Upgrade Your Mac Terminal: A Quick Guide to Make It Beautiful and Functional

Want to take control of your Mac terminal? Here's a quick guide with everything you need to get started.

Upgrade Your Mac Terminal: A Quick Guide to Make It Beautiful and Functional

So you want one of those fancy macOS terminal setups, but don't know where to start. Let me help you out.


? Have a Mac: This guide is for macOS but perhaps a Window's guide is coming soon.

? Install Brew: Run the command below if you don't have it installed.

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/HEAD/install.sh)"
The Missing Package Manager for macOS (or Linux).

Color scheme

First things first. We need that pop of color. We're nonjudgemental so you can pick your favorite terminal color scheme. Maybe switch it up every day. Select and download one of the color schemes aka .terminal files available from the repo below.

Color schemes for default macOS Terminal.app. Contribute to lysyi3m/macos-terminal-themes development by creating an account on GitHub.

Open the .terminal file in Terminal and your prompt should be colored. To select this scheme, go to Preferences and set the selected one to your Default.


Nerd fonts has a great selection of fonts to add to your terminal. They integrate icons into a font so these are essential to many cool command line tools. Select your favorite one from here and install it.

Nerd Fonts - Iconic font aggregator, glyphs/icons collection, & fonts patcher
Iconic font aggregator, collection, & patcher: 3,600+ glyph/icons, 40+ patched fonts: Hack, Source Code Pro, more. Popular glyph collections: Font Awesome, Octicons, Material Design Icons, and more

After it's installed, go to your Terminal preferences and set the font on your existing theme. I highly recommend not picking the monospaced font because the icons show up very small since they must occupy the same space as a letter.


The new macOS terminal defaults to use zsh instead of bash. There are different ways to customize this with theming and tools. Recently, I started using prezto. Prezto is super convenient and gives built in tools like git integration and auto complete and doesn't really require the same upfront configuration as other tools like Oh My Zsh.

brew install prezto
The configuration framework for Zsh. Contribute to sorin-ionescu/prezto development by creating an account on GitHub.

Once you have prezto installed, theming prezto is just a couple simple commands.

List themes

prompt -l

Preview theme

prompt -p <name>

Install  theme

Go to ~/.zprezto/romcom/.zpreztorc and add the name this file. I chose the theme pure specifically because it keeps the terminal very clean while still showing the git integration. Find your favorite though.

Viewing File Structure


This package adds the tree command to allow you to see a beautiful tree structure of all your files.

brew install tree

Then you can just run tree to sift through your repositories.


ls is great but we can do better. exa is a great replacement.

A modern replacement for ‘ls’. Contribute to ogham/exa development by creating an account on GitHub.
brew install exa

Note: If you followed the prezto steps, you can create a handy alias instead of writing exa. Add alias "list=exa --icons" to your ~/.zprezto/romcom/.zshrc


You're done. Enjoy your beautiful terminal. Send me a tweet @keithrfung if you love it.