I have an installed app lets call it my_app that I wish to be able to call from the command line. It is located in /Applications/my_app.app/Contents/Resources.

So what I was hoping to do was to have my ~/.bashrc look like the following:

# .bashrc

export PATH=$PATH:/Applications/my_app.app/Contents/Resources/

and then every time I want to be able to use the app from a new terminal session I would load call my_app-start after which I expect my app to be callable by simply typing my_app anywhere on my system. However my terminal does not recognise the my_app-start function... On another linux platform this works for me but perhaps Macs need some fiddling with ~/.bash_profile. I never understood the difference.

  1. How do I make the function automatically callable?
  2. Is this method a safe, sensible way of loading my application?

2 Answers 2


Your function doesn't work because OS X starts your shell as a login shell, thus .bashrc isn't read. I wouldn't use a function in this case. If there is only one executable file in /Applications/my_app.app/Contents/Resources/ then I would use an alias.

I would use separate files when changing your environment. Set your PATH and whatever in these/this file(s) then at any time source your environment file and your good to go. As an example, I have the AST tool set installed. I'm testing the tools supplied by AST but need to use the minimum PATH supplied by OS X and the PATH to the AST tools. So, I have to modify my PATH that is set in my .profile. I've created a file .astenv in my home folder.

#  .astenv
#  The AT&T Software Technology tools from AT&T Research

PATH=$(/usr/bin/getconf PATH)

export PATH

To use this config file, I can start a new terminal session and source the file,

. ~/.astenv

or in my current terminal session start a new instance of my shell then source the file.

. ~/.astenv

When I exit this shell, I'm back to my original environment.

  • Ok thanks for the clarification about login shell. Im not exactly sure about your second point could you please elaborate (I'm not a very experienced linux user)
    – Dipole
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:51

Why not just create a symlink in /usr/local/bin?

ln -s /foo/bar/hello_world.app /usr/local/bin/hello_world.app

You won't have to create any functions in .bashrc

In fact, what I have done with scripts that I have written that have multiple versions, is create a symlink to a file with the text "-latest" and then copy the latest version into that file.

My symlink looks like this:

ln -s /foo/bar/my_app-latest.app /usr/local/bin/my_app.app

Whenever I have a new version, I just copy to my_app-latest.app and everything is updated.

  • Interesting - is the symlink peramanent or do I have to call it everytime I open a new terminal? The reason I wanted to do it via a function is so that I could choose to set up the environment or not when I open a new terminal.
    – Dipole
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:31
  • I also read that ideally you would link to /usr/local/sbin and not /usr/sbin though I'm not sure why.
    – Dipole
    Jul 7, 2016 at 21:37
  • The symlink is permanent. Every time you open terminal, it will be available since it's in your path. It may be /usr/local/sbin...between FreeBSD, OS X, Linux, and Windows, it tough to keep them all straight.
    – Allan
    Jul 7, 2016 at 22:54
  • 2
    /usr/sbin is not user-writeable on El Capitan, I've changed it to /usr/local/bin in your answer.
    – nohillside
    Jul 8, 2016 at 5:12
  • @patrix Appreciate that...I was on my Surface Pro 3 yesterday and couldn't test out
    – Allan
    Jul 8, 2016 at 12:47

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