piping (and in some cases, fork()ing too). You couldnt really use ‘cat’ as syntactic sugar for ‘<‘ because things start to get really weird if you want to pass flags to ‘cat’ or even redirect the output to something other than a pipe. And given ‘cat’ is POSIX (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Unix_commands#/media...) the current behaviour of shells is, in my opinion, correct. This is why my own shell has a differently named builtin that approximately serves the purpose of ‘cat’ but for instances when you need the command built into the shell and it can’t just be passing a file handle to the next command (in my case, because i wanted to pass metadata out-of-band as well as the file contents)

I like to use `pbcopy` when exporting public keys to external services like GitHub.

`cat ~/.ssh/mykey.pub | pbcopy`

I love this tool too!

except one time I quickly typed

`cat ~/.ssh/mykey | pbcopy`

And sent it straight away to my coworker on Slack.

I then spent the rest of the day making a new private key and adding my new pubkey to all of the 1000+ servers I had root access to. I mean we had tools to help but it still wasn’t fun.

With great power/convenience comes the potential to do dumb things at lightning speeds!

If you literally have ssh root access to 1000+ servers, using certificates will be more secure and convenient than directly using public key.

put your private key in something like Secretive: https://github.com/maxgoedjen/secretive

Userify would have made that pretty painless (all it really seems to do is update the authorized_keys across all of your servers every minute or so)

also userify allows you to set up sudo access on some of the servers and not others, so that'd take care of the other root-access issue you have. (sudo also provides auditing/logging controls that are useful in a multi-user environment)

I might start naming my private key files ~/.ssh/keyname.PRIVATE after hearing that story...

That's not a bad idea. I've never actually made the same mistake, but I have caught it at the last moment and having tab complete not pick the private one first would help.

It would have avoided it! I was using tab and forgot to select .pub as you correctly surmised. I was a junior dev at the time and all the seniors got a good laugh out of it, and I use it as a cautionary tale about trying to be TOO overeager and efficient.

You can even simplify this further by feeding `pbcopy` the key directly using file redirection instead of a pipe:

`pbcopy < ~/.ssh/mykey.pub`

(I use this all the time myself!)

On Linux I have these wrap xsel or xclip, and likewise open to xdg-open.

Now, for your Mac example — if that's a specific pipeline you often use, you can write a Service menu entry to do it in place, without switching to a terminal.

+1 to the service menu actions. They are so handy, but often forgotten/overlooked. I think maybe a discoverability issue.

Extra handy when combined with `piknik`[1] for distributed/cross-Apple account clipboard shenanigans.

[1] https://github.com/jedisct1/piknik

Since you mention both pbcopy and iTerm - I love https://github.com/skaji/remote-pbcopy-iterm2. I do most of the work on a remove Linux server, treating my MacBook as mostly a dumb terminal, and being able to transparently copy from the remove to my local clipboard is so nice.

I’ll have to try that. More than once I’ve been logged in to a remote host and got “pbcopy not found” “What!?… oh, right.“

The tmux integration in iterm is also very nice for remote work if you haven’t tried it out.

I have tried it, but for whatever reason I just don't like it. I prefer just running tmux in iTerm with no integration.

On the topic, you can also integrate tmux with the native clipboard - I have set copy-pipe to the remote pbcopy, so any selection done in tmux get copied to my local clipboard. I also just found out that tmux also support it natively (https://github.com/tmux/tmux/wiki/Clipboard#the-set-clipboar...).

Use the Apple shortcuts app and you can just copy some text and hit a keyboard shortcut. The Shortcuts app lets you run arbitrary shell command.

This is interesting, thank you. I've been automating various things with Hammerspoon but (I think) it's limited to what you can reach with either a11y or osascript / the NS dictionary for the app you want to manipulate, but Shortcuts seems to have some actions that aren't in the NS dictionary.

