open is used to open files, directories or URLs from the terminal.

$ open

Useful Options / Examples

Besides the one example up top, there’s many other ways to use open:

#opens all Word documents in the directory
open *.doc

#Opens your current directory in the Finder
open .

#Opens in Safari
open -a Safari

#Opens specified file location in Finder
open -R diary.txt
Flag Description
-a Opens item with a specific application
-e Opens item with TextEdit
-t Opens item with default text editor
-f Reads input from standard input and opens it with TextEdit
-R, –reveal Selects in the Finder instead of opening
-n, –new Opens a new instance of the application (even if it’s already running)
-j, –hide Launches the app hidden

open -a Safari --hide

Opens in Safari minimized by default

Break it down
  • The -a flag lets you choose an application to open your item with. Without it, the item would open up with the default handler. For example, if you remove -a Safari and your default browser is Chrome then will open in Chrome.

  • --hide won’t display the application immediately. In this case it will open up but you would need to click on the Safari icon in the dock to actually see the window.

ls | open -f

Outputs the contents of the ls command and displays it in TextEdit, after saving the file in /tmp/

Break it down
  • As we know ls displays all the files and directories in the current directory. Rather than redirecting the output to our own temporary file and then opening that, we can do everything in one go by just piping it to open -f.
python > /tmp/python_example.txt
open /tmp/python_example.txt


python | open -f