How to Change Your Default Terminal Prompt in Mac OS X

By default, when you open up a new Terminal window in Mac OS X the command prompt displays a relatively long name:

I prefer to shorten this to a simple dollar sign ($) in order to free up space.

To change your default command line prompt, follow these instructions:

1) Navigate to your home directory:

cd ~

2) Create a file called .bash_profile

vi .bash_profile

3) Add the following line (press i)

export PS1="$ "

4) Save the file (press Escape, type :wq and hit Enter)

5) Restart Terminal

You should now see something like this:

There are other ways you can configure the command prompt (for example, showing the current time), but I prefer to keep it simple.

23 thoughts on “How to Change Your Default Terminal Prompt in Mac OS X

  1. I prefer export=”W $ ” so I can see the current working directory.

    If I traverse from home directory to /Users/###/code/sites I see the following prompts:

    $ cd code
    code $ cd sites
    sites $

  2. If I want to change it again, how do I do that? Once I type vi .bash_profile it doesn’t let me change the previous settings I’ve set up.

    • Hey, when you open it in vi again it should reflect your previous changes. You might need to do:

      vi ~/.bash_profile

      To ensure it loads it from the home directory.

  3. Now that Bbedit reverts a form of Textwrangler after the trial period expires, I suggest that folks use it rather than vi. It’s much more user friendly.

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