Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You’re not an uber-geek, but you appreciate learning little tidbits that make your day-to-day computing life easier. When you read about a clever tip or hint, you write it down on a piece of paper, or perhaps type it in a text file, email, or database for future reference. You’ve built-up a decent collection of these little snippets and refer to them when you can’t quite remember how to accomplish something.
Chances are, a lot of Mac Gems readers fit into that category. Now here’s another description; see if it sounds familiar: You love Mac OS X but you’re a bit intimidated by Terminal. You’ve used a few Terminal commands that you’ve seen around the Web or in a book on OS X, but you don’t really understand the ins and outs of the command line. You may have even tried to learn a bit about Unix shells and Terminal by reading a tutorial or book, but found the abstract nature of these guides to be less than satisfying.
If you’ve got both hands raised right now, you’re a prime candidate for Rixstep’s free CLIX 1.4a ( C ommand L ine I nterface for OS X ; ), a utility for storing and running Unix commands.
CLIX includes a default database containing over 450 Terminal commands that perform useful actions in Mac OS X, categorized by what aspect of OS X they affect. For example, Dock commands alter the behavior or appearance of the Dock, whereas Safari commands enable or disable features in Safari—many of them features that aren’t normally accessible.
To work with a command, double-click it; you’ll be presented with a dialog that shows the title, category, and description of the command, as well as the command itself (in the Command Line field. To actually run the command, click the Run button—the command will be executed and any text output will be displayed in the output box. (You can use the Copy button to copy this output to the clipboard for pasting in another application.)
But you can also edit or customize commands directly in the Command Line field. For example, the Birthday command searches Unix’s calendar database for famous people who had birthdays on a particular date; the default command is cat /usr/share/calendar/calendar.birthday | grep 01/01 . If you wanted to find out who was born on August 30, you would simply edit the date so the command reads cat /usr/share/calendar/calendar.birthday | grep 08/30 . To run the customized command just this time, click Run; to save the command as the default, click the Save button.
Warning: Some of the commands in CLIX’s default database do serious things, so be sure to read the description of a command before running it; if you don’t understand the description of a command, don’t run it. This is especially true for those commands that require administrative access. (The Edit: Sudo command will let you enter your admin-level account password to enable this access.)
Because you’re working with valid commands—things that are known to work—CLIX is a useful tool for learning Unix commands, especially when used along with a good command-line tutorial. You can look at a command and try to figure out how and why it does what it does.
However, even though the default CLIX database is great for running the built-in commands, what will win many people over is its ability to store your own commands—those you’ve found on the Web, read in a book or magazine article, or painstakingly created from your own research—either in the default database or in a new database you create just for your own commands. Simply choose Edit: Add and then type in a name and category for the command, your own description, and the command itself. Click Save to save the new entry. You then get the same options as you do for CLIX’s default commands. This feature is so useful on its own that CLIX may become a reference guide for your collected Unix tidbits even if you never touch its default database.