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In terminal, how can I define a key to go to the previous directory which I was in when changing directory with the cd command?

For example, I'm in /opt/soft/bin and I cd into /etc/squid3 and I want to get back to the first directory.

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5 Answers 5

up vote 51 down vote accepted

You can use

cd -

or you could use

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The other answers are definitely complete in the direct answer sense. cd - and cd $OLDPWD are definitely the main choices for this. However, I often find that getting into a workflow with pushd and popd works better.

Long story short, if you are moving into a directory with the ultimate intent of coming back to where you started, use pushd/popd.

Extended example

The major difference is easily shown by an example.

$ cd dir1
$ pushd dir2

At this point, you have a directory stack that is dir2, dir1. Running pushd with no arguments will put you back in dir1 with the stack now as dir1, dir2. popd would do the same, but would leave you with an empty directory stack. This is not much different than how you would have been with the cd - workflow.

However, now you can now change directories multiple times and get back to dir1. For example,

$ cd dir1
$ pushd dir2
$ cd dir3

If you run popd at this point, you will go back to dir1.

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You can also stack directories, so repeatedly use pushd and go back to previous folder while popd-ing. –  Bernhard Jun 30 '13 at 19:08
Certainly. I almost put a large example that included checking the stack with dirs -v, but the reality for me is that often the simple case is all I really use. (Or, worse, I make a mistake when trying push +2 or similar) Also, I thought baby steps for getting someone to try the workflow. :) –  Josh Berry Jul 1 '13 at 2:53
$ cd - 

will change to the previous working directory.

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You can "define a key" for 'cd -' by editing your '~/.bashrc' file and including an alias for the command. For example you could add 'cdc' to make it 'cd -' which would provide you with a shorter way to get to the last directory by adding:

alias cdc='cd -'

This way you would simply type 'cdc' and it would put you in your last working directory.

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And confuse you to no end when you use a system where that alias isn't in place. It saves typing one character every once in a while. Why even bother? –  Michael Kjörling Jul 1 '13 at 14:16
"In terminal, how can I define a key to go to the previous directory" I never get confused. Its just a shortcut, when you are on another system just use the long-hand way. –  Atari911 Jul 1 '13 at 19:25

You should use:

cd ~-

it does the same as cd - (from the currently accepted answer) without the annoying echo of the previous directory and is easier to type than cd "$OLDPWD" or cd - > /dev/null.

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