6 Useful Shell Utilities to Make You More Productive

August 27, 2019

If you are a developer, you probably spend a decent chunk of time interacting with a terminal Shell. Today We’ll look at 6 different tools that will make your work that much easier!

1. Ripgrep

You’ve probably used grep before – it’s one of the most ubiquitous tools in any devs toolbelt, and it gets the job done.

But what if there was something even better? Ripgrep is purpose-built for searching over large amounts of files recursively. It knows how to read your .gitignore file and automatically skips hidden files/directories as well as binary files.

Ripgrep is supported on all major operating systems! There are binaries available for every release. it’s also 2-5 times faster than other searching tools – they have benchmarks listed on their github repo.

Enough about Ripgrep, let’s give it a whirl:

# Recursively search the current directory for a regex pattern:
rg pattern

# Search for pattern including all .gitignored and hidden files:
rg -uu pattern

# Search for a pattern only in a certain filetype (e.g., html, css, etc.):
rg -t filetype pattern

# Search for a pattern only in a subset of directories:
rg pattern set_of_subdirs

# Search for a pattern in files matching a glob (e.g., `README.*`):
rg pattern -g glob

# Only list matched files -- useful when piping to other commands:
rg --files-with-matches pattern

# Show lines that do not match the given pattern:
rg --invert-match pattern

2. Bat

A cat clone with syntax highlighting and Git integration.

bat supports syntax highlighting for a large number of programming and markup languages such as markdown
bat is  git aware, and can show modified lines as well

Bat also has a super nice feature where if the output is too large for the screen, it will smartly pipe its output to your default pager (probably less unless you changed this yourself)

# Print the contents of a file to the standard output:
bat file

# Concatenate several files into the target file:
bat file1 file2 > target_file

# Append several files into the target file:
bat file1 file2 >> target_file

# Number all output lines:
bat -n file

# Syntax highlight a json file:
bat --language json file.json

# Display all supported languages:
bat --list-languages

3. Exa

exa is a modern replacement for the command-line program ls that ships with *nix operating systems.

exa has more features and better defaults – It uses colour to distinguish files and metadata. It understands symlinks, extended attributes, and Git. And it’s small, fast, and contained within a single binary.

exa -glam --group-directories-first

exa is a nice drop-in replacement for the default ls command. I’ve set an alias for it

alias ls="exa -glam --group-directories-first"

4. JQ

jq is like sed for JSON data - you can use it to slice, filter, map and transform structured data with the same ease that sedawkgrep and friends let you play with text in the shell.

# list all of the commands under the 'scripts' key in package.json
jq '.scripts' package.json
# Output a JSON file, in pretty-print format:
jq . file.json

# Output all elements from arrays (or all key-value pairs from objects) in a JSON file:
jq '.[]' file.json

# Read JSON objects from a file into an array, and output it (inverse of `jq .[]`):
jq --slurp . file.json

# Output the first element in a JSON file:
jq '.[0]' file.json

# Output the value of a given key of the first element in a JSON text from `stdin`:
cat file.json | jq '.[0].key_name'

# Output the value of a given key of each element in a JSON text from `stdin`:
cat file.json | jq 'map(.key_name)'

# Combine multiple filters:
cat file.json | jq 'unique | sort | reverse'

# Output the value of a given key to a string (and disable JSON output):
cat file.json | jq --raw-output '"some text: \(.key_name)"'

5. Hub

hub is a command line tool that wraps git in order to extend it with extra features and commands that make working with GitHub easier.

hub can be safely aliased as git so you can type $ git <command> in the shell and get all the usual hub features.

One of the things hub does that I love, is provide a clickable url to create a PR in your terminal when you push to a remote repository!

# Clone a repository you own, using just the repository name rather than the full URL:
hub clone repo_name

# Clone another user's repository, using their github username and the repository name:
hub clone username/repo_name

# Create a fork of the current repository (cloned from another user) under your github profile:
hub fork

# Push the current local branch to github and create a PR for it in the original repository:
hub push remote_name && hub pull-request

# Create a PR of the current (already pushed) branch, reusing the message from the first commit:
hub pull-request --no-edit

# Create a new branch with the contents of a pull request and switch to it:
hub pr checkout pr_number

# Upload the current (local-only) repository to your github account:
hub create

6. FZF

fzf is a general-purpose fuzzy finder for your terminal shell.

It can be used with any list; files, command history, processes, hostnames, bookmarks, git commits, etc.

FZF is Portable and has no dependencies, is Blazingly fast and provides a flexible layout.
It also has some really great features out of the box such as Vim/Neovim plugins, key bindings and fuzzy auto-complete.

By default FZF runs in ‘full-screen’ mode, but you can pass flags to resize and change the layout

# handy function to search for a file, with a nice preview window!
select_file() {
	given_file="$1"
	fzf --preview="cat {}" --preview-window=right:70%:wrap --query="$given_file"
}

# open a fuzzy searched file with vim
vim $(select_file)

# Start finder on all files from arbitrary locations:
find path/to/search -type f | fzf

# Start finder on running processes:
ps aux | fzf

# Select multiple files with `Shift + Tab` and write to a file:
find path/to/search_files -type f | fzf -m > filename

# Start finder with a given query:
fzf -q "query"

# Start finder on entries that start with core and end with either go, rb, or py:
fzf -q "^core go$ | rb$ | py$"

# Start finder on entries that not match pyc and match exactly travis:
fzf -q "!pyc 'travis"

Hopefully you find some of these shell tools as useful as I do, please leave a comment and share the article if you found it useful!


Trevor Atlas

👋 Hello,

My name is Trevor Atlas – I'm a Software Developer and Designer based in Washington, DC.

For 6 years, I've worked at agencies and startups building functional and intuitive interfaces, flexible and robust services, and powerful mobile applications.

When I'm not building user interfaces in React, most of my day-to-day work involves microservices in AWS using Terraform to scaffold infrastructure, Typescript and Go for application logic and Postgres/Redis as a data store. I've also been working on mobile applications with React Native and Expo.