- Written byDumitru Caldare
If you're new to web development, you may be intimidated by the terminal. However, it's an essential tool for any developer to master. The terminal allows you to interact with your computer using commands, making tasks quicker and more efficient. The process of working with terminal commands can be compared to communicating in a foreign language, as both require learning a new vocabulary and syntax, understanding the context, and practicing to become proficient.
In this series of articles, we'll cover everything you need to know about terminal commands for web development as a beginner. We'll discuss the basics, custom styling and distinctions for different operating systems. I will also share all of my tips and tricks for maximizing the potential of the terminal, the things I wish I had known when I started programming. From configuring your shell to using hotkeys, this guide has everything you need to know to become a terminal pro.
Why to Use Terminal: Advantages and Disadvantages
When it comes to web development, using the terminal instead of a graphical user interface (GUI) offers several advantages and disadvantages.
1. It's faster than using a GUI:
With a GUI, you often need to navigate through various menus and windows to perform tasks. In contrast, the terminal allows you to execute commands with lightning speed. Whether you're moving between directories, running scripts, or compiling code, a few keystrokes in the terminal can save you valuable time.
2. You can automate repetitive tasks using scripts:
Repetitive tasks can be a real productivity drain but the terminal has got your back with a nifty solution: scripts. By writing scripts, you can automate boring and repetitive tasks, freeing up your time. Need to generate multiple files with a specific structure? Create a script to do it with a single command. Want to deploy your web app to a server effortlessly? Let a script handle the process for you. Automation through scripts is a game-changer, allowing you to focus on more critical aspects of your development work.
3. You can access more tools and utilities such as git, docker, npm, ssh, and composer:
One of the most exciting aspects of the terminal is the vast array of tools and utilities it provides access to. Tools like git for version control, docker for containerization, npm for package management, ssh for secure remote connections, and composer for dependency management are just a few examples. Using the terminal allows you to harness the power of these tools directly, enhancing your development workflow and opening doors to a world of possibilities. While some of these tools do have GUI versions available, it's important to note that the primary versions of these tools are designed to be used from the terminal and in most cases it’s easier and faster this way.
4. It's more flexible and customizable:
The terminal offers unparalleled flexibility and customization options. You can tailor your command line environment to match your preferences and workflow. Customize the appearance of your terminal, define aliases for frequently used commands, or install additional plugins and extensions to enhance functionality. The ability to personalize your terminal environment empowers you to work in a way that suits your style.
5. Ability to share scripts or installation processes easily:
Collaboration and knowledge sharing are crucial in the world of web development. The terminal makes it a breeze to share your scripts or installation processes with others. By simply providing a script or a set of commands, you can help colleagues or the developer community replicate your workflow effortlessly. This ease of sharing promotes collaboration, fosters learning, and creates a supportive ecosystem where developers can build upon each other's work. In contrast, when it comes to GUIs, sharing the same process can be tedious and time-consuming. You find yourself needing to explain which button to click, where exactly it's located on the screen, and the various steps required to navigate through the interface to find it.
6. Most remote systems are accessed via terminal:
Web developers often find themselves working with remote systems such as servers or cloud instances. In these scenarios, the terminal becomes an indispensable tool. Most remote systems are accessed through the command line, allowing you to perform essential operations efficiently. Whether it's configuring servers, transferring files, or managing deployments, the terminal provides a direct and reliable connection to remote systems.
7. Watch Star Wars
Finally, the most important advantage is that you can actually watch Star Wars directly from the terminal. I understand if you have doubts, but I encourage you to see it for yourself. Open the command line of your system and enter the code above.
For mac or linux:
nc towel.blinkenlights.nl 23
1. Steep Learning Curve:
For beginners, the command line environment might feel intimidating and unfamiliar. Using the terminal requires learning and memorizing command-line syntax and specific commands. I would recommend utilizing cheat sheets, program documentation, and online resources to quickly find answers on how to perform specific tasks in the terminal. With regular practice, you'll become used to it, making it a much faster option compared to the GUI.
2. Reduced discoverability:
Graphical interfaces are generally more discoverable, with menus, buttons, and icons that provide visual cues for available options. In the terminal, you often need to rely on documentation or prior knowledge to discover available commands and their usage.
3. Higher risk of errors:
Due to the need for precise command syntax and lack of visual cues, there is a higher risk of making mistakes when using the terminal. A small typo in a command can lead to unexpected or erroneous results. To reduce the risks, adopting cautious habits like reviewing commands before execution, using confirmation prompts when appropriate, and leveraging tools like tab completion can minimize the risk of errors.
Difference between terminal, command line (CLI), and shell
First it's important to understand the basic terminology that we will use, this is not required information to remember but it will give a clear understanding of the subject.
Command line or Command-line interface(CLI)
The command-line is a method of interacting with your computer through text-based commands instead of a graphical user interface. It's a fundamental principle, rather than a specific implementation. If we're talking about specific implementations of the command-line, the terminal is an excellent example.
The terminal is a program that displays text-based output generated by the commands you enter. It was originally a separate display and keyboard used to communicate with the computer, but has evolved to become a virtual monitor. The terminal allows for direct communication between the user and the operating system or other programs, using shell programs. Various terminal emulator programs like iTerm, Warp, and Hyper can be installed to customize the user experience.
A shell is a program that acts as a command interpreter. When you enter a command in the terminal, the shell processes it and returns the results. There are many different types of shell programs, such as zsh, bash, fish, and sh, each with its own set of features and syntax. The shell also functions as a programming language, allowing users to create scripts that execute a specific set of tasks with the same syntax. It's important to note that the terminal and the shell are separate programs, with the terminal acting as the interface in which the shell runs.
In conclusion, the terminal is an essential tool for web developers. It offers numerous advantages such as speed, automation capabilities, flexibility, and easy sharing of scripts and processes. While it does come with a learning curve and the need to remember commands, these challenges can be overcome with time and practice.
This blog post has provided a brief introduction to the world of terminal usage for web developers, highlighting its benefits and addressing common concerns. However, there is much more to explore and learn about this powerful tool. If you're eager to delve deeper into the subject, stay tuned for future posts where we will dive into more advanced terminal techniques, useful commands, and practical tips.