For instance, in Shortcuts, I see that there's a "Pin Notes" action for Notes.app, but I don't see anything for pinning notes when I open Notes.app with "File -> Open Dictionary..." in Script Editor.

(In this case it's likely that Notes.app has the a11y bits necessary to run that action from Hammerspoon, but it would probably be easier to go through Shortcuts.)

Yes. I use it a great deal, but I haven't gotten used to using the linux equivalents. I guess that would be either xsel or xclip. Maybe I should create a "pbcopy" that runs one of those. I like to minimize the cognitive load when I switch between mac and linux command line environments.

Oh man. I recently threw together a "j2p" script to make converting between json and python dicts simpler, and combining it with pbcopy/pbpaste will make it so much better:

  #!/usr/bin/env python3
  import sys
  import json

Or directly from the commandline:

    pbcopy | python -c 'import sys; import json; print(json.load(sys.stdin))' | pbpaste

The Python json library is callable as a module:

    pbcopy | python -m json.tool | pbpaste
It has a load options:

    $ python -m json.tool --help
    usage: python -m json.tool [-h] [--sort-keys] [--no-ensure-ascii] [--json-lines] [--indent INDENT | --tab | --no-indent | --compact] [infile] [outfile]

    A simple command line interface for json module to validate and pretty-print JSON objects.

    positional arguments:
      infile             a JSON file to be validated or pretty-printed
      outfile            write the output of infile to outfile

      -h, --help         show this help message and exit
      --sort-keys        sort the output of dictionaries alphabetically by key
      --no-ensure-ascii  disable escaping of non-ASCII characters
      --json-lines       parse input using the JSON Lines format. Use with --no-indent or --compact to produce valid JSON Lines output.
      --indent INDENT    separate items with newlines and use this number of spaces for indentation
      --tab              separate items with newlines and use tabs for indentation
      --no-indent        separate items with spaces rather than newlines
      --compact          suppress all whitespace separation (most compact)

I have linux/macos-agnostic bash functions in my dotfiles that unify this to “clip” and “paste” (since “copy” is too close semantically to “cp”)

And I have one that unifies _both_ to `clip` so you can put the same command in both sides of the pipe, e. g. to turn a line-delimited blob on your clipboard to a space-separated one:

    clip | tr '\n' ' ' | clip

    # Use clipboard in shell pipelines
    # clip | xargs echo           # uses pbpaste
    # ps -A | grep search | clip  # uses pbcopy
    clip() {
      [ -t 0 ] && pbpaste || pbcopy

So to check if there's anything sitting on stdin without reading it I've been using

`if read -r -t0; then` # returns true if there is data but times out instantly so it doesn't consume any

Is `[ -t 0 ]` more idiomatic? Apparently it fails on this case: function < file

`read -r -t0` is Bash-only though and not POSIX, but it will work regardless of what type of data is on stdin

[ -t 0 ] instead checks whether stdin (fd 0) is a tty.

Holy crap. Of course! You win! Amazing!

Simple is genius

paste(1) is a POSIX standard utility, though (going back to System III), pairing with cut(1).


The Unix join command is also useful:


I've aliased that (and its equivalents on Linux and Android/Termux) to 'xc' and 'xp' (for X11 Copy and X11 Paste, as I'd originated this on Linux).

Being able to populate or read from the system clipboard (or secondary clipboard!), or to feed it, including by reading from or writing to pipes is wonderful.

alias pbg='pbpaste | fgrep --color -i "`pbpaste -pboard find`"'

select all in a terminal window with pages of log data and cmd-c copy; find the one phrase you want to find in that data and cmd-e to put it in the find pasteboard; cmd-n new window, type pbg to isolate the log lines.

TIL about named pasteboards https://developer.apple.com/documentation/appkit/nspasteboar...

I recognize that your pbg alias works for pretty much any text you could copy, but I wanted to mention, in case you're looking at log files with plain old less, there's the & limiter, which limits the current view to only lines matching a regular expression (or, if you type ^R during a & prompt, for a text match).

