How I customize my Mac terminal with open source tools

Use iTerm2, Oh My Zsh, and Powerlevel10k to create a terminal built for productivity.
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The command line is an important part of every developer's workflow. This makes it important that you set up your terminal in ways that improve your productivity and decrease your frustration.

In this article, I'll explain how I customize my macOS Z shell (zsh) terminal with iTerm2, Oh My Zsh, and Powerline10k. If you're a Mac user and would like to try it, follow along with this how-to. If you're a Linux user, you can read this article about themes and plugins for Zsh.

Install Homebrew

Homebrew is the easiest way to install and manage utilities on a Mac. Before you can install Homebrew, you must install the Xcode tools (or the complete version of Xcode, if you prefer). Install Xcode tools with:

xcode-select — install

Then install Homebrew by entering this command in a macOS terminal or Linux shell prompt:

$ curl -fsSL --output \ 

Before executing an install script on your system, review it to ensure it's not malicious:

$ more 

Once you're comfortable with what the script is going to do, you can safely execute it:

$ bash

If you get an error on MacOS, run xcode-select -r to reset xcode-select.

For more information about Homebrew, read Matthew Broberg's article Introduction to Homebrew: the painless way to install anything on a Mac.

Install iTerm 2

I use iTerm2 as my terminal emulator. I really enjoy it because of its many great features, including search, autocomplete, paste history, and thousands of helpful functions, helpers, plugins, themes, and a few things that may make you shout with joy.

Install iTerm 2 with Homebrew using:

brew cask install iterm2

Or, you can download and install iTerm2 from its website and drag and drop the file into your Application folder.

If you're on Linux, the default terminals (such as GNOME terminal, Konsole, XFCE terminal, or similar) match or exceed the features of iTerm2, so you can use whatever you already have installed.

Install and set up Zsh as default

Test whether you already have Z shell installed:

$ zsh --version

If you don't have Z shell installed, you can install it with Homebrew on MacOS or Linux:

$ brew install zsh

Or your default package manager on Linux:

$ sudo dnf install zsh

Set zsh as your default shell by running the following command in iTerm2, and then relaunch the terminal:

$ chsh -s /bin/zsh

You can verify the shell you're running with the echo command. By echoing the zeroth argument of your command, designated by the variable $0, you can learn what shell you're interfacing with.

$ echo $0

Install Oh My Zsh

Oh My Zsh is a delightful open source framework for Z shell that can be used on GNU Linux and macOS computers. It modernizes the terminal with simple solutions for managing your zsh configuration. Instead of a .bash_profile, zsh uses a .zshrc file to save your customizations.

Its features include:

  • Instead of the cd (change directory) command, navigate directories with just: .. (parent dir), ... (parent from parent dir), / (root), or ~ (home).
  • Instead of the mkdir and cd commands, use the take command to create a directory and change the path to it.
  • Switch between the last and current path with a hyphen -.
  • List all alias commands with alias or filter them with grep; for example, alias | grep git.
  • With the Z plugin, quickly change to another path by naming the folder rather than the complete path.
  • Recursive path expansion (for example, /u/lo/b expands to /user/local/bin after pressing the Tab key)
  • Spelling corrections, approximate completion, and automatic correction when you make a minor mistake typing a directory name
  • Plugin and theme exports
  • Syntax highlighting
  • History substring search and accessing specific lines by running the history command with ! followed by its line number; e.g., !137
  • Autocomplete, jump between options with Tab, and press Return to make a selection; works with directories, files, and commands
  • Git integration
  • Much more

Install Oh My Zsh with:

$ curl -fsSL --output

Read the script over to ensure it's safe, and then execute it:

$ zsh

Then restart iTerm2 to experience the new world of Oh My Zsh.

$ sh ./ 
Cloning Oh My Zsh...
Cloning into '/home/sek/.oh-my-zsh'...
remote: Enumerating objects: 1155, done.
Using the Oh My Zsh template file and adding it to ~/.zshrc.

Time to change your default shell to zsh:
Do you want to change your default shell to zsh? [Y/n] n
Shell change skipped.
         __                                     __
  ____  / /_     ____ ___  __  __   ____  _____/ /_
 / __ \/ __ \   / __ `__ \/ / / /  /_  / / ___/ __ \
/ /_/ / / / /  / / / / / / /_/ /    / /_(__  ) / / /
\____/_/ /_/  /_/ /_/ /_/\__, /    /___/____/_/ /_/
                        /____/              now installed!

Before you scream Oh My Zsh! please look over the ~/.zshrc file to select plugins, themes, and options.

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➜  ~ 

Check the installed version with:

zsh --version

Upgrade it with:


Customize your terminal's theme, fonts, colors, and more

To get the best out of zsh, you'll want to install some dependencies.

Use a custom theme

Powerlevel10k is a popular theme for zsh. It emphasizes speed, flexibility, and out-of-the-box experience.

Install Powerlevel10k for Oh My Zsh with:

git clone $ZSH_CUSTOM/themes/powerlevel10k

Then enable it in ~/.zshrc. Open the config file (.zshrc) by running:

Nano ~/.zshrc

Change the value of ZSH_THEME to:


Save and update the changes by running the command source ~/.zshrc. Powerlevel10k's configuration wizard should start automatically; enter p10k configure if it doesn't. Now you can start choosing your user interface options.

Change your color scheme

You can change the terminal's color scheme to match your preferences. In this tutorial, I am using Dracula dark theme for iTerm2.

If you are a Git user, you can install the Dracula theme and keep it up to date by cloning the repo:

$ git clone

Or you can install it manually by downloading the .zip file and unzipping it. Then:

  1. Navigate to iTerm2 > Preferences > Profiles > Colors.
  2. Open the Color Presets drop-down in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Select Import from the list.
  4. Select the Dracula.itermcolors file.
  5. Select Dracula from Color Presets.

Install fonts

Powerline10k has a wide variety of fonts you can use. If you want to unlock all of Powerlevel10k's prompt styles, download and install Meslo Nerd Font before running p10k configure. To install it, navigate to iTerm2 > Preferences > Profiles > Text and set Font to MesloLGS NF.

You can find more information about installing fonts in the Powerline10k GitHub repository.

Oh My Zsh has a lot of plugins that add features. Two I recommend highly are:

  1. zsh-autosuggestions: Autocompletes suggestions based on your history. It's really useful for commonly used commands like docker run, php artisan, and magerun. Install it with:

    $ git clone \
  2. zsh-syntax-highlighting: This feature highlights correctly typed commands green, incorrect commands red, and underlines folders and files.

    $ git clone \

To activate the plugins, in ~/.zshrc, change the line that starts with plugins= to:

plugins=( git zsh-syntax-highlighting zsh-autosuggestions)

Restart the terminal and enjoy!

What's next?

This is only the beginning of how you can customize zsh to suit your workflow. Please share your favorite zsh productivity tips in the comments.

What to read next
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Ashique Hussain Ansari is a software engineer working for the Red hat middleware team in Bangalore, India. He loves the web and contributes to open source projects, It's a space of constant improvement and new & exciting technology. He considers himself a hacker in that He's always using technology to solve his life's problems and ambitions.


Buy a $2k of proprietary device and benefit from open source :) Plus, the best thing you can do is customizing terminal theme :) appleish lamerish

You should try GBT ( /gbt) if you like to have nice looking and super fast prompt on your machine as we as anywhere via SSH or even in Docker, Vagrant and MySQL.

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