Launch Sublime Text 2 from the command line

Written on January 11, 2012

3 minute reading time

Sublime Text 2 ships with a CLI called subl. It's similar to the mate utility that is available for TextMate to open any file or folder straight from the command line.

In Sublime, the utility is hidden in the application package, and assuming you installed Sublime in /Applications you can check that it's available on your system by running the commands below:

cd /Applications/Sublime\ Text\

The only thing you should see displayed is subl. If not, go install the latest version.

You can find more (official) documentation here.


Note: These instructions assume you're using the Terminal app out of the box, without ZSH or any fancy prompts like that. I trust you will be able to adapt these instructions yourself if you do.

The official documentation I linked to above recommends creating a ~/bin folder (in your home directory). That's weird, I don't recall ever being asked to do that on OS X since most people install binaries within /usr/local/bin which – if you're a developer – is likely to already have tons of other binaries.

So let's stay within the OS X conventions by doing:

ln -s /Applications/Sublime\ Text\ /usr/local/bin/sublime

This will simply create a symlink called sublime (remember, we like names that don't suck to type 500 times a day) between the subl binary stashed in the Sublime application package, and a folder where your system usually looks for binaries to execute (launch). Think of it as a wormhole of awesome.

Now let's do a check to see if everything will run smoothly. Enter this:

open ~/.bash_profile`

You should see at the top of the file a line that starts with: export PATH=

This contains all the directories that will be looked into for executable binaries when you type a command in Terminal. Since we create a symlink to subl called sublime in the /usr/local/bin directory let's check if this directory is listed on that same line.

If it is, perfect. Let's keep going. If not, simply add it like this and save the file:

export PATH=/usr/local/bin:(...)

Note: The "(...)" in this example represents other folders that would be listed on the same line and separated by a colon.

If you had to add /usr/local/bin to your PATH, run the following command before continuing:

source ~/.bash_profile

This will reload your .bash_profile with the newly added directory.


Open a Terminal window and run:

# replace <filename> by an actual file name
sublime <filename>


# replace "foldername" by an actual folder name
sublime <foldername>

or even

# to open the entire current directory
sublime .


Now you don't need to get out of Terminal to simply open a file or a folder, you didn't have to add an "alias" or yet another bin directory to your .bash_profile which you would been have needed with the official instructions given by the Sublime team.

Have fun, Sublime is a great editor showing a lot of promise and you should check out the recent beta release.