If you type ^N or ! during a & prompt it will limit the view to those lines that do not match the expression.

These view limits stack, so you can "&WARN<enter>" to see all lines that have WARN in them, and then maybe you want to see just a certain PID so "&12345<enter>" and you'll only see lines with both WARN and 12345, but then that one module is printing out a bunch of messages you think are safe to ignore so you do "&!modulename<enter>" and it filters out log lines that match modulename. Very handy and less is everywhere.

I don't remember when I learned about these, but they've been game changers, and everyone I've shared them with feels the same way. I use your use case often as well, though through `jq` because I'm more familiar with it, and sometimes wish to do transforms.

You can use `python -m json.tool` for just JSON formatting, which is convenient now that Python is available by default in most Linux distros. Jq is really excellent though.

I have an alias that while trivally simple is quicker to type and remember. It copies whatever file you give it to the clipboard which is super handy. I use it with the "Compare with Clipboard" to diff a file in Rubymine for example.

alias clip='pbcopy <'

Those are so useful that I wrote trivial shell functions that do the same under Linux.

Since I'm bouncing between OSX and Linux a lot, I have a shell script with the same name on each that boils down to:

  if [ `uname` == "Darwin" ]; then
    xsel --clipboard

why not just alias?

Could be an alias, I have a limited set of aliases for each type of system. But I keep a repository of hundreds of personal shell scripts and it fit better there.

Where are you pasting the pretty json to view it?

I do this a lot as well, but just paste the minified json directly into VS Code and then OPT+SHIFT+F to format it.

`jq` acts as a pretty json viewer (among other things)

pb[paste|copy] are a life improver. Here is a one-liner to edit the pasteboard contents in vim.

  pbpaste > tmp; vim tmp; cat tmp | pbcopy; rm tmp;
I also use pbpaste to append various notes to files, but since pbpaste doesnt have a newline at the end I wind up using:

  echo "$(pbpaste)" >> notes.txt

You can do this specific task with just vim: https://vi.stackexchange.com/a/21448

Json pretty printing in the terminal? Bless, didn't know about that and it is perfect

Also a fun one to combine with `open` if you have a bunch of web URLs to open

Best way to get ssh keys into the paste buffer too.

my favorite vim command:

:w !pbcopy

or visual selection, and then :w !pbcopy

Not a command-line tool but the network link conditioner is also really great. Never seen such a tool on another OS

You can simulate a really bad network. Latency, bandwidth, packet loss etc. Great for testing but also if people insist on cameras being on. Just screw up the connection so bad that everyone gets annoyed with your blocky image and robot voice and suggest you turn off video and then you make it 'magically' ok - lol

[Comcast](https://github.com/tylertreat/comcast) also does this for macOS, BSD, and Linux. And it's _brilliantly_ named.

Thanks! I'm on BSD so this is great to hear!

Toxiproxy is such a tool for everywhere else, and it did help me test and improve networking code for poor conditions: timeouts, retries, packet loss, etc.

Never had heard of this before. Some other cool tools in the "additional tools for X-Code" package which I had also never heard of. https://developer.apple.com/download/all/

Thanks for sharing.

I've used AU Lab to pipe my microphone input through my headphones, which is apparently how professionals like to record audio (a "monitor" so you can hear how you sound), but I couldn't get used to it

How was the latency when you last tried it? Most outboard audio interfaces (even inexpensive ones like the Focusrite Scarletts with ≤ 2 inputs) have a "direct monitor" feature that is as close to zero-latency as you can reasonably get.

I don’t remember, or have context for how it feels when it’s instant, so I’m a bad tester.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t like it, a tiny bit of latency seems like a killer in that scenario

You can be an ultra nerd on Linux and go this with the networking QoS tools: https://tldp.org/HOWTO/Traffic-Control-HOWTO/components.html

Note that NLC is a GUI interface to control dummynet and PF (packet filter). It sets up rules to inject packet relay and drop a certain percentage of packets based on the profile.

