The very concept of opening a terminal window makes some coders shudder. It can be intimidating, stressful, and plain annoying for the inexperienced. However, developers who are familiar with the command line would argue that it is one of the most useful tools available.
So, how important is the command line in modern software development? Working with either frontend or backend programming, we’d argue, is critical to success. The command line has evolved into a Swiss Army knife with functionality hidden beneath straightforward instructions. You might be amazed how much power that little black rectangle with the flashing white cursor has if you take the time to learn commands.
You Have More Control
The command line’s initial purpose: greater control, is perhaps the most obvious reason to master it. On Unix/Linux and Windows machines, there are commands available solely via shell that can control very sophisticated operations.
Changing the permissions on a specific file or going to a hidden directory are examples of basic commands. Server administration for a local server setup like Apache/MySQL is a more sophisticated example.
It’s worth looking at the possibilities of shell commands only to get a better understanding of how they work. It’s rarely a good idea to ignore a piece of technology just because it’s too complicated.
However, we have a bevy of web developer tools that operate via the command line in addition to system services. Because not everything can be downloaded and installed like an application, knowing how to use shell commands can save you the time and effort of learning how to install the latest developer tools.
The Ability to Use NPM Packages For Installs
It’s worth noting that NPM lacks a graphical user interface. There is no ability to click a small “install” button like on the Mac App Store. Every package must be manually installed in a terminal window using the npm command.
Non-shell users may find this inconvenient, but it actually gives them a lot more power. Over 200,000 packages are available in the NPM library, with more being uploaded every week. It’s simply more convenient to host things offsite and let the user choose what to install.
Keep in mind that several of these utilities have their own binary installers that can be used to install them individually. NPM, on the other hand, centralizes everything, allowing you to install all of your favorite tools with a single command: npm install.
NPM gives you fast access to a variety of tools, including:
In either case, both strategies necessitate a basic familiarity with CLI commands. If you take the time to practice and learn how NPM works, you may be working with it in less than an hour.
You Get To Use Git Version Control!
Version control should be understood by both programmers and developers. Splitting/merging a project into several versions is simply unrivaled.
Unfortunately, if you don’t already know how Git works, it’s equally difficult to learn. When you throw in the perplexity of working in the command line, it’s easy to see why Git scares so many developers.
Thankfully, there are a plethora of free materials available online to assist you in learning the fundamentals.
Try Git is a free GitHub learning tool that allows you to experiment with Git without having to install it locally. This is a guided course for developers who have no prior experience with version management.
The challenge with Git is learning the command line while knowing version control commands. Although some desktop software has a graphical user interface, they still require you to understand the foundations of version control (cloning, branching, merging, etc). Furthermore, knowing how to use Git CLI will allow you to do more advanced Git operations that you wouldn’t be able to do with the GUI. Using the CLI is more dependable and speedier, especially if you work on a large Git repository.
The learning curve using Git might be considered for a newbie. Even with consistent practice, it may take a few months to fully grasp the principles. However, Git is a must-have tool for any developer, and it’s yet another reason to understand the command line.
You Need It For Preprocessors, Task Runners, and Bundlers
Frontend development has changed a lot in recent years. We have preprocessors like Sass/LESS for CSS and Haml/Jade for HTML. We also have task runners like Gulp and Grunt for automating tasks via Node.js as well as bundlers like Webpack and Parcel to bundle your website assets and create code splitting for better performance on loading the assets. It’s almost a completely new landscape where these techniques are practically required to build modern websites.
If you aren’t already aware, tools like Sass and Haml run directly through the command line. Both of those preprocessors require terminal commands for compiling code. Granted you could set up a Gulp task to automate preprocessing, but this also requires command line knowledge.
With these tools becoming necessary to the development process it’s vital to understand even the basics of shell scripting and the command line.
You Can Use It For local Backend Development
From PHP to Rails to Python, everything involves command line interaction. MAMP and other installation tools have made things easier, but nothing beats the raw power of working at the command line.
While MAMP can be used to install PHP, frameworks like Laravel require the use of Composer, a dependency manager. This installation is almost entirely done using the command line.
On top of pip, a free Python package manager, the Django framework requires a similar CLI install process. Consider the process of creating your own Node.js local server. To begin, you’ll need to learn about your computer’s surroundings (Unix or Windows). Then you’ll want to learn the fundamentals of Node.js.
You’ll have more control over your system if you’re comfortable with shell scripting. You’ll be able to install packages, check for updates, restart a local server, and install modules for enhanced features.
The command line will prove to be a formidable tool in your arsenal no matter what language you’re using or trying to learn. In a market of excellent web engineers, even a basic mastery of shell scripting can boost your confidence and workplace value.
Understanding the command line is beneficial regardless of the type of work you undertake. Even simple things like installing Ruby or Composer will come in handy during your web development career.
To get started, simply decide what you want to learn and dig right in. This could include Sass compilation, Laravel installation, or setting up a local Node.js server. Naturally, you’ll face obstacles along the road, but websites like Stack Overflow have all the programming help you’ll ever need.
You’ll be glad you know how to use the command-line syntax as additional tools become popular in the coming years. Open-source tools that optimize the way we create and build websites are the future of web development, not IDEs.
Do you want to hone your coding skills with the help of a professional? Why not try our courses!