Skip to content

Try our new Crash Courses!

Buy one of our new Crash Courses, now hosted on Teachable.

Understanding the prompt – Terminal


When you first open up your terminal, you will be greeted by a prompt. If you are on a recent version of macOS, the prompt will look something like this:

Username@Computer-Name ~ %

The Username part will be whatever your username is on your computer, and the Computer-Name part will be whatever the name of your computer is.

The third part indicates what folder you are currently in. In this way, the terminal is kind of like the Finder app or File Explorer in that you are always inside some folder. In the example above, the tilde symbol (~) indicates that you are currently in your home folder. Lastly, the percent symbol shows you where you can enter commands. You can type commands after the percent symbol.


One thing to keep in mind is that when you open up a terminal window, you’re really looking at two pieces of software: the terminal application itself, and the shell process running inside of it. There are different shells that can run inside a terminal. The example above is using a shell called zsh, which is the current default shell on newer versions of macOS. If you are using Git BASH on Windows or an older version of macOS, you will be using the bash shell, which has a dollar sign instead of a percent sign in the prompt.


There are no exercises for this lesson.


Terminal User Guide

Back to: Terminal Reference > Terminal Introduction