rethinking the think-different thing

Howto start an Application from command line /

June 30th, 2007 at 10:48

I guess everyone knows howto start appliations from OSX Gui. Personally i prefer the application Namely, as it is quick and small. Many OSX Users are using Quicksilver for that purpose, but lets talk today about the idea of starting application from command line (called in OSX.

I am mentioning that way, as i already had the situation that i was sitting in front of my Mac, waiting for the end of the horrible rotating wheel/ball. Thats the point where to want to access your mac from remote, kill some aplications from commandline, maybe relaunch some other .app’s or just shuting the Mac down.

Lets start:

Open application from command line:

  • Run ( can be found in /Application/Utilities/ )
  • Now lets see all running processes on your Mac, by entering: ps xau
  • You should see a big list of processes sorted by User, PID, %CPU, % MEM and a bunch of additional informations. I use that command normaly to get an overviewof the status of all running processes.
  • Now we want tostart a new Application or Process. In this example we want to start iTunes, as i assume eyerone has that installed.
    • Enter: open -a iTunes
  • As result iTunes should open up.
  • Done :D

Ok, i guess that was really easy, as supposed to be. Some additional notes and examples.

Open application with spaces in the app name from command line:

If you want to open up an Application containing Spaces in the name you have to deal with Terminal ways to work with Spaces. In this small example we want to open Disk Utility.

  • Open
  • Entering: open -a Disk\ would be the default notation for Applications containing a Space in its name. In this special case that should not work, as DU is not directly located in /Applications. Unfortunally it is located in /Applications/Utilities.
    • kongo:~ fidel$ open -a Disk\
      2007-06-30 10:31:41.282 open[482] Couldn’t launch application: Disk
  • So enter: open -a /Applications/Utilities/Disk\
    • kongo:~ fidel$ open -a /Applications/Utilities/Disk\
      kongo:~ fidel$
  • Done.

Start TextEditor to edit a text file from command line:

Last example. You are on command line and want to edit a text file. Well vi is a nice command-line-based text-editor, but not everyone really likes to use it. So now we want to start our favorite GUI Text editor and a random text-file on our harddisk. I have created a demo .txt-file on my Desktop called foobar.txt

As Text-Editors i can recommend:

  1. Smultron
  2. TextWrangler

For sure, a quick search an or will bring up several other applications. but now lets continue:

  • Open
  • Enter: open -a Smultron /absolute/path/t/your/textfile
    • kongo:~ fidel$ open -a Smultron /Users/fidel/Desktop/foobar.txt
      kongo:~ fidel$

So i think that was everything you need to handle that topic. Enjoy it

Best regards

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3 Responses to “Howto start an Application from command line /”

  1. hqt Says:

    Thanks – have you figured how to open and edit a textfile that is restricted to root only?
    For example: open -a /Applications/ /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

    Will open launch the app and open the httpd.conf file. But it’s not editable.

    sudo open -a …
    does not work. Do you have an idea aside from changing permission prior to editing, then reverting access control post edit?

  2. fidel Says:

    not really, i’m sorry.

    Only hint i can give you maybe is mentioning the app Pseudo X – which is somehow like a run-as-root droplet if i remeber correctly. Totally other attempt, but i guess one you might think about.

    If you find another solution please lemme know =)

    Best regards

  3. Martin Says:


    At the command prompt type “sudo bash” en enter password

    Now you have a shell like you where logged in as root, “# in the prompt” no more sudo typing.
    Mistakes will be punished, big mistakes will kill your Mac someday

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