At the Prompt

If everything goes well, you should find yourself looking at a little bit of text followed by a cursor.

For the Pi, by default you'll be using a shell program called Bash (Bourne Again SHell). There are lots of other shells, but right now Bash is popular enough to be a de facto standard. It's probably what you'll first encounter on Linux systems and the Macintosh. You can even install it on Windows!

This is a prompt. It's Bash's way of saying "ok, talk to me".

Prompts on different systems will vary (and in fact you can customize your own) but this one is pretty standard. It's set up to tell you a few things about where you're at and what you can do.

Let's break this down.

pi is the user you're logged in as.

raspberrypi is the hostname of your Raspberry Pi. This is in the prompt because lots of people have a bunch of terminals open at once, and you don't want to forget what computer you're typing at if you can help it.

~ is the current working directory. The tilde character is actually a special shorthand in the shell for your home directory (more about that in a minute).

$ is an indicator that it's your turn to type now. (Sometimes you'll see other characters here, like %, >, or #.)

Try a simple command, typing into either:

  • The Pi's USB keyboard if you are using the HDMI console
  • Your computer keyboard if using a console cable or SSH

This is the command to try:

echo hello world

Ready to go exploring? Check out An Illustrated Shell Command Primer!

This guide was first published on Jan 06, 2015. It was last updated on Jan 06, 2015. This page (At the Prompt) was last updated on Nov 10, 2019.