Command Line for the Beginner

Using the command line in developing for the web

Created by Jim Birch
Xeno Media, Inc.

Developers be all like...

Cat typing


What is the Command Line?

A command-line interface ... is a means of interacting with a computer program where the user (or client) issues commands to the program in the form of successive lines of text (command lines). - Wikipedia

Often referred to as CLI

C - Command
L - Line
I - Interface

Where is this Command Line?

What does the Terminal look like?

The Terminal

Customize Most Terminal Apps

Customize the Terminal

The Commands

Anatomy of a command

$ command -flag argument/operand

  • command - The action we want to happen
  • flag (optional) - Options for the command
  • operand (optional) - What is acted upon

Most of the time you find commands written, they will be prefaced with a $

Common Commands

  • cd - Change Directory
    $ cd /path/to/folder
    $ cd ../../../ to move up the tree.
  • cp - Copy
    $ cp wp-config-sample.php wp-config.php
  • grep - globally search a regular expression and print
    $ grep term filetosearchin.txt
  • ls - List
    $ ls -la
    (l = long format, a = all files, even hidden)
  • mkdir - Make Directory
    $ mkdir directoryname

Common Commands

  • mv - Move
    $ mv wp-config.php ../
  • pwd - Print Working Directory
    $ pwd
    Where you are
  • rm - Remove
    $ rm -rf whatyouwantremoved
  • sudo - Superuser Do
    $ sudo anycommand
    Use sudo if you need administrative access to run the command.
  • touch - Touch
    $ touch newfilename.txt
    Creates file/Updates Last modified

Common Commands

If you enter a screen that has a page of information, like a help screen:

  • Use your arrow keys to navigate up and down.
  • Type q to exit.


For most cases I have found, flags that are full words use two dashes, flags that are acronyms use one dash.

  • --all
  • -a


If you ever need to cancel a command:

Hold the Control key and C

Archiving and Unarchiving

Archive and compress; extract files and folders quickly and easily right from the command line.

Zip and Unzip

  • To compress a folder using zip:
  • zip -r path/to/folder
  • zip -r file1 file2 file3
  • To extract:
  • unzip

Tar and Untar

  • To compress a folder using tar:
  • tar -zcvf tar-file-name.tar.gz path/to/folder
  • To extract:
  • tar -zxvf tar-file-name.tar.gz

nano and vi editors

nano and vi are text editors available in terminal so you can edit files without needing any other programs.


nano file.txt to open a file
Control + (letter) for commands
Control + G for help

Nano Screen Capture

vi (or vim - "vi improved")

vi file.txt to open a file
:help for commands
:i to insert
:w to save
:q to exit

vi Screen Capture

You have survived the Beginner level!

Cat typing


Skip to end

Connecting to Servers by ssh

Connect to other servers, like your staging and production environments and run commands as you would on your local command line.

Creating SSH keys

  • Check for existing keys
    $ ls -al ~/.ssh
  • Create a new key
    ssh-keygen -t rsa -C "[email protected]"
  • -t = Key Type, -C = Comment
  • Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/Jim/.ssh/id_rsa):

Putting your Key on the server

  • UI Interfaces like CPanel and Plesk
  • Apache - Add your key to /%USER%/.etc/authorized_keys
  • nginx - Install openssh and add your key to /%USER%/.ssh/authorized_keys

Connecting to server

Set up an SSH Alias

  • nano ~/.ssh/config
  • Host hostname
    User usernameatserver
    HostName (IP Address or
    Port 22
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
  • Then, connect with
    ssh hostname

To disconnect from a server:

Type exit


Manage MySQL databases from the command line, including importing and exporting.

Connecting to MySQL

mysql -u username -p
You will be prompted for password.

* Note: You want to avoid using the password inline, as it would be available in logs

Importing a database

mysql -u username -p < database.sql

Exporting a database

mysqldump -u username -p > database.sql

Once you have connected to MySQL, you can run any SQL command

name_of_table VARCHAR(30),
sub_title VARCHAR(20),
yes_or_no CHAR(1),
date_of_thing DATE);


WP-CLI is a set of command-line tools for managing WordPress installations. You can update plugins, set up multisite installs and much more, without using a web browser. -

Common WP-CLI Commands

  • wp media regenerate
    Regenerates all thumbnails
  • wp post list
    List all the posts of a site
  • wp user delete 123 --reassign=567
    Delete a user, and assign their posts to another.
  • wp plugin install hello-dolly
    Installs Hello Dolly Plugin

Common WP-CLI Commands


Drush is a command line shell and Unix scripting interface for Drupal. -


In computing, alias is a command in various command line interpreters (shells) ... which enables a replacement of a word by another string. - Wikipedia

Anatomy of an alias


  • name - The name of the alias
  • command - The action we want to happen

Where to put Aliases

Mac OS

  • Temporary - alias name="command"
  • Permanent - nano ~/.bash_profile

Where to put Aliases


  • Temporary - alias name="command"
  • Permanent - nano ~/.bash_aliases

Where to put Aliases


  • Temporary - DOSKEY name="command"
  • Permanent - A lot more complicated!