You can use dnctl and pfctl on macOS to do similar things and more.

You can do that with standard Linux tooling available on every distribution, see https://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man8/tc.8.html. What you're specifically looking for is `qdisc netem`, it can inject packet loss, reordered packets, duplicate packets, delay and more.

Network Link Conditioner rules. I pair it with `mitmproxy` for debugging native apps.

You can also use `rvictl` to connect to a development iOS device’s network device for grab a tcp dump.

Also Instruments has a really nice network capture tool now.

You can do similar magic with Charles Proxy fyi

Needs to mention afplay for playing audio! You can easily use this to make a command-line MP3 player.

Others have mentioned the “say” utility for speech synthesis. There is a lot you can do with it, it supports the TUNE format, which allows you to "shape the overall melody and timing of an utterance... for example ... to make an utterance sound as if it is spoken with emotion".

See: Apple's Speech Synthesis Programming Guide, https://josh8.com/blog/img/speech-synthesis.pdf

I also wrote more about this here: https://josh8.com/blog/commandline-audio-mac.html

Unfortunately, the TUNE format turned out to be a bit of an evolutionary dead end; the last generation of Speech Synthesis that supports it is the Alex voice which shipped in 2007, and it's highly unlikely in my opinion that we'll ever see it again — pinpoint control of synthesis and naturalness are inherently in tension, and the latter is a lot more valuable.

It is unfortunate. But Alex does sound pretty good! Not up to 2023 standards maybe but still pretty good.

Thanks for posting! I'm always glad when I discover good blogs like yours.

Thank you for the article :) One small correction, the command to list the voices is `say -v '?'`

I like to hide all icons or folders on my Desktop when I need to be more productive or when I'm presenting. This can be done with:

  # hide desktop icons and folders
  defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop 0
  killall Finder # restarting Finder is required

  # unhide desktop icons and folders
  defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop 1
  killall Finder # restarting Finder is required

I made myself a convenient bash alias for this which lets me simply toggle the desktop on and off Here is a gist: https://gist.github.com/berndverst/6f58c0d6aedddb6c06c23e57d...

  toggledesktop () {
    if [[ $(defaults read com.apple.finder CreateDesktop) -eq "0" ]]
        export SHOWDESKTOP=1;
        echo "Unhiding Desktop icons"
        export SHOWDESKTOP=0;
        echo "Hiding Desktop icons"
    defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop $SHOWDESKTOP
    killall Finder

Turning off the desktop is one of the first things I do when setting up a new Mac. I still use ~/Desktop often enough that it's one of two folders I keep in the Dock (the other being ~/Downloads).

Although: the introduction of Stacks to the macOS desktop was a great thing — I always show that feature to anyone whose Desktop is helplessly cluttered with files.

I've used this one for over a decade now. When I was a teacher, I even assigned it to a key-combo. Consider pairing with a few other things you might want in a presentation setting

What do you use for assigning it to a key combination? Can it be done without a third party tool?

Automator should be able to do that.

Nice list.

Also, hidutil (https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/technotes/tn2450...).


     hidutil property --set '{"UserKeyMapping":[{"HIDKeyboardModifierMappingSrc":0x700000049,"HIDKeyboardModifierMappingDst":0x700000065}]}'
For my PC keyboard, remaps "Ins" (normally useless under macOS) to something ("PC Execute") I can trap and remap with Keyboard Maestro.

    hidutil property --set '{"UserKeyMapping":[{"HIDKeyboardModifierMappingSrc":0x700000064,"HIDKeyboardModifierMappingDst":0x700000035}]}'
Remaps top left key on Euro-style keyboards from useless "paragraph" to useful "backtick".

Yes, this is great... I was given a Macbook with a Norweigan keyboard for testing a port of FreeBSD on it, and I quickly discovered that the keyboard layout remapping stuff available via the UI won't remap at least this one key to what I'd find on my US keyboard.

