Edit files through the command line

When working with Git from the command line, you need to use more than just the Git commands. There are several basic commands that you should learn, in order to make full use of the command line.

Start working on your project

To work on a Git project locally (from your own computer), with the command line, first you need to clone (copy) it to your computer.

Working with files on the command line

This section has examples of some basic shell commands that you might find useful. For more information, search the web for bash commands.

Alternatively, you can edit files using your choice of editor (IDE), or the GitLab user interface (not locally).

Common commands

The list below is not exhaustive, but contains many of the most commonly used commands.

Command Description
cd NAME-OF-DIRECTORY Go into a directory to work in it
cd .. Go back one directory
ls List what’s in the current directory
ls a* List what’s in the current directory that starts with a
ls *.md List what’s in the current directory that ends with .md
mkdir NAME-OF-YOUR-DIRECTORY Create a new directory
cat README.md Display the contents of a text file you created previously
pwd Show the current directory
clear Clear the shell window

Create a text file in the current directory

To create a text file from the command line, for example README.md, follow these steps:

touch README.md
nano README.md
#### Press: control + X
#### Type: Y
#### Press: enter

Remove a file or directory

It’s easy to delete (remove) a file or directory, but be careful:

cautionThis will permanently delete a file.
cautionThis will permanently delete a directory and all of its contents.

View and Execute commands from history

You can view the history of all the commands you executed from the command line, and then execute any of them again, if needed.

First, list the commands you executed previously:


Then, choose a command from the list and check the number next to the command (123, for example) . Execute the same full command with:


Carry out commands for which the account you are using lacks authority

Not all commands can be executed from a basic user account on a computer, you may need administrator’s rights to execute commands that affect the system, or try to access protected data, for example. You can use sudo to execute these commands, but you might be asked for an administrator password.

cautionBe careful of the commands you run with sudo. Certain commands may cause damage to your data or system.

Sample Git task flow

If you’re completely new to Git, looking through some sample task flows may help you understand the best practices for using these commands as you work.