How to install Mac software using the Terminal

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I install most software from my Mac’s Terminal. I think you should do the same on yours. Yeah, I know, I know—that sounds hard. But, in many ways, it’s actually easier than the traditional way of installing software on your Mac. A lot of great free programs—open-source ones in particular—aren’t available in the Mac App Store. The usual installation process involves:

  • Finding the app’s website
  • Finding the download for Mac
  • Downloading the app, typically in a DMG archive
  • Opening the DMG archive after the download finishes
  • Dragging the app icon from the mounted archive to the applications folder

Nothing about this is difficult, but it is time-consuming. Imagine if instead you could type three words, hit enter, and let your computer do everything for you. This is possible, thanks to Homebrew, a program that will let you install almost any application you can think of by typing “brew install” followed by the name of the app. 

Why you should use Homebrew

If you never open the Terminal, that makes sense—it’s a little hidden. You can find it in Launchpad under Utilities, in Finder in Applications > Utilities, or by using Spotlight to search for it (just click the magnifying glass in the menu bar and type “terminal”, then hit enter or click the top result). 

There’s a real joy in simply telling your computer to do something and watching it happen, but the Terminal doesn’t explain itself the way other software does. I think Homebrew is the best tool for Mac users to get started with, because it’s so much better than installing software the old-fashioned way. 

  • It’s faster: As outlined above, for most applications you can type three words and watch an app install itself. 
  • It’s safer: Googling the name of an application and installing it isn’t necessarily secure. Downloading a free application from the wrong website is risky, and could result in you installing malware directly onto your computer. Installing from Homebrew removes some of this risk because a team of volunteers are finding the exact package you need. 
  • Easier updates: Updating software is important, but sometimes it’s harder than it needs to be. Take Calibre, a free…

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