Terminal and Console Explained For Beginners: Apple, Windows, and Linux

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a Terminal?
  3. Why Use a Terminal?
  4. Getting Started
    1. Apple (macOS)
    2. Windows
    3. Linux
  5. Common Commands
    1. Apple and Linux
    2. Windows
  6. Conclusion
  7. Further Resources


Welcome to this comprehensive guide on using the terminal for Apple (macOS), Windows, and Linux operating systems. Whether you’re a beginner looking to understand the basics or someone who wants to expand their knowledge, this guide aims to provide you with a thorough understanding of what the terminal is, why it’s useful, and how to use it across different platforms.

What is a Terminal?

A terminal, sometimes referred to as a command-line interface (CLI), is a text-based interface for interacting with your computer. Unlike graphical user interfaces (GUIs), which rely on visual elements like windows and icons, the terminal relies on text commands to perform operations. In essence, it serves as a conduit for communication between a user and the operating system or software.

Why Use a Terminal?

  1. Speed: Once familiar, using the terminal can be much faster than navigating through GUIs.
  2. Resource Efficiency: Text-based operations often consume fewer system resources than their graphical counterparts.
  3. Automation: The terminal makes it easier to automate tasks through scripting.
  4. Remote Access: You can use the terminal to access other computers remotely via protocols like SSH.
  5. Greater Control: The terminal offers more control and customization options compared to GUI-based tools.

Getting Started

Apple (macOS)

Accessing the Terminal

  1. Open the Finder.
  2. Navigate to Applications > Utilities.
  3. Double-click on Terminal.

Alternative Methods

  • Use Spotlight Search (Cmd + Space) and type “Terminal.”
  • Right-click (or Ctrl + click) on the desktop or within a Finder window and select New Terminal at Folder to open a terminal at that specific location.


Accessing the Command Prompt

  1. Open the Start Menu.
  2. Search for cmd or Command Prompt and click on it.

Accessing PowerShell

  1. Open the Start Menu.
  2. Search for PowerShell and click on it.

Alternative Methods

  • Press Win + R, type cmd or powershell, and press Enter.


Accessing the Terminal

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + T to open a new terminal window.
  2. Or, navigate to Applications > Accessories > Terminal depending on your distribution.

Common Commands

Apple and Linux Commands

lsLists files and directories
cd [path]Changes directory
pwdPrints the current working directory
cp [src] [dst]Copies files or directories
mv [src] [dst]Moves files or directories
rm [file]Removes a file
rmdir [dir]Removes an empty directory
mkdir [dir]Creates a new directory
touch [file]Creates a new empty file
echo [text]Prints text to the terminal

Windows Commands

dirLists files and directories
cd [path]Changes directory
cd..Moves up one directory
copy [src] [dst]Copies files
move [src] [dst]Moves files
del [file]Deletes a file
rmdir [dir]Removes a directory
mkdir [dir]Creates a new directory
echo [text]Prints text to the terminal


The terminal is a powerful tool that can streamline your workflow, automate tasks, and provide a high level of customization and control over your system. Each operating system has its own set of commands and syntax, but the core concepts remain the same.

Further Resources

By understanding and utilizing the terminal, you open up a world of possibilities in how you interact with your computer. Happy coding!

Disclaimer: This guide serves as an introductory overview and is not exhaustive. Always refer to official documentation for the most accurate and detailed information.