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Creating Command Aliases: Speed up your terminal workflow.

Author: Sunny Singh

If you're fairly new to the terminal/CLI (command-line interface), then chances are that you're typing out or copying-and-pasting commands whenever you need to do something. Not only are a lot of commands hard to remember, but you also end up wasting time. If you have a list of commands that you use on a daily basis, then you can save yourself some time by creating aliases. This tutorial will work for both Linux and OS X.

Editing the .bash_profile file

I prefer to keep track of the commands that I've aliased, so the best way to do that is by editing the .bash_profile file in your user folder. You can do so by typing the following command:

nano ~/.bash_profile

Note that I'm using nano, a simple command-line editor. The ~ part simply finds the file within your user folder (/Users/Sunny on OS X for me). You are free to find this file through your file explorer and editing it within your preferred editor.

Once you're editing the file, simply place each alias on its own line with the following format:

alias proj='cd ~/Code/Project'
alias build='proj && gulp'

You can save this file in nano by pressing ctrl+w and then y. Unfortunately you also need to make bash recognize these new commands, so you have to type the following in your terminal to reload it:

. ~/.bash_profile

You can actually alias that command to something like "savealiases" to make things easier. With these example aliases, you can now type proj to go to the Code/Project folder (relative to your user folder). You can also see how to use previously-aliased commands in new commands, such as the build alias (which switches to your project folder, and runs gulp).

List of useful aliases

You can be as creative as you want with writing aliases, and it depends on your workflow. However, here are some ideas you might find useful:

# Manage Aliases
alias editaliases='nano ~/.bash_profile'
alias savealiases='. ~/.bash_profile'

# SSH Into Remote Server
alias server='ssh [email protected]'

# SSH Into Local Vagrant Machine
alias vm='ssh [email protected] -p 2222'

# Clear Terminal Screen
alias c='clear'

# Shortcuts to directory switching
alias ..='cd ..'
alias ...='cd ../../../'
alias ....='cd ../../../../'
alias .....='cd ../../../../'

Level-Up Your CLI Game

If you use a terminal every day, then you probably want to improve your workflow to be as efficient as possible. For that, I highly recommend Oh My Zsh which lets you add themes and plugins. I will do a tutorial on this in the future, along with porting over your aliases to Oh My Zsh.

There are also a bunch of people that share their terminal setups at if you want to get into this further.