CLI tools you won’t be able to live without

Originally posted on dev.

As developers, we spend a lot of our time in the terminal. There’s a lot of helpful CLI tools, which can make your life in the command line easier, faster and generally more fun.

This post outlines my top 50 must-have CLI tools, which I’ve come to rely on. If there’s anything I’m missing – do let me know in the comments ūüôā

At the end of the article, I’ve included some scripts to help you automate the installation and updating of these tools on various systems/ distros.

 

Utils

thefuck РAuto-correct miss-typed commands

thefuck¬†is one of those utilities you won’t be able to live without once you’ve tried it. Whenever you mis-type a command and get an error, just run¬†fuck¬†and it’ll auto-correct it. Use up/down to choose a correction, or just run¬†fuck --yeah¬†to just execute the most likely immediately.

the-fuck-example-usage

View thefuck on GitHubAuthor nvbnWritten in Python

 

Install

 


zoxide РEasy navigation (better cd)

z¬†lets you jump to any directory without needing to remember or specify its full path. It remembers which directories you’ve visited, so you can jump around quickly – you don’t even need to type the full folder name. It also has an interactive selection option, using¬†fzf¬†so you can live-filter directory results

zoxide-example-usage

View zoxide on GitHubAuthor ajeetdsouzaWritten in Rust

 

Install

 


tldr РCommunity-maintained docs (better man)

tldr¬†is a huge collection of community-maintained man pages. Unlike traditional man pages, they’re summarized, contain useful usage examples and nicely colourized for easy reading

tldr-example-usage

View tldr on GitHubAuthor tldr-pages

 

Install

 


scc РCount lines of code (better cloc)

scc¬†gives you a breakdown of number of lines of code written in each language for a specific directory. It also shows some fun stats, like estimated cost to develop and complexity info. It’s incredibly fast, very accurate and has support for a wide range of languages

scc-example-usage

View scc on GitHubAuthor boyterWritten in Go

 

Install

 


exa РListing Files (better ls)

exa is a modern Rust-based replacement for the ls command, for listing files. It can display file-type icons, colors, file/folder info and has several output formats Рtree, grid or list

exa-example-usage

View exa on GitHubAuthor oghamWritten in Rust

 

Install

 


duf РDisk Usage (better df)

duf is great for showing info about mounted disks and checking free space. It produces a clear and colorful output, and includes options for sorting and customizing results.

duf-example-usage

View duf on GitHubAuthor muesliWritten in Go

 

Install

 


aria2 РDownload Utility (better wget)

aria2¬†is a lightweight, multi-protocol, resuming download utility for HTTP/HTTPS, FTP, SFTP, BitTorrent and Metalink, with support for controlling via an RPC interface. It’s incredibly¬†feature rich, and has tons of¬†options. There’s also¬†ziahamza/webui-aria2¬†– a nice web interface companion.

aria2c-example-usage

View aria2 on GitHubAuthor aria2Written in C++

 

Install

 


bat РReading Files (better cat)

bat¬†is a clone of¬†cat¬†with syntax highlighting and git integration. Written in Rust, it’s very performant, and has several options for customizing output and theming. There’s support for automatic piping and file concatenation

bat-example-usage

View bat on GitHubAuthor sharkdpWritten in Rust

 

Install

 


diff-so-fancy РFile Comparisons (better diff)

diff-so-fancy gives you better looking diffs for comparing strings, files, directories and git changes. The change highlighting makes spotting changes much easier, and you can customize the output layout and colors

diff-so-fancy-example-usage

View diff-so-fancy on GitHubAuthor so-fancyWritten in Perl

 

Install

 


entr РWatch for changes

entr¬†lets you run an arbitrary command whenever file changes. You can pass a file, directory, symlink or regex to specify which files it should watch. It’s really useful for automatically rebuilding projects, reacting to logs, automated testing, etc. Unlike similar projects, it uses kqueue(2) or inotify(7) to avoid polling, and improve performance

entr-example-usage

View entr on GitHubAuthor eradmanWritten in C

 

Install

 


exiftool РReading + writing metadata

ExifTool is handy utility for reading, writing, stripping and creating meta information for a wide variety of file types. Never accidentally leak your location when sharing a photo again!

