You can try out and practice Unix commands on your own computer, but how you do so will depend on your operating system.

Mac OS X

On a Mac, you can access a Unix command line by opening the “Terminal” application. As a shortcut, hit +Space (⌘ is also known as the Command key, and it is next to the spacebar), then type in “Terminal” and hit enter. That should search for, find, and open the Terminal application.


Under Windows, one easy way to access a Unix command line shell is to download and install Cygwin. The installer has lots of options, but if you just go through using the defaults, you should end up with an icon on your desktop that will load up a Unix shell. [If you’re curious: Cygwin is a system that lets you run lots of programs written for Unix under Windows instead.]

Important: Your home directory under Cygwin will be different from your usual Windows home directory. To find your “regular” files within Cygwin (your “Documents” folder, for example), use cd to go to the path /cygdrive/c/Users/[your username]/Documents/. If you’re not sure what your username is, then just go to /cygdrive/c/Users/ first, use ls to see the folders listed there, and one of them will be named with your username.

Windows 10+

Specifically on Windows version 10 or above, you can try Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). To explain a bit, “Linux” is a type of Unix-based operating system. The whole “WSL” system is software Microsoft has written to allow Linux software, including a Unix command line terminal, to run under the Windows operating system.

Chrome OS

Most recent Chromebooks (and other Chrome OS devices) allow you to “Turn on Linux,” which gives you access to a full Unix command-line environment. Google’s official documentation describes how. It includes a link to this list of devices which support the feature (including any launched in or after 2019).

Any Computer (via a web browser)

Replit has an online terminal environment you can access from any modern web browser. It will give you access to a command line shell from your browser with no software installation needed. You can view, edit, and create files and directories on the left side of the window, and the command line itself is accessible in the right panel.

Any Computer (via SSH)

An alternative way for IWU students to access a command-line shell from any computer at all is to log in to one of IWU’s computers remotely. There is a tool called SSH (stands for “secure shell”) that lets you securely log in to a remote computer. IWU has a server called that you should be able to log into using your IWU username and password. You will typically have to install an SSH program to do this:

  • OS X has an SSH client installed by default — use it from the Terminal by running: ssh username@hostname
  • Windows in recent versions has an SSH client installed by default. It’s best to use it from Windows Terminal. Run ssh username@hostname. If your Windows version does not provide ssh, you can install the “openssh” package in Cygwin (but then you’ll have the Cygwin shell already, so…), or Putty is a free download and a good choice.
  • Chrome OS: Secure Shell Extension
  • Android: JuiceSSH
  • iOS: Termius (also available for Android and Windows)

Then use the SSH program to connect to (that will be the “server” or “host” name) with your IWU username and password. If using a command-line SSH client, it will not show you your password as you type it, but it is recording it. Type it fully, then press enter.