Working with Files and Directories

The previous pages show you how to navigate your directories using Unix commands. Just perusing your directories isn’t particularly productive, however. This section shows you how to do something with the files you see listed: copy, move, create, and delete directories and files.


You’re entering Serious Power territory, where it’s theoretically possible to delete a whole directory with a single typo. As a precaution, consider working through this section with administrator privileges turned off for your account (Section 11.2), so that you won’t be able to change anything outside your home directory—or even create a new, test account just for this exercise.

cp (copy)

Using the Unix command cp, you can copy and rename a file in one move. (Try that in the Finder!)

The basic command goes like this: cp path1 path2, where the path placeholders represent the original file and the copy, respectively.

Copying in place

To duplicate a file called Thesis.doc, you would type cp Thesis.doc Thesis2.doc. (That’s just a space between the names.) You don’t have to call the copy Thesis2—you could call it anything you like; the point is that you wind up with two identical files in the same directory with different names. Just remember to add a backslash before a space if you want to name the copy with two words (Thesis\ Backup, for example).


If this command doesn’t seem to work, remember that you must type the full names of the files you’re moving—including their file ...

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