exiftool-example-usage

View exiftool on GitHubAuthor exiftoolWritten in Perl


fdupes РDuplicate file finder

jdupes¬†is used for identifying and/or deleting duplicate files within specified directories. It’s useful for freeing up disk space when you’ve got two or more identical files

fdupes-example-usage

View jdupes on GitHubAuthor jbruchonWritten in C


fzf РFuzzy file finder (better find)

fzf¬†is an extremely powerful, and easy to use fuzzy file finder and filtering tool. It lets you search for a string or pattern across files. fzf also has¬†plugins¬†available for most shells and IDEs, for showing instant results while searching. This¬†post¬†by Alexey Samoshkin highlights some of it’s use cases.

fzf-example-usage

View fzf on GitHubAuthor junegunnWritten in Go

 

Install

 


hyperfine РCommand benchmarking

hyperfine makes it easy to accurately benchmark and compare arbitrary commands or scripts. It takes care of warm-up runs, clearing the cache for accurate results and preventing interference from other programs. It can also export results as raw data and generate charts.

hyperfine-example-usage

View hyperfine on GitHubAuthor sharkdpWritten in Rust

 

Install

 


just РModern command runner (better make)

just¬†is similar to¬†make¬†but with some nice additions. It let’s you group your projects commands together into recopies, which can be easily listed and run. Supports aliases, positional arguments, different shells, dot env integration, string interprulation, and pretty much everything else you could need

View just on GitHubAuthor caseyWritten in Rust

 

Install

 


jq РJSON processor

jq¬†is like¬†sed, but for JSON – you can use it to slice and filter and map and transform structured data with ease. It can be used to write complex queries to extract or manipulate JSON data. There’s also a¬†jq playground¬†that you can use to try it out, or formulate queries with live feedback

View jq on GitHubAuthor stedolanWritten in C


most РMulti-window scroll pager (better less)

most is a pager, for reading through long files or command outputs. most supports multi-windows and has the option to not wrap text

Author JedWritten in S-Lang


procs РProcess viewer (better ps)

procs is an easy to navigate process viewer, it has colored highlighting, makes sorting and searching for processes easy, has tree view and updates in real-time

procs-example-usage

View procs on GitHubAuthor dalanceWritten in Rust


rip РDeletion tool (better rm)

rip¬†is a safe, ergonomic and performant deletion tool. It let’s you intuitively remove files and directories, and easily restore deleted files

rip-example-usage

View rip on GitHubAuthor nivekuilWritten in Rust


ripgrep РSearch within files (better grep)

ripgrep¬†is a line-oriented search tool that recursively searches the current directory for a regex pattern. It can ignore the contents of¬†.gitignore¬†and skip binary files. It’s able to search within compressed archives, or only search specific extension, and understands files using various encoding methods

ripgrep-example-usage

View ripgrep on GitHubAuthor BurntSushiWritten in Rust


rsync РFast, incremental file transfer

rsync lets you copy large files locally or to or from remote hosts or external drives. It can be used to keep files across multiple locations synced, and is perfect for creating, updating and restoring backups

View rsync on GitHubAuthor WayneDWritten in C


sd РFind and replace (better sed)

sd is an easy, fast and intuitive find and replace tool, based on string literals. It can be executed on a file, an entire directory, or any piped text

sd-example-usage

View sd on GitHubAuthor chmlnWritten in Rust


tre РDirectory hierarchy (better tree)

tre outputs a tree stye list of files for your current or a specified directory, with colors. When running with the -e option, it numbers each item, and creates a temporary alias that you can use to quickly jump to that location

tre-example-usage

View tre on GitHubAuthor dduanWritten in Rust


xsel РAccess the clipboard

xsel¬†let’s you read and write to the X Selection clipboard via the command line. It’s useful for piping command output to the clipboard, or a copied data into a command

View xsel on GitHubAuthor kfishWritten in C



CLI Monitoring and Performance Apps

bandwhich РBandwidth utilization monitor

Show bandwidth usage, connection information, outgoing hosts and DNS queries in real-time

bandwhich-example-usage

View bandwhich on GitHubAuthor imsnifWritten in Rust


ctop РContainer metrics and monitoring

Like¬†top, but for monitoring resource usage for running (Docker and runC) containers. It shows real-time CPU, memory and network bandwidth as well as the name, status and ID of each container. There’s also a built-in log viewer, and options to manage (stop, start, exec, etc) containers

ctop-example-usage

View ctop on GitHubAuthor bcicenWritten in Go


bpytop РResource monitoring (better htop)

bpytop¬†is a fast, interactive, visual resource monitor. It shows top running processes, recent CPU, mem, disk and network history. From the interface you can navigate, sort and search – there’s also support for custom color themes

