5 Dec 2023 11:00–13:00 GR-04 Faculty of English


Convenor: Jonathan Blaney, Digital Humanities Research Software Engineer at CDH.

This session introduces the command line, sometimes also known as the shell or the terminal, to humanities researchers. No prior knowledge of the command line or programming of any kind is required or expected from attendees.

A basic understanding of how to use the command line provides a step change in how productive you can be when working with data or text files, particularly a large number of files or very large files, which can be hard to manipulate in a graphical interface. Some tools and programs can only be used from the command line, and this session aims to give you the confidence to work with them. In the session we primarily look at seven George Eliot novels and a comparative set of seven Dickens novels (about 3.4 million words in total) but this session should be of use to any humanities researchers working with text collections and the principles have far broader applicability.

We’ll focus on running programs which come pre-installed on Mac and Linux, and which can be easily added to Windows. We’ll combine these programs in productive ways, discuss how to discover and use the options for each, how to send results to files, and how to work efficiently on the command line so you don’t have to retype or remember everything you’ve done.


You will need to bring your own laptop to this session.

  • If you are on a Mac or Linux you should already have everything you need. A Moodle course with the files we’ll work on in the session will be made available to attendees and the files there should be downloaded in advance.
  • If you are on Windows please install Git from here: https://git-scm.com/download/win

The first link, to version 2.42.0, dated 2023-08-30, is the one to use. You can accept all defaults but ensure that the option to allow “Git Bash here”, under “Windows Explorer integration” is checked and, when you are offered a choice of terminal, that “MinTTY” remains selected. These are both defaults so should be enabled without you needing to change anything.

Cambridge Digital Humanities

Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk