‹  Scott Julian
Posted: 2023-01-07

My Favorite macOS Commands and Utils

This post contains a hand-full of my favorite macOS commands and utilities that you can use from the terminal.
If you want to know more about the commands, be sure to run man <cmd> to read the manual and find out more.

Image / Video Manipulation


exiftool installed via brew

Show exif data

exiftool -a -G1 -s -api QuickTimeUTC=1 -time:all -api RequestAll=2 <file>

Fix for iCloud videos incorrect creation/captured date

exiftool '-FileCreateDate<Keys:CreationDate' <file>


Open a Quick Look preview

qlmanage -p <file>

Convert SVG to PNG

qlmanage -t -s 1024x1024 -o <file>.png <file>.svg


imagemagick installed via brew

Convert .heic images

magick mogrify -monitor -format jpg *.heic

Limit file size

convert original.jpg -define jpeg:extent=2MB output.jpg

Read more at https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/workflow-resizing-images-with-imagemagick.


Quickly access file metadata

mdls <file>


Resize image, ignore aspect ratio

sips -z <height> <width> <file> 

Resize largest side of image, respect aspect ratio

sips -Z <size> <image>

Rotate image

sips -r <degrees> <image> 

You can use sips together with iconutil to generate an .icns file for your app from a 1024x1024 PNG:

mkdir MyIcon.iconset
cp Icon1024.png MyIcon.iconset/icon_512x512@2x.png
sips -z 16 16     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_16x16.png
sips -z 32 32     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_16x16@2x.png
sips -z 32 32     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_32x32.png
sips -z 64 64     Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_32x32@2x.png
sips -z 128 128   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_128x128.png
sips -z 256 256   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_128x128@2x.png
sips -z 256 256   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_256x256.png
sips -z 512 512   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_256x256@2x.png
sips -z 512 512   Icon1024.png --out MyIcon.iconset/icon_512x512.png
iconutil -c icns MyIcon.iconset

As a bonus, generate an .ico with ffmpeg:

ffmpeg -i MyIcon.iconset/icon_256x256.png icon.ico

Double bonus, you can also input an SVG if you use qlmanage first instead of the cp command:

qlmanage -t -s 1024x1024 -o MyIcon.iconset/Icon1024.png icon.svg

Prevent Sleep


Running caffeinate with no arguments prevents your Mac sleeping as long as it is running.

Prevents sleep for X number of seconds

caffeinate -u -d -t <seconds> 

Automatically exit caffeinate once the specified process exits.

caffeinate -w <pid>

Prevent sleep until the given command exits

caffeinate <command> 



pbcopy copy to the clipboard
<command> | pbcopy pipe stdout to clipboard


pbpaste put contents of the clipboard to stdout

File Operations


Open file with associated app

open <file> 

Open the file with given application

open -a <app> <file> 

Open current directory in new Finder window

open .  

Open a url in the default browser

open <url> 


Copy a file / directory

ditto <source> <destination>


jq installed via brew

Format JSON from the command line.

cat <file.json> | jq

Format JSON that is in the clipboard

pbcopy | jq | pbpaste

Document Conversion


textutil can convert files to and from Microsoft Word, plain text, rich text, and HTML formats.

converts journal.doc into journal.html.

textutil -convert html <file>.doc

The possible values for -convert are: txt, html, rtf, rtfd, doc, and docx.