bpytop-example-usage

View bpytop on GitHubAuthor aristocratosWritten in Python


glances РResource monitor + web and API

glances¬†is another resource monitor, but with a different feature set. It includes a fully responsive web view, a REST API and historical monitoring. It’s easily extendable, and can be integrated with other services

glances-example-usage

View glances on GitHubAuthor nicolargoWritten in Python


gping РInteractive ping tool (better ping)

gping can run ping tests on multiple hosts, while showing results in real-time graph. It can also be used to monitor execution time, when used with the --cmd flag

gping-example-usage

View gping on GitHubAuthor orfWritten in Rust


dua-cli РDisk usage analyzer and monitor (better du)

dua-cli¬†let’s you interactively view used and available disk space for each mounted drive, and makes freeing up storage easy

dua-cli-usage-example

View dua-cli on GitHubAuthor ByronWritten in Rust


speedtest-cli РCommand line speed test utility

speedtest-cli¬†just runs an internet speed test, via speedtest.net – but straight from the terminal ūüôā

speedtest-cli-example-usage

View speedtest-cli on GitHubAuthor sivelWritten in Python


dog РDNS lookup client (better dig)

dog is an easy-to-use DNS lookup client, with support for DoT and DoH, nicely coloured outputs and the option to emit JSON

dog-example-usage

View dog on GitHubAuthor oghamWritten in Rust



CLI Productivity Apps

Surf the web, play music, check emails, manage calendars, read the news and more, all without leaving the terminal!

browsh РCLI web browser

browsh is a fully interactive, real-time, and modern text-based browser rendered to TTYs and browsers. It supports both mouse and keyboard navigation, and is surprisingly feature rich for a purely terminal based application. It also mitigates battery drain issues that plague modern browsers, and with support for MoSH, you can experience faster load times due to reduced bandwidth

browsh-example-usage

View browsh on GitHubAuthor browsh-orgWritten in JavaScript


buku РBookmark manager

buku¬†is a terminal-based bookmark manager, with tons of configuration, storage and usage options. There’s also an optional¬†web UI¬†and¬†browser plugin, for accessing your bookmarks outside of the terminal

buku-example-usage

View buku on GitHubAuthor jarunWritten in Python


cmus РMusic browser / player

cmus is terminal music player, controlled with keyboard shortcuts. It has support for a wide range of audio formats and codecs, and allows organising tracks into playlists and applying playback settings

cmus-example-usage

View cmus on GitHubAuthor cmusWritten in C


cointop РTrack crypto prices

cointop show current crypto prices, and track the price history of your portfolio. Supports price alerts, historical charts, currency conversion, fuzzy searching, and much more. You can try the demo via the web at cointop.sh, or by running ssh cointop.sh

cointop-example-usage

View cointop on GitHubAuthor cointop-shWritten in Go


ddgr РSearch the web from the terminal

ddgr¬†is like¬†googler, but for DuckDuckGo. It’s fast, clean and easy, with support for instant answers, search completion, search bangs, and advanced search. It respects your privacy by default, and also has HTTPS proxy support, and works with Tor

dggr-example-usage

View ddgr on GitHubAuthor jarunWritten in Python


micro РCode editor (better nano)

micro¬†is an easy to use, fast and extendable code editor with mouse support. Since it’s packaged into a single binary, installation is as simple as¬†curl https://getmic.ro | bash

micro-screenshot

View micro on GitHubAuthor zyedidiaWritten in Go


khal РCalendar client

khal is a terminal calendar app, which shows upcoming events, month and agenda views. You can sync it with any CalDAV calendar, and add, edit and remove events directly

khal-example-usage

View khal on GitHubAuthor pimutilsWritten in Python


mutt РEmail client

mut is a classic, a terminal based mail client for sending, reading and managing emails. It supports all mainstream email protocols and mailbox formats, allows for attachments, BCC/CC, threads, mailing lists and delivery status notifications

mutt-example-usage

View mutt on GitHubAuthor muttmuaWritten in C


newsboat РRSS / ATOM news reader

newsboat is an RSS feed reader and aggregator, for reading the news, blogs and following updates directly from the terminal

newsboat-example-usage

View newsboat on GitHubAuthor newsboatWritten in C++


rclone РManage cloud storage

rclone is a handy utility for syncing files and folders to various cloud storage providers. It can be either invoked directly from the command line, or easily integrated into a script as a replacement for heavy desktop sync apps

