How can I get the Terminal.app in OS X to display the current directory in its window or tab title?

I'm using the bash shell.

  • I always wonder why not even people who answer the question remember to vote it up.
    – cregox
    Apr 1, 2010 at 23:16

7 Answers 7


Depends on your shell.

This article displays multiple methods.

I personally use zsh which has a convenient precmd() function which is run before each prompt.

    precmd () { print -Pn "\e]2;%n@%M | %~\a" } # title bar prompt

Although the other questions list bash methods, they alias cd. Bash provides an inherent method that chains off just the prompt.


bash supplies a variable PROMPT_COMMAND which contains a command to execute before the prompt. This example (inserted in ~/.bashrc) sets the title to "username@hostname: directory":

 PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "\033]0;${USER}@${HOSTNAME}: ${PWD}\007"'

where \033 is the character code for ESC, and \007 for BEL. Note that the quoting is important here: variables are expanded in "...", and not expanded in '...'. So PROMPT_COMMAND is set to an unexpanded value, but the variables inside "..." are expanded when PROMPT_COMMAND is used.

However, PWD produces the full directory path. If we want to use the '~' shorthand we need to embed the escape string in the prompt, which allows us to take advantage of the following prompt expansions provided by the shell:

\u          expands to $USERNAME
\h          expands to hostname up to first '.'
\w          expands to directory, replacing $HOME with '~'
\[...\]     embeds a sequence of non-printing characters

Thus, the following produces a prompt of "bash$ ", and an xterm title of "username@hostname: directory" ...

 case $TERM in
        PS1="\[\033]0;\u@\h: \w\007\]bash\$ "
        PS1="bash\$ "

Note the use of [...], which tells bash to ignore the non-printing control characters when calculating the width of the prompt. Otherwise line editing commands get confused while placing the cursor.

  • Should have mentioned I am using bash, I have updated the question.
    – kareman
    Dec 7, 2009 at 19:13
  • Added the bash method from the listed link. Dec 7, 2009 at 19:17
  • 2
    Very good. To get only the path to the current directory in the title and the name of the current directory in the prompt I just used PS1="\[\033]0;\w\007\]\W \$ ".
    – kareman
    Dec 7, 2009 at 19:42
  • 1
    "If we want to use the '~' shorthand we need to embed the escape string in the prompt" You can use the following to replace the full home directory pathname with tilde: ${PWD/#${HOME}/\~}
    – Chris Page
    Sep 19, 2011 at 10:18
  • 1
    @MattTagg Sure, you just need to put it into your ~/.profile (or equivalent) file on the remote machine. Jul 30, 2015 at 21:32

Copy & paste into file ~/.profile:
PROMPT_COMMAND="echo -ne \"\033]0;${PWD##*/}\007\"; $PROMPT_COMMAND"

This will set the title of the current terminal tab to the name of the folder you are in (NOT the whole path).
Developer/Applications/Utilities/Bluetooth/ becomes => Bluetooth

  • 3
    On mavericks the file to edit is ~/.bash_profile
    – Tom
    May 15, 2014 at 18:58
  • For some reason, the ending $PROMPT_COMMAND seemed to be doing weird things for me, so I just used export PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "\033]0;${PWD##*/}\007"' (on macOS Big Sur) Mar 13, 2021 at 0:09

As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Terminal has an explicit escape sequence for setting the working directory, which Terminal displays using the standard window "proxy" icon. This enables you to Command-Click it to see the path, reveal in Finder, or drag it like any other folder. In addition, Terminal can use this to create another terminal at the same directory, and to restore the working directory when quitting/restarting Terminal (when Resume is enabled). It also enables restoring directories for Window Groups.

It's the same Operating System Command (OSC) escape sequence as for the window and tab titles, but with the first parameter set to 7. The value should be a "file:" URL, which enables percent-encoding special characters so it can handle all valid pathnames. You should also include the hostname so Terminal can determine whether it's a local directory; Terminal will avoid using it as the current working directory if it's from a different host.

On a related note, Terminal similarly supports setting the "represented file" using the OSC escape sequence with a parameter of 6. If set, the proxy icon will display this instead of the working directory. For example, I have emacs and less configured to reflect the currently displayed file/buffer in the proxy icon. This enables these tty-based programs to be more integrated with the surrounding OS.

The working directory behaviors are enabled by default for bash (the default shell on Mac OS X). See /etc/bashrc for the relevant code.

It's also probably worth mentioning that Lion Terminal now supports setting the tab title independently from the window title using the OSC escape sequence.

