May 5, 2017 by Katsutoshi Seki
Tags: english mac linux windows

This article describes how to open a file from a terminal emulator in Mac, Linux, and Windows.

Mac (macOS)

Use open command in Terminal. By running

open Readme.txt

Readme.txt opens with an application associated with Readme.txt. URL can be specified. For example,


opens Google website with your default web browzer. A directory can also be specified. For example,

open .

opens current directly in Finder.

Sometimes you may want to open a file with a program which is different from the associated one, for example, when you want to edit html file with a text editor. By using -t option, you can open a file with a default text editor.

open -t filename

You can also open a file with a specified application by using -a option.

You can make a shell script to open a file with your favorite text editor. For example, to open a file with Brackets, make a text file br like this,

open $1 -a /Applications/

make it executable (chmod +x br) and put in your path (check it by echo $PATH). Then you can use the br command as

br filename

Following help is shown by open --help.

Usage: open [-e] [-t] [-f] [-W] [-R] [-n] [-g] [-h] [-s <partial SDK name>][-b <bundle identifier>] [-a <application>] [filenames] [--args arguments]
Help: Open opens files from a shell.
      By default, opens each file using the default application for that file.  
      If the file is in the form of a URL, the file will be opened as a URL.
      -a                Opens with the specified application.
      -b                Opens with the specified application bundle identifier.
      -e                Opens with TextEdit.
      -t                Opens with default text editor.
      -f                Reads input from standard input and opens with TextEdit.
      -F  --fresh       Launches the app fresh, that is, without restoring windows. Saved persistent state is lost, excluding Untitled documents.
      -R, --reveal      Selects in the Finder instead of opening.
      -W, --wait-apps   Blocks until the used applications are closed (even if they were already running).
          --args        All remaining arguments are passed in argv to the application's main() function instead of opened.
      -n, --new         Open a new instance of the application even if one is already running.
      -j, --hide        Launches the app hidden.
      -g, --background  Does not bring the application to the foreground.
      -h, --header      Searches header file locations for headers matching the given filenames, and opens them.
      -s                For -h, the SDK to use; if supplied, only SDKs whose names contain the argument value are searched.
                        Otherwise the highest versioned SDK in each platform is used.

With cdto you can add a toolbar in the Finder to open the current directory in the Terminal.


xdg-open can be used to open a file with default applications. xdg-open is a part of xdg-utils.

This command is a little bit too long to type, and therefore you may want to create alias such as

alias open=xdg-open

in .bashrc. In Gnome, gnome-open is also available.


start command can be executed from command prompt, and Invoke-Item command is used for PowerShell. See following documents by Microsoft for detail.