View rclone on GitHubAuthor rcloneWritten in Go


taskwarrior РTodo + task management

task¬†is a CLI task management/ todo app. It’s both simple and unobtrusive, but also incredibly powerful and scalable, with advanced organisation and query features built in. There’s also a lot (700+!) of extra¬†plugins¬†for extending it’s functionality and integrating with third-party services

task-warrior-example-usage

View taskwarrior on GitHubAuthor GothenburgBitFactoryWritten in C++


tuir РTerminal UI for Reddit

tuir¬†is a great one if you want to look like you’re working, while actually browsing Reddit! It’s got intuitive keybindings, custom themes, and can render images and multi-media content too. There’s also¬†haxor¬†for hacker news

tuir-example-usage

View tuir on GitLabAuthor ajakWritten in Python



CLI Dev Suits

httpie РHTTP / API testing testing client

httpie¬†is a HTTP client, for testing, debugging and using APIs. It supports everything you’d expect – HTTPS, proxies, authentication, custom headers, persistent sessions, JSON parsing. Usage is simple with an expressive syntax and colourized output. Like other HTTP clients (Postman, Hopscotch, Insomnia, etc) HTTPie also includes a web UI

httpie-example-usage

View httpie on GitHubAuthor httpieWritten in Python


lazydocker РFull Docker management app

lazydocker is a Docker management app, that lets you view all containers and images, manage their state, read logs, check resource usage, restart/ rebuild, analyse layers, prune unused containers, images and volumes, and so much more. It saves you from needing remember, type and chain multiple Docker commands.

lazy-docker-example-usage

View lazydocker on GitHubAuthor jesseduffieldWritten in Go


lazygit РFull Git management app

lazygit¬†is a visual git client, on the command line. Easily add, commit and puch files, resolve conflicts, compare diffs, manage logs, and do complex operations like squashes and rewinds. There’s keybindings for everything, colors, and it’s easily configurable and extenable

lazy-git-example-usage

View lazygit on GitHubAuthor jesseduffieldWritten in Go


kdash РKubernetes dashboard app

kdash is an all-in-one Kubernetes management tool. View node metrics, watch resources, stream container logs, analyse contexts and manage nodes, pods and namespaces

View kdash on GitHubAuthor kdash-rsWritten in Rust


gdp-dashboard РVisual GDP debugger

gdp-dashboard adds a visual element to the GNU Debugger, for debugging C and C++ programs. Easily analyse memory, step through breakpoints, and view registers

gdp-dashboard-example-usage

View gdb-dashboard on GitHubAuthor cyrus-andWritten in Python



CLI External Sercvices

ngrok РReverse proxy for sharing localhost

ngrok¬†safely* exposes your localhost to the internet behind a unique URL. This lets you share what you’re working on with you’re remote colleagues, in real-time. Usage is¬†very simple, but it’s also got a lot of advanced features for things like authentication, webhooks, firewalls, traffic inspection, custom/ wildcard domains and much more

ngrok-example-usage

View ngrok on GitHubAuthor inconshreveableWritten in Go


tmate РShare a terminal session via internet

tmate¬†let’s you instantly share a live terminal session with someone elsewhere in the world. It works across different systems, supports access control/ auth, can be self-hosted, and has all the features of Tmux

View tmate on GitHubAuthor tmate-ioWritten in C


asciinema РRecording + sharing terminal sessions

asciinema¬†is very useful for easily recording, sharing and embedding a terminal session. Great to showcase something you’ve built, or to show the command-line steps for a tutorial. Unlike screenrecording videos, the user can copy-paste the content, change the theme on the fly and control playback

View asciinema on GitHubAuthor asciinemaWritten in Python


navi РInteractive cheat sheet

navi allows you to browse through cheatsheets and execute commands. Suggested values for arguments are dynamically displayed in a list. Type less, reduce mistakes and save yourself from having to memorise thousands of commands. It integrates with tldr and cheat.sh to get content, but you can also import other cheatsheets, or even write your own

View navi on GitHubAuthor denisidoroWritten in Rust


transfer.sh РFast file sharing

transfer¬†makes uploading and sharing files really easy, directly from the command line. It’s free, supports encryption, gives you a unique URL, and can also be self-hosted.
I’ve written a Bash helper function to make usage a bit easier, you can¬†find it here¬†or try it out by running¬†bash <(curl -L -s https://alicia.url.lol/transfer)

transfer-sh-example-usage

View transfer.sh on GitHubAuthor dutchcodersWritten in Go


surge РDeploy a site in seconds

surge¬†is a free static hosting provider, that you can deploy to directly from the terminal in a single command, just run¬†surge¬†from within your¬†dist¬†directory! It supports custom domains, auto SSL certs, pushState support, cross-origin resource support – and it’s free!

