The Best “Just For Fun” Tricks Hidden in macOS’ Terminal

tetris-featured

Some people find the macOS Terminal scary, and that makes sense. Commands can feel alienating, and learning to use them takes time. It’s hard to find a starting point.

We’ve shown you how to navigate using the Terminal, and a bunch of cool Terminal tricks, but it can all seem a little stale when you’re getting started. Isn’t there anything fun you can do with this text box?

Yes there is. Here are a few highlights to get started with.

Make Your Mac Say Anything Out Loud (In Siri’s Voice!)

Here’s a fun place to start: you can make your Mac say anything, out loud, with a quick Terminal command. Just type say followed by whatever phrase you want your computer to say.

mac-talking-horray

The voice used depends on what you’ve chosen as the default voice in System Preferences > Accessibility > Speech. If you want it to sound like Siri’s iconic American voice, pick “Samantha.”

mac-voice

You can also specify which voice the command should use without changing the default, if you want to get fancy, by using the -voice option. For example, if you wanted to hear some text sung like a bell ringing, run say -v bells followed by your text. Note that you’ll have to install voices you want to use in System Preferences.

Finally, if you’re good with the Terminal, you can pipe the output of another command into say. Here’s a command that will get your Mac to state the current time, out loud:

date "+The time is %H:%M" | say

Neat, isn’t it? Have fun thinking of other things to do with this.

Play Simple Games Like Tetris, Pong, and Snake

First, type emacs. This is going to launch the famous open source text editor, which you can learn to use if you’ve got a few years spare time.

emacs-launch

For now we’re going to press Escape, followed by “X.” This will enable a text field for commands at the bottom on the screen.

emacs-escape-x

Type tetris and hit Return. The game will launch.

emacs-terminal-tetris

Move the pieces with your arrow keys, and drop them with Space. It’s clumsy, but it’s a version of Tetris that came with your Mac.

You can launch other games from Emacs, too. Repeat the steps above, then type these words instead of tetris to launch alternative games:

  • pong: the classic line and pixel tennis game.
  • snake: eat to become bigger, but don’t hit your tail.
  • solitaire: not the card game. Instead, you need to hold Shift to jump pegs over each other. Can you win cleanly?
  • dunnet: a simple text adventure game.

These are the main highlights, but there are a few more diversions. Here’s the official list, from the Emacs wiki. Let’s highlight one more in its own section.

Talk to a Virtual Therapist

This is technically an extension of the diversions above, but it’s too fun to skip. Follow the steps above, launching emacs then hitting Escape and X, then type “doctor.” Your computer will now play the role of a psychoanalyst.

emacs-terminal-doctor

It took a bit of conversation, but I eventually found the source of most of my problems in life.

doctor-followup

Needless to say, your Mac is not a medical professional. Do not take medical advice from your Mac.

A Few More Commands

There are a few more things that, while not exactly “fun,” are neat for first-time Terminal users to discover. Here’s a quick list:

There’s a whole lot more we could dig into, but the really fun stuff involves installing third party software. Our advice: set up Homebrew to install command line tools on your Mac, then check out our list of best command line tools you can get with Homebrew. You can do crazy things like listening to Pandora in your Terminal, so it’s well worth the effort.

pianobar-terminal-mac

Justin Pot is a staff writer for How-To Geek, and a technology enthusiast who lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.