There's a nice generator for these mappings https://hidutil-generator.netlify.app/

Oh wow, this is amazing. I had been unable to _swap_ esc and caps lock on the mac until now.

not to be confused with hdiutil:

    hdiutil detach /Volumes/some-usb-drive

    hdiutil makehybrid -joliet -o foo.iso ./srcfolder/

Years ago, I wrote a script to find something in a big blob of data and to alert me when it was done, I added a “say <some glib Rambo or Schwarzenegger>” type phrase upon completion. I forgot about it and went to bed and was jolted awake hours later by what was clearly an “intruder” speaking to his accomplice, in my home office. Quite the relief when I realized what happened.

I use Pushover for a few alerts so years ago I wrote a little bash script called `push` that you pass a title and optionally a body. Was very nice to to `./longRunningCommand && push "Task Done" "Here is a body"`. I'd sometimes combine this with my `beep` script that just makes a noise for when I know I'll still be at my computer but want to know when something finishes.

What's the beep script like? Do you use the terminal bell or does it synthesize a tone?

Here is my beep script, it's almost embarrassingly basic. You can pick a different sound, I wanted one that wasn't too offensive/harsh and I've used this for 3-4+ years.


afplay -v 3 /System/Library/Sounds/Glass.aiff

I like to use the "research complete" sample from StarCraft for this.

It's comments like this that remind me that HN is my tribe.

That's hilarious! Similar vein: there is a Metasploit module to induce the say command on post-exploited mac machines. I haven't seen it used in practice, but I eagerly watch for the eventual twitter thread that reads:

"So, I used the msf module that invokes `say` on a client's laptop"

I often have multiple terminal tabs open. Sometimes I’ll run a command that ends up taking a while and switch away and forget about it.

So I added a fish command completion script that plays a beep with afplay if the task took longer than 5 seconds. It helps me get back on task for those “just long enough” tasks that I run.

I would pay a lot of money to switch the voice to Arnold.

Shoutout to the `diskutil` command line utility on macOS.

I had problems with some slices on a disk today, and was not able to fix it with the graphical Disk Utility that comes with macOS. These slices were remnants from experimenting with running Asahi Linux on the machine in the past.

I knew there had to be a way to fix it with diskutility cli program.

I found a thread, and the solution for what to do in such situation.


Now the disk can be fully utilised by macOS again.

`diskutil` is great but it's a travesty what they did to Disk Utility.app. It never really got any love after the APFS transition and there are things it straight up fails to do the `diskutil` command doesn't. Before they re-designed the interface, it was such a rock-solid tool that even if it failed during some task, would typically tell you why. Now it's a baby LEGO Duplo interface meant for nothing more than reformatting a flash drive.

I still open it sometimes thinking it's going to be a great experience, forgetting about this.

You should check out "um" https://github.com/promptops/cli for when you can't remember the command/parameters.

~ um prevent my mac from sleeping for 30m

   caffeinate -u -t 1800
    don't see what you're looking for? try providing more context

Hey, this looks awesome. Thanks so much for the pointer.

`open` is one I use all the time. I love that simple command.

    alias tab='open . -a iterm'
    alias phpstorm='open -a "PhpStorm"'
    alias smerge='open -a "Sublime Merge"'
etc. I use those more than I do the Open/Recents dialogs in the respective apps.

`open -a ...` tab completion has been horribly slow for years because Apple hasn’t updated their completion definition. I replied with a work around on this SO post: https://stackoverflow.com/a/63097652

One flag also not mentioned is -n, which allows you to run the same application in more than one instance. Historically the single most used utility for me, though the number of applications that have had design problems bad enough to warrant it has gone down.

