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My Favorite Bash Tips, Tricks, and Shortcuts

yechielk profile image Yechiel (he/him) Originally published at dev.to on ・3 min read

If you're on DEV, chances are you spend at least some time in the terminal, maybe even a lot of time.

Over the years, I've picked up a number of tips and tricks from fellow developers. Almost every time I pair program with someone new, chances are I'll notice them doing something neat and ask them how they did it.

Here are some of my favorites.

I use bash as my default terminal, but most of these tips translate to other terminals as well.

_ Note: This post isn't meant to teach the basics of using the terminal. There are many great resources online (I remember doing Codecademy's Command Line course when I was starting out._

The - operator

Do you find yourself switching back and forth between two directories often?

You can use cd - to change to the last directory you were in like this:

~ $ cd directory1
~/directory1 $ cd directory2
~/directory2 $ cd -
~/directory1 $

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This also works with git when switching between branches:

~/my-project(main)$ git checkout feature-branch
~/my-project(feature-branch)$ git checkout -
~/my-project(main)$

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The !! operator

This happens a lot!

You type a command, only to get a "Permission denied" so you have to retype the command again, this time using sudo.

The !! operator echoes the last command you typed into your terminal.

You can use it like this:

$ some-dangerous-script.sh
=> Error: Permission Denied
$ sudo !!
=> Enter password for some-dangerous-script.sh: 

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{curly brace expansion}

If you ever need to run a series of very similar commands that differ by just a few characters (like for example, if you want to create a few filenames with lightly different extensions) you can use the characters that will be different between two curly braces and the command will run once for each one.

Like this:

$ touch file-{1,2,3}.md
$ ls
=> file-1.md file-2.md file-3.md

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You can also pass in a range:

$ touch file-{1..3}.md
$ ls
=> file-1.md file-2.md file-3.md

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Search using Ctrl+R

Ae you like me? Would you press the up button 20 times to avoid typing out a 7 character command?

This next one was a lifesaver for me!

You can type Ctrl + R (Cmd + R on a mac) followed by the first few letters of the command you want to search through your bash history and bring up the command you need.

(Sorry, I can't think of how to demonstrate that with a code snippet. Just go to your terminal, type in Ctrl + R and start typing).

Aliases

Aliases are a great way to save time and keystrokes. If there's a command or a series of commands you find yourself typing often, it's making an alias can be very helpful.

In order to set aliases, first open the ~/.bashrc file in your favorite editor and check if it has the following lines in it:

if [-f ~/.bash_aliases]; then
    . ~/.bash_aliases
fi

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It should be there already, if it isn't just add it to the bottom of the file.

Next open ~/.bash_aliases in your editor (or create it if it doesn't exist) and add your aliases in the following format:

alias something="definition"

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Some playful aliases I have in my .bash_aliases are:

alias please="sudo "
alias yeet="rm -rf 

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I also have a number of functions defined there, for more complex command series:

mk() {
    mkdir $1 && cd $1
}

gclone() {
    git clone "$1" && cd "$(basename "$1" .git)"
}

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The mk alias takes a directory name as an argument, mks the directory and then cds into it.

The gclone alias takes a git repo, cloned it, and then cds into it.

After adding aliases to your .bash_aliases they should load automatically every time you start a new terminal session.

If you would like to use your aliases in your current session, run:

source ~/.bash_aliases

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That's what I can think of for now.

Do you have any favorite tips and tricks?

Please please do share them! I always love learning new ones!

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