I have never used a Mac before. I recently went to an Apple store and tried to open a shell to try it out. But, I was not able to open a shell - no shortcut for it, not right-click-menu entry, nothing.

How do you open a shell on a Mac?

Does it even have a shell? I was assuming as Mac is a descendant of Unix, there would be something similar.

  • 3
    Assuming they might have removed some hacky hacky feature on demonstration machines, you might have never been able to find one because they may have removed it. That's a very bad written sentence. This one too.
    – gokoon
    Aug 21 '10 at 18:33

You're correct, it is a descendant of Unix. Mac calls the shell "Terminal" and you can find it under Applications → Utilities → Terminal:

enter image description here

  • Confusing screenshot because X11.app is highlighted which also has shells/terminals but text refers to Terminal.app.
    – user31752
    Aug 23 '10 at 5:15
  • Eh, I don't own a Mac, best I could do :)
    – John T
    Aug 23 '10 at 11:45

Another way is to use Spotlight to launch Terminal.

  1. Press command-space to open the Spotlight search box in the upper right-hand corner
  2. Begin typing "Terminal"
  3. Click on Terminal or just hit return if it's the first result.

spotlight example in the wild

  • Nice edit... 3+ years after I initially typed it incorrectly. Nov 22 '13 at 18:23

I suggest downloading iTerm. It has a few more extra features than Terminal included with Mac OS X. Among them are tabs, full screen mode, transparency and background images, VT100 emulation with colours, and more.

  • 2
    Actually, many of these features (tabs, transparency, VT100 w/colors) are already supported by the standard Terminal app. Aug 22 '10 at 20:22
  • As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Terminal supports Full Screen and background images (it had tabs and transparency previously, and has always been a VT100-compatible emulator).
    – Chris Page
    Aug 29 '11 at 12:44

As was mentioned, previously you could use the Terminal (see instructions above) or you could also use xterm. They both have their benefits and their flaws ... so you can give them a whirl and see which you prefer.

I ended up using xterm more whenever I needed to code because I couldn't get the built-in Mac terminal to work with mouse clicks and other shortcuts which I use while coding in vim.


You can also enter the terminal by pressing Cmd+S while booting up. You'll be presented with the root shell, no gui loaded

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