Sublime Text and Sublime Merge actually ship with these CLI utilities by default, which have some additional features:

    $ fd 's(merge|ubl)$' /Applications/Sublime*                                          
    /Applications/Sublime Merge.app/Contents/SharedSupport/bin/smerge
    /Applications/Sublime Text.app/Contents/SharedSupport/bin/subl

I knew of (and use) `subl` but was unaware they provided their own `smerge`. I'll delete my own alias in favor of that. Thanks!

I made a script to open files with rofi


Looks like this:


In a vscode terminal I just use the alias "o" and it opens that at the correct location, then I can navigate and pick a file to open in the editor.

To open a new finder window in the current directory in a terminal:

    alias finder='open .'

> alias tab='open . -a iterm'

But if you just open a new tab, you'll be in the same $CWD in the new tab? Am I missing some trick here?

I forget that's an option. I really dislike that and prefer for new tabs to open in my home directory. So having my `tab` alias that I use a couple times a week and opening the other 100 tabs in my home directory fits my workflow.

In your iterm profile settings, you can configure new tabs to go to either $HOME, $CWD, or a fixed specific directory. I've configured new windows and tabs to $HOME, but new split panes $CWD.

When mentioning `open` they should have noted that `open <file>` will open the given file with its associated app.

It’s indispensable.

More than that, it sends a message to launchd/the app instead of forking on the spot.

Sadly the app does get the shell's environment and it can't be disabled:

     Opened applications inherit environment variables just as if you had
     launched the application directly through its full path.  This behavior
     was also present in Tiger.
Why this matters, e.g with vscode:

    - ensure vscode is fully closed
    - enter project directory, something sets vars in your shell (you manually or automatically via direnv)
    - code .
    - vscode process now has the env from the shell it was started
    - open another directory from the UI
    - vscode forks and inherits from its parent process, thus the other project window has the original shell's env
    - go to another directory
    - code .
    - vscode finds out it's already running, forks and opens another window. this window has the original shell env
    - fully quit vscode and reopen it, but via the app in /Applications
    - vscode opens, now has a blank environment for its main process, and forks form there to restore previous windows, which now lack the environment they had
It's a) completely inconsistent and b) dangerous: imagine the original shell had a setting or secret in an env var that was shared to the second project (e.g virtualenv, deploy target, deployment key...)

The same issue can happen with other apps but also tmux (the tmux daemon is spawned from the first tmux command, and then subsequent sessions from tmux-server; doing it another way is possible but nontrivial)




    open .
if you need to drag a file somewhere. One thing that kind of breaks my muscle memory here is the opposite, something like

    firefox file.html
doesn't work and you have to fiddle with the arguments to get open to launch a non-default application.

If you set

    alias firefox="open -a Firefox"
This will work

I use `open .` to open up a Finder window of the directory I'm currently in using Terminal so frequently that I've set up an alias for it --

  alias op='open .'

It took me a while but I finally got open to open folders in a new Finder tab instead of opening a new window each time.

     function opent () {
        what=$(cd "$what"; pwd)
        osascript -e "tell application \"Finder\"
        set t to target of Finder window 1
        set toolbar visible of window 1 to true
        end tell
        tell application \"System Events\"
        keystroke \"t\" using command down
        end tell
        tell application \"Finder\"
        set target of Finder window 1 to POSIX file \"$what\"
        end tell" > /dev/null

    ## opens current dir
    $ opent .
    ## same
    $ opent

I also find myself using open -n -a <application> to open a new separate instance of an application if I want to copy settings from one file to another or work on two files with separate instances of a program

I set an alias in my shell so this is just 'airport', lets you interact with the wifi settings - I particularly like 'airport -s' for doing a scan of the local wifi networks, since it shows signal strength and channel information right there, which is helpful when troubleshooting.

It also separates 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz bands and shows security details (which matters sometimes e.g band steering or automatic same-SSID signal-strength-based AP selection doesn't work)

A fun one I use surprisingly often is

    open -h AppKit.h
to open any system header file (or I guess any header in the standard include path? It finds stuff from Homebrew too.)

