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The designer’s guide to the OSX command prompt

A tutorial for the modern web designer

Embracing the OSX command prompt can significantly streamline your workflow as a web designer. This guide introduces you to the essentials of using the command line, tailored specifically for web design tasks. With practical examples and detailed explanations, you’ll learn how to navigate, manage files, and utilize tools that make your design process more efficient.

Introduction to Terminal

The Terminal app in OSX is a gateway to using the command line interface (CLI). It allows direct communication with your operating system through text commands, bypassing the graphical user interface (GUI).

Opening Terminal

  • Navigate to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.
  • Alternatively, use Spotlight (Cmd + Space) and type “Terminal”.

Basic Commands

Understanding basic commands is essential for navigating and manipulating files directly from the command line.

  • pwd (Print Working Directory): Shows your current directory.
  • ls (List): Lists files in the current directory. Use ls -l for a detailed list.
  • cd (Change Directory): Changes the current directory. Use cd .. to go up one directory.
cd ~/Documents/DesignProjects

Managing Files and Directories

Create, copy, move, and delete files and directories using simple commands.

  • mkdir (Make Directory): Creates a new directory.
mkdir NewProject

touch: Creates a new file.

touch index.html

cp (Copy): Copies files or directories.

cp index.html about.html

mv (Move): Moves or renames files or directories.

mv about.html ./NewProject/

rm (Remove): Deletes files or directories. Use rm -r for directories.

rm old_design.png

Utilizing Version Control with Git

Version control is crucial for managing changes to your project files. Git is a powerful tool for this purpose.

  • Install Git: Check if Git is installed by typing git --version. If not, download it from
  • Initialize a Repository:
git init

Track Changes:

git add .
git commit -m "Initial commit"

Automating Tasks with NPM Scripts

NPM (Node Package Manager) scripts can automate tasks like minifying CSS or compiling SASS/LESS.

  • Install Node.js: Includes NPM. Check installation with node -v and npm -v.
  • Initialize NPM in your project directory:
npm init -y

Install a Package (e.g., Sass):

npm install sass --save-dev

Add a Script to package.json to compile Sass:

"scripts": {
  "sass": "sass --watch scss:css"

Run the Script:

npm run sass

Accessing Remote Servers

Web designers often need to access remote servers for deploying websites or managing files.

  • Secure Shell (SSH): Securely log into remote servers.

Secure Copy (SCP): Transfer files to a remote server.

scp local_file.html


The command line is a powerful tool that can enhance your productivity as a web designer. By mastering these commands and utilities, you can streamline your design and development process, automate repetitive tasks, and efficiently manage project files. Embrace the CLI as part of your design toolkit to unlock a new level of efficiency and control in your workflow.