Common Use Cases for Aliases

  • Navigate to common folders
    alias htdocs="cd /var/www/public_html"
    alias backdropcms="cd /Users/Jim/jim.local/"
  • Run Common Tasks
    alias restart='sudo apachectl restart'

Common Use Cases for Aliases

  • Open Common Files
    alias bashprofile='sudo nano /Users/Jim/.bash_profile'
    alias sshconfig='nano ~/.ssh/config'
  • Open Applications
    alias github='open -a Firefox\'

Common Use Cases for Aliases

Complex Example
Accepts a url, opens chrome in 5 different sized browsers

See also

See also

Bash Scripts

See also


Bash-it is a collection of community Bash commands and scripts. (And a shameless ripoff of oh-my-zsh :smiley:)

Includes autocompletion, themes, aliases, custom functions, a few stolen pieces from Steve Losh, and more.

Secure Copy Protocol (SCP)

Secure copy or SCP is a means of securely transferring computer files between a local host and a remote host or between two remote hosts. It is based on the Secure Shell (SSH) protocol. - Wikipedia

Copy file from local to server

scp example.txt username@server:myfile.txt

Copy all files in remote site to local (folder you are in)

scp serveralias:/var/www/public_html/wp-uploads/* .

Copy files from one server to another

scp serveralias:/var/www/public_html/wp-content/files/ secondserveralias:/var/www/public_html/wp-content/files/

You have surpassed the intermediate level with ease!

Cat typing


Skip to end

Git for Version Control

Git is a widely used source code management system for software development. It is a distributed revision control system with an emphasis on speed, data integrity, and support for distributed, non-linear workflows. - Wikipedia

Git in Plain English

  • Git gives us a canonical/main source of the code of the project.
  • Multiple versions can be checked out, and merged back in.
  • History of commits/different versions can be saved.
  • Easily sync multiple servers, Development, Staging, Productions.

Really great git tutorial

Common Git Commands

  • git clone repo.url
    Clones a repository to your computer
  • git fetch
    Gets updated code from repository
  • git merge origin/master
    Merges code from repository, master branch
  • git pull
    Fetch and merge in one step!
  • git checkout -b branchname
    Makes a new branch

Common Git Commands

  • git diff filename
    Shows the changes you have made to the file
  • git add -A
    Adds all files to "staging area"
  • git commit
    Moves from "staging area" to a commit
  • git push origin master
    Pushes local master branch to origin master
  • git log
    Lists history of commits

Automation/task runners like Grunt and Gulp


Future development will be powered by JavaScript

  • Node.js® is a JavaScript runtime built that runs
  • NPM (Node Package Manager), the largest ecosystem of open source libraries in the world

I use Node.js® to install NPM to install Grunt which installs...

Tools for our JavaScript files:

  • jshint - Detect errors and potential problems in your JavaScript code.
  • jscs - Linter/formatter for programmatically enforcing your style guide.
  • uglify - Minify files with UglifyJS
  • concat - Concatenate (merge) files into one.

Tools for our CSS files:

  • grunt-contrib-less, grunt-sass - Compile LESS/SASS files to CSS
  • csslint - Checks syntax checking and applys a set of rules that look for problematic patterns or signs of inefficiency.
  • cssmin - Minimizes CSS files
  • csscomb - Formats and sorts style sheets to make them organized and consistent.

So many uses:

  • imagemin - Minify images seamlessly.
  • copy - automate the copying of files or directories.
  • Thousands more... [Grunt Plugins] [Gulp Plugins]


Once these tasks have been assembled in a Gruntfile.js file, you can run the following command to implement these tasks on any changes:

grunt watch

  • Any JS/CSS/LESS/SASS files changed will be checked and organized!
  • Images put in the folder I am watching will be minified.
  • Any errors will be reported immediately!

Dependency/Package Managers like Composer

Composer helps you declare, manage and install dependencies of PHP projects, ensuring you have the right stack everywhere.
- Composer on Github

An overarching maintainer of your website and it's needs

A composer.json file defines all of the things your website needs. These are called dependencies.

This would include Wordpress itself, plugins, and themes. It could also include outside libraries like jQuery, Bootstrap, Foundation, and more.

An overarching maintainer of your website and it's needs

A composer.json file defines all of the things your website needs. These are called dependencies.

This would include Wordpress/Drupal core, plugins/modules, and themes. It could also include outside libraries like jQuery, Bootstrap, Foundation, Masonry, and more.

Rebuild this project in a moment's notice

If all dependencies are defined in a composer.json file, composer install could be run to install the site anywhere.

All you would need to do then is setup the database and move the files.



  • Command Line Basics
  • Commands and Flags
  • Archiving and Unarchiving
  • Command Line Editors



  • Connecting to Servers with SSH
  • MySQL
  • WP-CLI / Drush
  • Aliases
  • Secure Copy Protocol - SCP



  • Git for Version Control
  • Automation/task runners like Grunt and Gulp
  • Dependency/Package Managers like Composer

Now you can be all like...

Cat typing



Continuing the conversation:

Created by Jim Birch
Xeno Media, Inc.