Use ‘ditto’ for copying directories. It is fast!


Ditto can also be useful for backup and restore since, AFAICT, it preserves file meta data. (Unlike rsync for example.)

`ditto` will also preserve resource forks, which is occasionally necessary for not breaking apps or installer pkgs. I've had to use it when doing a semi-automated deployment of some zipped-up software to a hundred or so Macs via bash over ARD. `ditto -xkv`

Surprised pngpaste isn't mentioned (in the article nor the comments).

If you take a screen shot (command + shift + 4) or partial screen shot (command + shift + control + 4) you can save it directly to an image file with:

pngpaste filename.png

`pngpaste` doesn’t ship with macOS. All the tools in the article do.

I configured the screenshot to file to automatically save them to ~/Desktop/screenshots instead of ~/Desktop using the Screenshot app to avoid cluttering the desktop. See https://www.hellotech.com/guide/for/how-to-change-where-scre...

command shift 4 already saves a file, maybe you were thinking about command + shift + control + 3?

IIRC Cmd+shift+4 by default stores to a file, but it is easily changeable in settings. Mine has been set to store to clipboard since a long time ago (since i mostly ever take them to send to someone in chat or to insert into my own notes, for which clipboard is exactly what i need).

To change it: open Screenshot app (either cmd+shift+5 or from the app launcher), click Options in the center bar, and set "Save to" to "clipboard". Now, all screenshots in the future will be going by default to clipboard. You can also pick many other destinations for saving, including any arbitrary directory or many other apps (e.g., mail, preview, etc.).

After some googling TIL, apparently if you use Ctrl key modifier with any screenshot shortcuts (cmd+shift+3/4), it will store to clipboard regardless of your setting. Kinda nifty for those who switch between storing to file/clipboard all the time.

You can also use shift-cmd-5 to frame the page and then cmd-c to copy the screenshot - regardless of the screenshot app settings.

You can also right-click the screenshot thumbnail to save to clipboard or some other location on a one-off basis.

Both commands you listed take a partial screenshot. The first one saves it to the desktop and the second one (with control) to the clipboard.

Oops, you're right. I meant command + shift + control + 3 (full screen to clipboard) and command + shift + control + 4 (partial screen to clipboard).

Another good one is 'hidutil' which can remap any keys without additional software. It's handy for things like remapping CapsLock to anything, etc. For actual full keyboard layouts though I'd use Ukelele[0].

[0] https://software.sil.org/ukelele

There is a helper tool for hidutil https://hidutil-generator.netlify.app/

> It's handy for things like remapping CapsLock to anything

It's a built-in MacOS feature that you can find in the keyboard settings.

to anything” is the key difference. MacOS only lets you remap it to other control keys.

Yeah, I've missed that part.

For audio there're also `afinfo` to probe metadata and `afconvert` to convert between different codec/container formats. I use them for podcast post-processing and archiving workflow.

macOS 13 Ventura ships with a customized `iperf3` called `iperf3-darwin` adding features like QUIC/L4S/MPTCP.

QUIC already? Cool

Is there a place Apple documents these things? Do people find these things with something like “ls /usr/bin” and wondering “what is this?” or does Apple have an administrator’s guide somewhere? Or has someone written a good book with this stuff?

Hi, author here. There isn't any official canonical documentation that I know of, outside of the individual man pages. This was a list of commands I've been maintaining for myself over the years and thought it would be useful to share.

If you want more like this, I also have another page full of lesser well-known macOS tips and tricks: https://saurabhs.org/macos-tips

Oh my, and a bucket load of iOS tips too!

