My five step guide to Terminal Bliss

Published in Development, Productivity on Oct 6, 2018

For a developer, a good terminal setup can make your life a lot easier and with the proper tools and plugins, you can save a lot of time as well. When setting up a new Macbook (or MacOS installation), I stick to my five steps in setting up the perfect terminal configuration.

1. iTerm2

Although MacOS comes with a pretty capable terminal app, iTerm is better in every way. Its highly configurable, its **appearance **can be set to your liking (it has some nice transparancy / blurring effects), it comes with loads of keyboard shortcuts, and much more.

You can download it for free, but I suggest you leave a donationfor the great effort.

2. Brew

Give your Mac "apt-like" powers by installing Brew, a great packaging manager. Installing Wget, Nginx or PHP suddenly becomes a breeze. Here are some Brew packages I install right of the bat:

  • Wget
  • VIM
  • Git
  • PHP
  • Composer

Brew is even capable of installing entire Mac apps, like Firefox, etc.

Download Brew right away.

3. Nerd Fonts

A nice looking font can make your source code so much more readable - without changing a single line. Furthermore, it can provide you with additional characters you can use in your terminal (see Oh My ZSH below).

In iTerm, I use the DejaVu Sans Mono patched font. Besides being acknowledged as a font for technical work, it clearly distinguishes a few characters that are easily confused (like the lowercase 'l' and number one '1').

In my IDE's, I use Fira Code with ligatures. It presents popular programming symbols like an arrow (=>) or strictly equal (===) in a really nice way.

Download them on or using Brew.

4 Oh My ZSH

Bash comes as a default with MacOS, but like iTerm2, oh-my-zsh can take your shell experience to another level. Sophisticated auto-completion, theming, and plugin support are just a few examples that could make you jump ship.

Since I like a minimal shell prompt, I created my own theme called Mnml. It shows only the information that is relevant (like "only show git info when in a Git folder", "only show hostname when SSH'ing on a remote machine", "only turn red when using root account").

There are some built-in plugins you might want to enable right away in your .zshrc file. This is what my list looks like

plugins=(git composer npm vagrant laravel5)

A special recommendation for zsh-autosuggestions, which enhanced auto-completion with a kind of "preview", allowing you to type less and use your command history to your advantage.

Download oh-my-zsh - again - for free, but you can support them by buying a T-Shirt in their store (like I did).

You can download my theme using wget:

wget -q -O .oh-my-zsh/themes/mnml.zsh-theme

Activate it by editing your .zshrc file and changing the ZSH_THEME variable to "mnml".

5. Git

Last, but no least, download the latest Git. Before Git, version control was a mess. Git comes as standard with MacOS, but you can use Brew to get a more recent version:

brew install git

After that, its just a matter of configuring it to your liking. I use a couple of aliases as shortcuts. You can set them up in your shell:

git config --global alias.l 'log --oneline --decorate --all --graph' 
git config --global alias.s 'status -s' 
git config --global 'checkout master' 

git config --global  '!git add -A && git commit -m "!squash"'
git config --global alias.restore 'reset HEAD~1'
git config --global alias.squash 'rebase --interactive --autosquash'
git config --global alias.feature  '!git  add -A && git commit -m "!squash"'

git config --global alias.upstream 'remote add upstream'
git config --global alias.updatefork '!git fetch upstream && git rebase upstream/master'
git config --global alias.undocommit 'reset HEAD~1 --mixed'

And... that's it!

Well, almost. There are a few tweaks left, that I will post in the near future, like command aliases, using VIM, etc. I hope this is useful in some way to anyone out there!