Automating Tasks with Shell Scripts on Mac

As a Mac user, you have access to a powerful and flexible scripting language called shell script. With shell scripts, you can automate various tasks on your Mac, saving you time and effort. In this article, we will explore the basics of shell scripting on Mac and how you can use it to automate tasks.

What is a Shell Script?

A shell script is a series of commands written in a plain text file that can be executed by the shell, which is the command-line interface on your Mac. The shell interprets the commands in the script and carries out the instructions specified.

Shell scripts can be used to automate repetitive tasks, perform complex system configurations, and customize your Mac experience. They are particularly useful for tasks that require multiple commands to be executed in a specific order.

Getting Started with Shell Scripts

To create a shell script, you need a text editor. macOS comes with a built-in text editor called "TextEdit," but you can also use popular third-party editors like "Sublime Text" or "Visual Studio Code."

  1. Open your preferred text editor.
  2. Create a new file and give it a .sh extension, which indicates that it is a shell script. For example,
  3. Begin the script by declaring the shell you want to use. The most common shell on macOS is bash, so start with #!/bin/bash.

Your script is now ready to receive commands.

Writing Commands in a Shell Script

Shell scripts consist of a series of commands that are executed one after another. Let's take a look at an example:


# This is a comment explaining what the script does
echo "Hello, world!"
ls -l

In this example, the echo command prints the text "Hello, world!" to the terminal, while ls -l lists the files in the current directory with detailed information.

You can include as many commands as you need in your shell script, making it as simple or complex as required. Remember to include comments to document what each part of your script does, making it easier to understand and maintain.

Making a Shell Script Executable

By default, shell scripts are not executable on macOS. To make your script executable, you need to change its file permissions.

  1. Open Terminal, which you can find in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder.
  2. Navigate to the directory where your shell script is located. For example, cd Documents/scripts.
  3. Use the chmod command to make the script executable. Run chmod +x, replacing with the name of your script.

Your shell script can now be executed directly from the command line.

Executing a Shell Script

To execute a shell script, you need to navigate to the directory where the script is located and invoke it using the shell command.

  1. Open Terminal.
  2. Navigate to the directory where your shell script is located. For example, cd Documents/scripts.
  3. Run the script by typing ./, replacing with the name of your script.

Automating Tasks with Shell Scripts

Now that you know the basics of writing and executing shell scripts, you can start automating tasks on your Mac. Here are a few examples to get you started:

  • Backup a directory: Write a script that copies the contents of a specified directory to another location for backup purposes.

  • Automatically organize files: Create a script that moves files from one folder to another based on their file type or name.

  • Download files: Write a script that automatically downloads files from a specific website at a scheduled time.

  • Update software: Create a script that checks for and installs updates for software installed on your Mac.

These are just a few examples of what you can achieve with shell scripting. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination and the available commands.


Automation is a powerful tool that can improve productivity and streamline your workflows. With shell scripting on your Mac, you have the ability to automate tasks and customize your experience. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can start writing your shell scripts and automating tasks on your macOS system.

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