surge-sh-example-usage


wttr.in РCheck the weather

wttr.in¬†is a service that displays the weather in a format that’s digestible in the command line. Just run¬†curl wttr.in¬†or¬†curl wttr.in/London¬†to try it out. There’s URL parameters to customise what data is returned, as well as the format

wrrt-in-example-usage

View wttr.in on GitHubAuthor chubinWritten in Python



CLI Fun

cowsay РHave an ASCII cow say your message

cowsay¬†is a configurable talking cow. It’s based off the¬†original¬†by Tony Monroe

cowsay-example-usage

View cowsay on GitHubAuthor piuccioWritten in JavaScript


figlet РOutput text as big ASCII art text

figlet outputs text as ASCII art

figlet-example-usage

View figlet on GitHubAuthor cmatsuokaWritten in C


lolcat РMake console output raibow colored

lolcat makes any text passed to it rainbow coloured

lolcat-example-usage

View lolcat on GitHubAuthor busyloopWritten in Ruby


neofetch РShow system data and ditstro info

neofetch prints distro and system info (so you can flex that you use Arch btw on r/unixporn)

neofetch-example-usage

View neofetch on GitHubAuthor dylanarapsWritten in Bash

As an example, I’m using¬†cowsay,¬†figlet,¬†lolcat¬†and¬†neofetch¬†to create a custom time-based MOTD shown to the user when they first log in. It greets them by their name, shows server info and time, date, weather and IP.¬†Here’s the source code.

welcome



Installations and Management

Most of us have a core set of CLI apps and utils that we rely upon. Setting up a new machine, and individually installing each program would get tiresome very quickly. So the task of installing and updating your terminal apps is the perfect candidate for automation.¬†Here¬†are some example scripts I’ve written, which can be easily dropped into your dotfiles or just run independently to ensure you’re never missing an app.

For MacOS users, the easiest method is using¬†Homebrew. Just create a Brewfile (with¬†touch ~/.Brewfile), then list each of your apps, and run¬†brew bundle. You can keep your package list backed up, by putting it in a Git repo. Here’s an example one, to get you started:¬†https://github.com/Lissy93/Brewfile

On Linux, you usually want to use the native package manager (e.g.¬†pacman,¬†apt). As an example,¬†here’s a script¬†to install the above apps on Arch Linux systems

Desktop apps on Linux can be managed in a similar way, via Flatpak. Again,¬†here’s an example script¬†ūüôā


Conclusion

… So that’s it – a list of handy CLI apps, and a method for installing and keeping them up-to-date across your systems.

Hopefully some of these will be useful to some of you ūüôā

I’d love to hear what you’re favourite CLI apps are, let me know in the comments below!

Additional Info

What wasn’t included

  • This list doesn’t include the basics, like Vim, Tmux, Ranger, ZSH, Git, etc – which you’re likely already using
  • I’ve also not included anything too niche, or only specific to a small number of users
  • Nothing system-specific, or that isn’t cross-platform (Linux/ Unix, MacOS) is included
  • And I’ve not included apps which relate to the terminal, but are not CLI apps (like terminal emulators)
  • For most of the projects listed, there’s a plethora of alternatives that achieve similar things, for brevity those also weren’t included

Credit

Huge kudos to the authors, and communities behind each of these apps. Without them and their hard work, our life in the command line would be much less awesome. Where possible, I’ve tried to credit the authors, but if I’ve missed any – let me know below, and I’ll push an update

Feedback

What have I missed? I’d love to hear your favourite CLI apps, especially if there’s something awesome that I’ve missed!

I’d also like to hear your thoughts and suggestions – I’m always looking to improve ūüôā

Badges

Here’s the script that I made to generate the author, language and GitHub star badges:

 

Repo Badge Generator

GitHub logo

 

 

 

View repo-badge-maker on GitHubAuthor Lissy93

Find More

If you were enjoying this, I recommend also checking out:

If you’re new to the command line, then¬†The Art of Command Line¬†by Joshua Levy is an excellent resource, as is the¬†Bash Guide¬†by Adnan Ahmed.

And if you are looking for inspiration, you’ll love¬†r/unixporn¬†⚡

Source: dev