How to Open Terminal on a Mac (Incl. Keyboard Shortcut)

Open Terminal on a Mac

You’ve been told the Terminal is the best way to get something done? Want to enter the world of brew, ls, awk, ed, and nethack? Find out here how to open Terminal on a Mac.

First, Take Two Balls and Your Copy of Aristotle

Not without reason and base in experience, Aristotle had maintained in his Physics that heavier objects—like the iron ball in my left hand—fall faster, of course, than comparably lighter ones—like the ball made of balsa wood in my right hand.

Now image, argues Giovanni Battista Benedetti, a Venetian mathematician from the 16th century, the two balls are connected, say with a string.

  • The combined object is heavier than either ball alone, so it will fall faster than the heavier of them, which is the iron ball alone.
  • The light wooden ball falls slowly, so it will lag and keep the iron ball from reaching its speed, so the combined object will fall more slowly than the iron ball alone.

So, the combined wood and iron and very lightweight string object falls both faster and slower than the iron ball alone.

While we leave the rest of physics history to follow this through (and duly note there may be reasonable doubt whether the object falling faster and slower is really the same object in the argument above), let’s see how many ways we can use to open Terminal on a Mac, and which might be comparably faster (or more lightweight):

How to Open Terminal on a Mac

Using Launchpad

Time needed: 1 minute

To open Terminal on your Mac swiftly using Launchpad:

  1. Open Launchpad.

    Here’s how: You can use a keyboard shortcut, a trackpad shortcut, and the Dock to open Launchpad.

  2. Start typing terminal.

  3. As Terminal is highlighted, press Enter to open it.

    The mouse alone: You can typically find Terminal in the Other folder; open it and click Terminal to open Terminal with the mouse on Launchpad.
    Open Terminal from Mac Launchpad

Open Terminal from the Dock

If you use Terminal frequently, you can add it to the Dock. To open Terminal from the Dock:

  1. Add Terminal to the Dock.
    Here’s how: Open Terminal by any of the other means, then click on the Terminal Dock icon with the right mouse button and select Options | Keep in Dock from the menu that has appeared.
    Dragging and dropping: You can also drag and drop Terminal from the Applications folder in Finder to the Dock, of course.
  2. Click Terminal in the Dock to open it or switch to the topmost open Terminal window.
    Hidden Dock: Make the Dock visible anywhere by moving the cursor beyond the edge that holds the Dock.

Use Spotlight Search to Open Terminal

You can also use Spotlight to quickly find and launch Terminal on a Mac:

  1. Open Spotlight.
    Here’s how: Click the Spotlight icon in the macOS menu bar, for instance—if the icon is visible.
    Mac keyboard shortcut: Pressing Command Space is the standard keyboard shortcut to open Spotlight search.
  2. Start typing terminal.
  3. Press Enter when Terminal is highlighted.
    No need to wait: You need not wait for all search results to load.
    Open Terminal using Spotlight on a Mac

Using Finder

To open Terminal from Mac Finder:

  1. Go to or open Finder.
  2. Open the folder /Applications/Utilities.
    Mac keyboard shortcut: Press Command Shift U.
  3. Double-click Terminal.

More ways to open Terminal from Finder: How to Open Mac Terminal from Finder (Already in the Current Folder)

Open Terminal Using a Mac Keyboard Shortcut

To set up a keyboard shortcut just for opening or switching to Terminal on your Mac:

  1. Create an Open App action in Shortcuts for Terminal.
    Set up a new Mac Automator action for opening Terminal
  2. Assign a keyboard shortcut to the opening Terminal shortcut.
    Example: You can use something like Command Option Shift T.
    Add a keyboard shortcut to your Mac for opening Terminal

Open a New Terminal Prompt from Terminal

You can also open a new Terminal window or tab from inside Terminal, of course:

  • Press Command N for a new Terminal window using the standard terminal profile.
  • Press Command T for a new tab in the same window (and in the same directory).
  • Use the Shell | New Window (or Shell | New Tab) to open a new Terminal using a different profile.

(How to open Terminal on a Mac tested with macOS Sonoma 14.3 and Ventura 13.3; updated April 2024)

Home » Mac Tips and Resources » How to Open Terminal on a Mac (Incl. Keyboard Shortcut)