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learning the Terminal : Part Four


One of the obstacles in becoming a command line guru is actually figuring out not just what’s available (see learning the Terminal: part Three) but how to use it. That just got a whole lot easier thanks to a (relatively) new tool called tldr.

Most command line (CLI) utilities come with either a man page or a help command, invoked either by man or </path/to/tool> --help, respectively. That’s traditionally the way we learn all the ins-and-outs of a given tool. If you’re lucky, there will be some examples at the end of the man page, and if you’re luckier still, there’ll be an example of exactly what you want to do with the tool there, too.

But what if you’re not lucky? Some CLI tools come with very few or no examples, some come even without a help command or man page. When that happens, prior to tldr your best bet was to go on an internet search or ask a friendly CLI expert if you knew one.

Now, tldr provides a third, and perhaps better, option. Unlike traditional man pages, tldr just spits out some basic examples of the CLI tool you specify, and that (more often than not) may be all all you need to get going (see the screenshots for examples).

If you have brew installed, you can get tldr easily with the command

brew install tldr

If not, either install homebrew first, or see the tldr homepage for other ways to install.

Using it is simple. Try some of these for fun:


tldr find
tldr awk
tldr sed
tldr cut

and so on. Here’s the output for tldr grep:

The one thing tldr doesn’t seem to have built in that I can find is a list of the commands it knows about. There is a workaround, though. You can search through the tldr pdf to see what’s available. Alternatively, we can us a bit of command-line magic to do it for us:

find ~/.tldrc -path '*common*' -or -path '*osx*' | cut -d"/" -f8 | cut -d"." -f1 | sort

If you’d like to make that into a nice little function that you can call simply with something like tldr_list, review the first post in this series on how to make and add functions to your .bash_profile.

As tldr is a community-based program, it is likely to be added to quite regularly (I have a few I’m planning to contribute myself), so we can only hope that the pdf is updated regularly and/or that tldr gains a proper introspective list function.

Speaking of updates, if you try tldr on itself, i.e,

tldr tldr


you’ll note the ‘update’ command. It’s probably worth remembering to run that from time to time. tldr also comes, of course, with its own man page, too!

Enjoy! 🙂
Related Posts
learning the Terminal – Part One
learning the Terminal – Part Two
learning the Terminal – Part Three

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