I've recently switched to using a Mac full-time, and am having trouble getting used to Terminal.app after years of loving gnome-terminal. I miss having URLs show up underlined, using alt+arrow to move between words, and having screen+ssh behave the way I'm used to it.

I'm trying to get used to the following key combinations to survive in Terminal.app:

  • AltB to go back a word
  • AltF to go forward a word
  • AltA to go to the beginning of a line
  • AltE to go to the end of a line
  • you can still right-click on a URL to open it, it just doesn't look pretty like in gnome-terminal

Does anyone have any other good tips or alternative terminal suggestions to retain command line efficiency on a Mac?


You can install gnome terminal on mac os X using fink, or other unix package tool available on the mac. You will have to have X11 running though which may not be ideal, depending on your needs. Also, I'd suggest learning actual shell specific commands for moving around in a terminal, as those will generally be the same regardless of the terminal emulator you are using. That is, as long as you have a bash shell, Ctrl-a will get you to the beginning of a line in any terminal (gnome terminal, kterm, xterm, rxvt, etc.) assuming that they aren't doing something silly like stealing your control characters!

As noted in other answers, there are also other terminal alternatives for MacOS - iterm2 being a commonly used one.

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    Thanks, I didn't realize that those were shell-specific commands! – Sandy Aug 13 '10 at 21:09
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    Sadly, terminal.app does steal the meta- characters, so commands like (M-f and M-b)[gnu.org/software/bash/manual/… don't work. – Stefan Lasiewski Aug 27 '10 at 20:53

Use iTerm. Its great.



You must first consider that what you see is made of 3 layers at least:

  1. The OS. Apple modified UNIX OS is different from Linux and BSDs and don't behave the same.
  2. The shell. You can choose between Bash, Ksh (KornShell). I use Zsh with a very nice configuration file I found on the Internet and that I customized a little.
  3. The interface:

    • ttyX : Pure command-line interface on UNIX or UNIX-like, except Mac OS X as far as I know. Press Alt+F1, Alt-F2, ...

      Be sure to use a nice resolution tough and not 800x600!

      Some just use this, fire Vim or Emacs and get a distraction-free writing environment so that they can concentrate on their work, on the text itself, or on the code.

      You can have the same "effect" on mac using MacVim and press Apple+Maj+F, or use a much simpler editor like WriteRoom if you want such a kind of distraction-free full editor.

    • gnome-terminal
    • KDE terminal
    • Terminal.app (the one on your Mac)

My point is that you can customize every layer to work and appear as you like, and that you must understand the behaviour you had on Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution is the result of all these layers.

A well-configured Terminal.app can be a lot better than gnome-terminal/zsh with default configuration combo.

Nevertheless, I think Terminal.app isn't as featured as the (cloned) UNIX grandpas ;-)

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