TIL you can tap and drag with 2 fingers to multi-select list items in mail and notes, etc

Bless you for finding and collating

I'd love some official Apple documentation. In lieu of that, you can search man pages with `man -f`, `whatis`, or `apropos`. I also keep the following aliases in my ~/.zshrc:

  alias list-functions='functions -x4'
  alias list-function-names='functions +'
  alias list-aliases='alias'
  alias list-alias-names='alias +'
  alias list-commands='print -raC2 ${(kv)commands} | sort'
  alias list-command-names='print -roC1 ${(k)commands}'
  alias list-builtins='print -raC2 ${(kv)builtins} | sort'
  alias list-builtin-names='print -roC1 ${(k)builtins}'
  alias list-everything='whence -cm "[^_]*"'
  alias list-everything-names='whence -wm "[^_]*"'
Edit: another commenter posted what looks to be comprehensive docs/lists here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=36492487

qlmanage is super useful for converting SVG to PNG easily, too! I use it like this:

qlmanage -t -s 1000x1000 -o ~/Pictures/foo.png ~/Pictures/foo.svg

To turn an square SVG into a PNG without installing anything extra or using an online image tool

One I use a lot: mdls.

It's ls for metadata. Very helpful for getting quick and scripted access to the date/time when and the latitude/longitude where a photograph was taken.

Also, the say command is a lot more versatile than it seems.

Combined with the ability to save the speech to an audio file, my wife uses it as the disc jockey for her little hobby AM radio station. It introduces the song and does little station IDs and such.

You can customize it with dozens of dozens of voices, some in very high quality.

When a song from her Japanese playlists comes on, it switches to one of the Japanese voices. I don't speak Japanese, so I don't know if it actually translates the DJ words into Japanese, but it sounds pretty close to my untrained ears.

afconvert(1) lets you convert between various audio formats - most noteworthy is that it gives you access to Core Audio's superior AAC encoder without having to use iTunes/Music:

  afconvert music.wav -o music_160kbps_aac.m4a -b 160000 -q 127 -s 2 -f m4af -d 'aac '
lipo(1) lets you operate (replace/extract/thin/etc) on executables and libraries to tailor their supported architectures:

  lipo <universal exe/dylib> -thin arm64e -output <new apple silicon-only exe/dylib>

Also, using hdiutil(1) and diskutil(8) to create a RAM-disk:

  # 500 megabytes disk image
  diskutil eraseVolume ExFAT my_ramdisk `hdiutil attach -nomount ram://$mb`

The `security` tool is handy too. I like the ability to store passwords in the `login` Keychain and automate using them in the terminal using `security find-generic-password`.

    security find-generic-password -gw -l "${keychain_id}"
Super helpful for VPN automation scripts, easy logins to things like Vault, etc. The security tool has tons of other handy functions as well.

Not a bad list of basic macOS specific cli tools. For a more in depth list, I usually reference https://ss64.com/osx/.

A tad outdated. At a glance I see it’s missing `networkQuality` (introduced in Monterey) and `realpath` (added in Ventura).

Agreed. Some of the flags are missing as well. Not sure it's updated often, but still not a bad starting point. If only Apple would publish something directly. They do a pretty good job with the Apple Platform Deployment guide (https://support.apple.com/guide/deployment). And the Security guide (https://support.apple.com/guide/security).

I maintain updated lists here:



That's awesome. Bookmarked for later!

Yes it is, but the forum is current and the creator replies very actively. I’ll ask if he plans update.

Manage the Launch Services database:

Manage file extended attributes (such as quarantine):

Execute a script (AppleScript or JavaScript):

  osascript -e <statement>

You can also prepend #!/usr/bin/osascript to a script and then make it executable with chmod oag+x. You can then invoke it normally in bash: ./filename.sh (or whatever)

It’s weird how macs don’t come with a GUI for managing system services. Windows does.. that being said the number of times I’ve had to mess with system services on mac can probably be counted with a few fingers…

Wut? No fs_usage? Easily one of the most useful of them all ..


I can't count the number of times a bit of fs_usage foo has helped me dig out of a seriously messy pile of network, file and page fault issues ..

Useful, but definitely more niche & less generally applicable than the others.

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