Using the terminal and git
The command line is a text interface for your computer. Just like Windows Explorer on a PC or Finder on a Mac, it lets you navigate through the files and folders of your computer, but it’s completely text-based.
The command line can seem unfamiliar and scary, but it’s really a different way of interacting with your computer. This tutorial only covers safe commands that will not do anything bad to your computer, even if you get them wrong.
Terminal is only available in Mac OS X. For Windows, use Git Bash.
Navigating around in the terminal
Once you’ve opened your terminal you should see a window.
Do not worry if the text in yours is a little different. It does not matter.
To run a command, type the words and press
pwd or print working directory
pwd command prints to the command line the current directory (another
name for folder) you are in. If you just opened up your terminal, you are
probably in your ‘home’ directory, and you should get an output similar to this:
So your current ‘working directory’ is
cd or change directory
cd command allows you to move between directories. You tell
cd which directory to move to by putting the path after the
cd, like this:
This moves you into the Desktop directory.
You can go up a directory level:
You can also go to your home directory.
ls or list
ls command lists the files in a directory:
This should print a list of the files and folders inside the working directory. If you’re in your home directory, you’ll probably see directories like
Use Up and Down to go through previous commands.
Select Ctrl and C together to cancel a running command.
Select Command and K together to clear your terminal. This does not stop a running command. It removes lines of content from view.
Select Tab to autocomplete a file or folder name. You may need to press it a second time if there are no unambiguous matches.
Getting things wrong in the terminal
If you type a command that the command line does not understand, it will show you an error message. Do not worry if you see one of these. Have a look at the command you wrote and see if you can work out what was wrong.
Try the following for example:
You should see an error message like:
-bash: whargleblargle: command not found
Common Git commands
Create a repository
A Git repository is a virtual storage of your project. It allows you to save versions of your code, which you can access when needed.
Create a new local repository with the specified name:
git init PROJECT-NAME
Download a project and its entire version history:
git clone PROJECT-URL
List all new or modified files to be committed:
Snapshot the file in preparation for versioning:
git add FILE-NAME
Snapshot multiple files:
git add .
Record a snapshot of your file (a commit):
git commit -m MESSAGE-THAT-EXPLAINS-YOUR-COMMIT
Synchronise local and remote repos
Upload all local branch commits to GitHub:
git push REMOTE-BRANCH-NAME BRANCH-NAME
If pushing to a
main branch from a local repo (a folder on your device), you can write the above as:
git push origin main
Download history from a remote directory and incorporate the changes in your local version:
Git branches are a pointer to a snapshot of your changes. If you want to add a new feature or fix a bug, you can create a new branch to encapsulate your changes.
List all local branches in the current repository:
Create a new branch:
git branch BRANCH-NAME
Switch to the specified branch and update working directory:
git checkout BRANCH-NAME
Combine the specified branch’s history into the current branch:
git merge BRANCH-NAME