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Demystifying the Command Line on macOS: Unleashing Power at Your Fingertips


Have you ever heard about or wondered about that mysterious tool called the command line on your macOS? It's time to demystify it and harness its potential to supercharge your productivity as a lawyer. In this beginner's guide, we'll walk you through the basics of the command line, including its location, how to access it, navigate around, and perform simple exercises to get you started on your journey to command line mastery.First off: Why Legal Professionals Should Learn the Command Line

  1. Efficiency and Automation: Similar to developers, legal professionals who become comfortable with the command line can automate repetitive tasks. For example, they could write scripts to automatically move and organise files, batch rename files, or extract text from multiple files at once. This can save significant amounts of time and reduce the chance of errors.

  2. Data Analysis: Many powerful data analysis tools are command-line based. Legal professionals may need to analyse large sets of data, for example, when reviewing contracts or case files. With command-line tools like grep, sort, awk, or even more powerful tools like Python or R (with command line interfaces), they can perform complex analysis tasks without the need for specialised (and often expensive) software.

  3. Working with Legal Tech Applications: As legal technology advances, tools like AI-powered document analysis or legal research software are becoming command-line friendly, and being comfortable with the command line can make using these tools smoother. This also opens the door to advanced usage, such as scripting or automation that can further enhance the benefits of these tools.

  4. Understanding Technology: Having a basic understanding of the command line helps in understanding how computers, and by extension, software and AI work. This can be beneficial for lawyers working with technology companies, cybersecurity, intellectual property, or any area where legal and tech intersect.

  5. Digital Forensics: In the realm of digital forensics and cybersecurity, the command line is crucial. Knowing command-line tools can help in understanding system vulnerabilities, performing forensic analysis, and understanding the actions of malicious actors.

  6. Package and Dependency Management: Just as in software development, legal tech might also require the use of different packages or libraries, especially if the legal professional is involved in creating or maintaining a legal tech application. Understanding how to manage these on the command line can be a valuable skill.

Locating and Accessing the Command Line:

  1. Spotting the Terminal: On macOS, the command line tool is known as Terminal. You can find it by following these steps: a) Click on the magnifying glass icon in the top-right corner of your screen. b) Type "Terminal" in the search bar. c) Click on the Terminal app that appears in the search results.

  2. Pinning Terminal to the Dock: To make accessing Terminal more convenient, you can pin it to your Dock for quick access. Here's how: a) Locate the Terminal app using the steps mentioned above. b) Click and hold the Terminal icon in the search results. c) Drag the icon to your Dock and release it to add Terminal as a permanent shortcut.

Navigating and Performing Simple Exercises

Getting Familiar with the Command Line Interface:

  • After launching Terminal, you'll see a black window with a blinking cursor, which represents your command line interface.

  • This is where you can enter commands and receive output.

Exploring Directories:

  • To navigate through directories (folders), you can use the "cd" command followed by the directory name.

  • For example, type "cd Documents" to navigate to the "Documents" directory.

Listing Files and Directories:

  • To view the files and directories within your current location, use the "ls" command.

  • Type "ls" and press Enter to see a list of files and directories in the current directory.

Creating a File:

  • To create a file, use the "touch" command followed by the desired filename and extension.

  • For example, type "touch my_file.txt" to create a text file named "my_file.txt."

Opening a File with Text Editor:

  • To open a file in a text editor, use the "open" command followed by the filename.

  • For example, type "open my_file.txt" to open the "my_file.txt" file in your default text editor.


Congratulations on taking your first steps into the world of the command line on macOS! By locating, accessing, and navigating the command line interface, you have unlocked a world of efficiency and possibilities. Remember to explore further by experimenting with additional commands and exercises. The command line can become an invaluable tool for streamlining your legal work and embracing legal technology. Attached is a short cheat sheet of command line prompts which will get you started:

Basic Command line prompts
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