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Learning Unix for OS X, 2nd Edition by Dave Taylor

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Chapter 2. Using the Terminal

With a typical Unix system, a staff person has to set up an account for you before you can use it. With OS X, however, the operating system installation process automatically creates a default user account. The account is identified by your username, which is usually a single word or an abbreviation. Think of this account as your office—it’s your personal place in the Unix environment.

When you log in to your OS X system, you’re automatically logged into your Unix account as well. In fact, your Desktop and other customized features of your OS X environment have corresponding underpinnings in the Unix environment. Your files and programs can be accessed either through the Finder or through a variety of Unix command-line utilities that you can use in OS X’s Terminal application.

In this chapter, you’ll not only learn about the Terminal and how to customize it for your own needs, but you’ll also gain an understanding of the command-line nature of OS X when accessed through the Terminal. If you’re used to moving your cursor around and clicking on buttons, this might seem wonderfully—or awkwardly—retro, but as is so often the case, the differences between the Finder and the Terminal are part of what makes the Terminal, and Unix, so remarkably powerful.

Launching the Terminal

The way you use Unix on OS X is through an application known as the Terminal, or, to Mac geeks, Terminal.app (pronounced “Terminal dot app”). Open a Finder window, head to Applications ...

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