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Aliases: Also Known as Terminal User’s Best Friends

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Some aliases that I find useful

In all the following examples, the dollar sign $ at the beginning of commands represents the prompt, it should not be typed.


List all aliases

$ alias

Prints all of your aliases. If you have plenty of those, you might prefer to pipe this command with less to get a nice pager that allows you to easily nagivate them:

$ alias | less

Setting an alias in ~/.bash_aliases

alias c='clear'

This would set c as a shortcut to clear. In order to use the newly created alias, you would have to close the terminal or type the following command in the terminal:

$ source ~/.bash_aliases

Clear the screen

alias c='clear'

I like being absorbed into the emptiness of the terminal, so this one comes in handy to tidy up the work space.

Reset the terminal

alias re='tput reset'

If for some reasons the terminal displays badly or display funky characters, it can usually be reset this way.

Exit from the terminal

alias q='exit'

For exiting the terminal as if you were still in Vim!

Display all file extensions recursively from the current directory

alias allextensions="find . -type f -name '*.*' | sed 's|.*\.||' | sort -u"

It comes in handy to spot if a file shouldn’t be there or to check for lower or uppercase extensions.

Find text inside files, including filenames

alias findinfiles='ag --nobreak --nonumbers --noheading . | fzf'

In this example, the alias is set up with ag, a fast code-searching tool and fzf, a great fuzzy finder.

Reboot and shutdown the system

alias reboot='systemctl reboot'
alias shutdown='systemctl poweroff'

This will reboot or power off the system without needing root privileges in most working conditions.

List and sort files and directories by modification time

alias treeold='tree -hDF | less'

This requires the command tree to be installed. The parameters are (descriptions taken from man tree):

-h: Print the size of files in a human readable way.

-D: Print the date of the last modification time.

-F: Append a ‘/ for directories, a ‘= for socket files, a ‘\* for executable files, a ‘> for doors (Solaris) and a ‘| for FIFO’s, as per ls -F.

Open files quickly with default applications

alias o='xdg-open'

This will open files and URLs specified as argument in the default application detected.

Moving around

If you are going to be working on projects for some time and require to cd into them, I have found the following to be useful:

$ cdnameOfProject  # instead of having to do cd /path/to/project/
$ # More examples:
$ cdcodeabbey  # For
$ cdhackerrank  # For
$ cdeuler  # For
$ cdgit  # For all Github repositories

This is not advanced by any means, but it helps quite regularly! Since you can take advantage of tab completion, you can type cd (without adding a space) and then press TAB key to autocomplete the aliases.

alias ...='cd ../..'

Make it easier to navigate into deep directory structures by basically doing cd .. && cd .. to go back up two directories at once.

Listing files

alias l='ls -CFh'
alias la='ls -Ah'
alias ll='ls -ahlF'
alias ls='ls --color=auto'

Different ways to set up the command ls to quickly see the needed files. The parameters are (descriptions taken from man ls):

-A: Do not list implied . and ...

-C: List entries by columns.

-F: Append indicator (one of \*/=>@|) to entries.

-a: Do not ignore entries starting with .

-h: With -l and/or -s, print human readable sizes (e.g., 1K 234M 2G).

-l: Use a long listing format.

alias aNameOfProject='source /path/to/project/bin/activate'
alias aa='source ~/Programming/anaconda3/bin/activate'  # Example using Anaconda distribution

The purpose is to activate a specific virtual environment quickly. The command cd could be added to go to the related project also:

alias gNameOfProject='cd /path/to/project/ && ./.venv/bin/activate'

Where .venv would be the name of the virtual environment.

I like to activate environments starting aliases with a and go and activate at the same time starting aliases with g. This way, it feels like I am speaking the Vim language (cw for change word, for example).

alias da='deactivate'

This will deactivate a virtual environment.

alias p36='python3.6'
alias p='python3.7'  # Simply using `p` for main version of Python

Practical way to quickly open the desired Python version.

alias pyclean='find . -regex ".*\(__pycache__\|\.py[co]\)" -delete'

This will delete recursively all files and directories that match one of the following patterns in their name: __pycache__, .pyc or .pyo.


I hope you will find at least one alias to improve your productivity. Of course, you are welcome to chime in with your own suggestions!

© Sébastien Lavoie. Built in Python using Pelican v4.5.4. Theme adapted from Giulio Fidente on GitHub.