How-to: Bash Keyboard Shortcuts

Moving the cursor:

  Ctrl + a   Go to the beginning of the line (Home)
  Ctrl + e   Go to the End of the line (End)
  Hold the Option key option and click on the current line = Jump Backwards

  Ctrl + p   Previous command (Up arrow)
  Ctrl + n   Next command (Down arrow)
  Hold the Option key option and click on a previous line = Jump upwards

  Ctrl + f   Forward one character
  Ctrl + b   Backward one character
   Alt + b   Back (left) one word      or use Option+Right-Arrow
   Alt + f   Forward (right) one word  or use Option+Left-Arrow

  Ctrl + xx  Toggle between the start of line and current cursor position


 Ctrl + L   Clear the Screen, similar to the clear command

  Alt + Del Delete the Word before the cursor.
  Alt + d   Delete the Word after the cursor.
 Ctrl + d   Delete character under the cursor
 Ctrl + h   Delete character before the cursor (backspace)

 Ctrl + w   Cut the Word before the cursor to the clipboard.
 Ctrl + k   Cut the Line after the cursor to the clipboard.
 Ctrl + u   Cut/delete the Line before the cursor position.

  Alt + t   Swap current word with previous
 Ctrl + t   Swap the last two characters before the cursor (typo).
 Esc  + t   Swap the last two words before the cursor.

 ctrl + y   Paste the last thing to be cut (yank)
  Alt + u   UPPER capitalize every character from the cursor to the end of the current word.
  Alt + l   Lower the case of every character from the cursor to the end of the current word.
  Alt + c   Capitalize the character under the cursor and move to the end of the word.
  Alt + r   Cancel the changes and put back the line as it was in the history (revert).
 ctrl + _   Undo
  TAB       Tab completion for file/directory names

For example, to move to a directory 'sample1'; Type cd sam ; then press TAB and ENTER.
type just enough characters to uniquely identify the directory you wish to open.

Special keys: Tab, Backspace, Enter, Esc

Text Terminals send characters (bytes), not key strokes.
Special keys such as Tab, Backspace, Enter and Esc are encoded as control characters.
Control characters are not printable, they display in the terminal as ^ and are intended to have an effect on applications.

Ctrl+I = Tab
Ctrl+J = Newline
Ctrl+M = Enter

Ctrl+[ = Escape

Many terminals will also send control characters for keys in the digit row:
Ctrl+2 → ^@
Ctrl+3 → ^[
Ctrl+4 → ^\
Ctrl+5 → ^]
Ctrl+6 → ^^
Ctrl+7 → ^_
Ctrl+8 → ^?

Ctrl+v tells the terminal to not interpret the following character, so Ctrl+v Ctrl-I will display a tab character,
similarly Ctrl+v ENTER will display the escape sequence for the Enter key: ^M


  Ctrl + r   Recall the last command including the specified character(s)
             searches the command history as you type.
             Equivalent to : vim ~/.bash_history. 
  Ctrl + p   Previous command in history (i.e. walk back through the command history)
  Ctrl + n   Next command in history (i.e. walk forward through the command history)

  Ctrl + s   Go back to the next most recent command.
             (beware to not execute it from a terminal because this will also launch its XOFF).
  Ctrl + o   Execute the command found via Ctrl+r or Ctrl+s
  Ctrl + g   Escape from history searching mode
        !!   Repeat last command
      !n     Repeat from the last command: args n e.g. !:2 for the second argumant.
      !n:m   Repeat from the last command: args from n to m. e.g. !:2-3 for the second and third.
      !n:$   Repeat from the last command: args n to the last argument.
      !n:p   Print last command starting with n
      !$   Last argument of previous command
      ALT + .   Last argument of previous command
      !*   All arguments of previous command
      ^abc­^­def   Run previous command, replacing abc with def

Process control:

 Ctrl + C   Interrupt/Kill whatever you are running (SIGINT)
 Ctrl + l   Clear the screen
 Ctrl + s   Stop output to the screen (for long running verbose commands)
 Ctrl + q   Allow output to the screen (if previously stopped using command above)
 Ctrl + D   Send an EOF marker, unless disabled by an option, this will close the current shell (EXIT)
 Ctrl + Z   Send the signal SIGTSTP to the current task, which suspends it.
            To return to it later enter fg 'process name' (foreground).

To use the Alt Key Shortcuts in macOS - Open Terminal Preferences ➞ Settings Tab ➞ Keyboard ➞ Tick "Use option as meta key"

Custom Terminal Keyboard Shortcuts

In addition to the standard system-wide and bash keyboard shortcuts, it is possible to add extra key shortcuts for the macOS terminal. These are defined under Terminal ➞ Preferences ➞ Profile ➞ Keyboard

To add the Home key up/left for Start of Line and the End Key down/right for End of Line:

Emacs mode vs Vi Mode

All the above assume that bash is running in the default Emacs setting, if you prefer this can be switched to Vi shortcuts instead.

Set Vi Mode in bash:

$ set -o vi

Set Emacs Mode in bash:

$ set -o emacs

“...emacs, which might be thought of as a thermonuclear word processor” ~ Emacs vs. Vi Wiki

Related macOS commands

How-to: Keyboard Shortcuts for macOS.
Apple Kb HT201236 - Keyboard Shortcuts Quick Reference.
fg - Bring a command to the foreground.
vi editor - A one page reference to the vi editor.
~./.bash_history - Text file with command history.

Copyright © 1999-2024
Some rights reserved