  • The update_terminal_cwd function will set the proxy icon to the current working directory. By default $PROMPT_COMMAND is update_terminal_cwd.
    – jtbandes
    Sep 23, 2014 at 18:35
  • 1
    @jtbandes That’s what I was referring to when I wrote “The working directory behaviors are enabled by default for bash…”.
    – Chris Page
    Sep 24, 2014 at 23:59
  • Yep. I just discovered how it works and thought it might be useful for future googlers!
    – jtbandes
    Sep 25, 2014 at 0:49
  • Chris, how much of this is still relevant with Catalina and the default zsh? Feb 27, 2020 at 23:22
  • Thanks, you’ve updated the main point in superuser.com/a/328148/74409, though I’m still intrigued by your opening paragraph. Feb 27, 2020 at 23:29

Apart from recommending you use the Apple Terminal specific Operating System Command escape sequence: ESC ] Ps ; Pt BEL where Ps is 7 and Pt is a file: URL; it's worth adding that in Mac OS X 10.11 (and probably since 10.7) there's a file /etc/bashrc_Apple_Terminal (uneditable under 10.11) which defines the convenient update_terminal_cwd() as (without the comments):

update_terminal_cwd () 
    local url_path='';
        local i ch hexch LC_CTYPE=C LC_ALL=;
        for ((i = 0; i < ${#PWD}; ++i))
            if [[ "$ch" =~ [/._~A-Za-z0-9-] ]]; then
                printf -v hexch "%02X" "'$ch";
                url_path+="%${hexch: -2:2}";
    printf '\e]7;%s\a' "file://$HOSTNAME$url_path"

You could use this on your remote boxes too, in case you were thinking of doing so and then scratching your head on correctly encoding the file URL in bash.

And if you change PROMPT_COMMAND in your own .bash_profile or .bashrc you might forget to call this. In the same file they show an example of chaining it a bit better with:


Personally in my .bash_profile I wanted to add the git prompt so I did this:

local git_path=/Applications/Xcode.app/Contents/Developer/usr/share/git-core
for f in $git_path/git-completion.bash $git_path/git-prompt.sh
  if [[ -f "$f" ]]; then
    . "$f"
get_sha() {
    git rev-parse --short HEAD 2>/dev/null
if [ "function" = $(type -t __git_ps1) ]; then
    GIT_PS1_SHOWUPSTREAM="auto git"
    export PROMPT_COMMAND="$PROMPT_COMMAND${PROMPT_COMMAND:+; }"'__git_ps1 "\[\e[0;32m\]\u\[\e[1;32m\]@\h\[\e[0m\]:\[\e[0;34m\]\w\[\e[0m\]" "\$ " "\n{%s $(get_sha)}"'

Bash solutions involving PS1 and the PROMPT_COMMAND both fail if the directory has Unicode characters in it (at least on Snow Leopard). The best solution I could come up with was to do the equivalent of

PS1="\[\033]0;\`pwd | tr -dC '[\000-\177]'\`\007\]\$ "

Unfortunately this doesn't work directly, so instead I defined a shell function to do the tr call:

termtitlefilter () { tr -dC '[\000-\177]'; }
PS1="\[\033]0;\`pwd | termtitlefilter\`\007\]\$ "

This works well for Latin accents, which will be in Unicode NFD (the accents will disappear but the underlying Latin character will remain).

Unfortunately, it will completely fail for things like Chinese.

  • As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, Terminal has an explicit escape sequence for setting the working directory. It uses a URL, so you can use percent-encoding for special characters and support all valid pathnames. See my answer to this question for details.
    – Chris Page
    Sep 19, 2011 at 10:29

Assuming you are using the default MAC Terminal, you can use the following one in .profile since "set_prompt" by itself may send you to the root folder when you open a new tab:

set_prompt () {
    echo -ne "\033]0;$BASE_PATH\007"
set_my_tab () {


Enter this into your ~/.profile or equivalent file:

function settitle() { echo -n "]0;$@"; }
function cd() { command cd "$@"; settitle `pwd -P`; }

export PS1='\W \$ '

settitle `pwd`

The first line contains two special characters that can't be copied/pasted, but you can download the text from here: http://blog.nottoobadsoftware.com/files/setterminaltitle.sh.

  • 2
    "The first line contains two special characters that can't be copied/pasted" Instead of using echo use printf, which lets you express those characters (ESC and BEL/Control-G) with escape sequences: printf '\e]0;$@\a"
    – Chris Page
    Sep 19, 2011 at 10:27

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