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 🙂
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.
thefuck – Auto-correct miss-typed commands
thefuckis 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
fuckand it’ll auto-correct it. Use up/down to choose a correction, or just run
fuck --yeahto just execute the most likely immediately.
zoxide – Easy navigation (better cd)
zlets 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
fzfso you can live-filter directory results
tldr – Community-maintained docs (better
tldris 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
scc – Count lines of code (better
sccgives 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
exa – Listing Files (better
exais a modern Rust-based replacement for the
lscommand, for listing files. It can display file-type icons, colors, file/folder info and has several output formats – tree, grid or list
duf – Disk Usage (better
dufis 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.
aria2 – Download Utility (better
aria2is 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.
bat – Reading Files (better
batis a clone of
catwith 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
diff-so-fancy – File Comparisons (better
diff-so-fancygives 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
entr – Watch for changes
entrlets 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
exiftool – Reading + 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!
fdupes – Duplicate file finder
jdupesis 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
fzf – Fuzzy file finder (better
fzfis 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.
hyperfine – Command benchmarking
hyperfinemakes 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.
just – Modern command runner (better
justis similar to
makebut 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
jq – JSON processor
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
most – Multi-window scroll pager (better less)
mostis a pager, for reading through long files or command outputs.
mostsupports multi-windows and has the option to not wrap text
procs – Process viewer (better ps)
procsis 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
rip – Deletion tool (better rm)
ripis a safe, ergonomic and performant deletion tool. It let’s you intuitively remove files and directories, and easily restore deleted files
ripgrep – Search within files (better
ripgrepis a line-oriented search tool that recursively searches the current directory for a regex pattern. It can ignore the contents of
.gitignoreand skip binary files. It’s able to search within compressed archives, or only search specific extension, and understands files using various encoding methods
rsync – Fast, incremental file transfer
rsynclets 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
sd – Find and replace (better
sdis 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
tre – Directory hierarchy (better
treoutputs a tree stye list of files for your current or a specified directory, with colors. When running with the
-eoption, it numbers each item, and creates a temporary alias that you can use to quickly jump to that location
xsel – Access the clipboard
xsellet’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
bandwhich – Bandwidth utilization monitor
Show bandwidth usage, connection information, outgoing hosts and DNS queries in real-time
ctop – Container metrics and monitoring
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
bpytop – Resource monitoring (better
bpytopis 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
glances – Resource monitor + web and API
glancesis 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
gping – Interactive ping tool (better
gpingcan 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
dua-cli – Disk usage analyzer and monitor (better
dua-clilet’s you interactively view used and available disk space for each mounted drive, and makes freeing up storage easy
speedtest-cli – Command line speed test utility
speedtest-clijust runs an internet speed test, via speedtest.net – but straight from the terminal 🙂
dog – DNS lookup client (better
dogis an easy-to-use DNS lookup client, with support for DoT and DoH, nicely coloured outputs and the option to emit JSON
Surf the web, play music, check emails, manage calendars, read the news and more, all without leaving the terminal!
browsh – CLI web browser
browshis 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
buku – Bookmark manager
bukuis 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
cmus – Music browser / player
cmusis 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
cointop – Track crypto prices
cointopshow 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
ddgr – Search the web from the terminal
ddgris 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
micro – Code editor (better
microis 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
khal – Calendar client
khalis 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
mutt – Email client
mutis 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
newsboat – RSS / ATOM news reader
newsboatis an RSS feed reader and aggregator, for reading the news, blogs and following updates directly from the terminal
rclone – Manage cloud storage
rcloneis 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
taskwarrior – Todo + task management
taskis 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
tuir – Terminal UI for Reddit
tuiris 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
httpie – HTTP / API testing testing client
httpieis 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
lazydocker – Full Docker management app
lazydockeris 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.
lazygit – Full Git management app
lazygitis 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
kdash – Kubernetes dashboard app
kdashis an all-in-one Kubernetes management tool. View node metrics, watch resources, stream container logs, analyse contexts and manage nodes, pods and namespaces
gdp-dashboard – Visual GDP debugger
gdp-dashboardadds a visual element to the GNU Debugger, for debugging C and C++ programs. Easily analyse memory, step through breakpoints, and view registers
ngrok – Reverse proxy for sharing localhost
ngroksafely* 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
tmate – Share a terminal session via internet
tmatelet’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
asciinema – Recording + sharing terminal sessions
asciinemais 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
navi – Interactive cheat sheet
naviallows 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
transfer.sh – Fast file sharing
transfermakes 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)
surge – Deploy a site in seconds
surgeis a free static hosting provider, that you can deploy to directly from the terminal in a single command, just run
surgefrom within your
distdirectory! It supports custom domains, auto SSL certs, pushState support, cross-origin resource support – and it’s free!
wttr.in – Check the weather
wttr.inis a service that displays the weather in a format that’s digestible in the command line. Just run
curl wttr.in/Londonto try it out. There’s URL parameters to customise what data is returned, as well as the format
cowsay – Have an ASCII cow say your message
cowsayis a configurable talking cow. It’s based off the original by Tony Monroe
figlet – Output text as big ASCII art text
figletoutputs text as ASCII art
lolcat – Make console output raibow colored
lolcatmakes any text passed to it rainbow coloured
neofetch – Show system data and ditstro info
neofetchprints distro and system info (so you can flex that you use Arch btw on r/unixporn)
As an example, I’m using
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.
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.
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 🙂
… 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 🙂
I’d love to hear what you’re favourite CLI apps are, let me know in the comments below!
- 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
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
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 🙂
Here’s the script that I made to generate the author, language and GitHub star badges:
If you were enjoying this, I recommend also checking out:
- terminals-are-sexy by Nikolaos Kamarinakis
- awesome-shell by Caleb Xu
- awesome-cli-apps by Adam Garrett-Harris
And if you are looking for inspiration, you’ll love r/unixporn ⚡