by Chiamaka Ikeanyi

Sometimes, using the default terminal sucks. You want to go out of the ordinary, to add life to the boring terminal and improve your productivity.

Z shell (Zsh) is a Unix shell built on top of bash (the default shell for macOS) with a large number of improvements.

In this walk-through, we will configure iTerm2 with ZSH and its dependencies. This is a no-brainer, and after this, you’ll ponder the reason for not discovering ZSH earlier. Well, since you’re here already, let’s kick-start this.


  • Homebrew installation
  • iTerm2 installation
  • ZSH and Oh My ZSH installations
  • Setting up the dependencies to create a beautiful terminal

Step 1: Install Homebrew

Homebrew is a free and open-source software package management system that simplifies the installation of software on Apple’s macOS.

Before installing Homebrew, we need to install the CLI tools for Xcode. Open your terminal and run the command:

xcode-select —-install

If you get an error, run xcode-select -r to reset xcode-select.

Then, install Homebrew.

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Step 2: Install iTerm2

iTerm2 is a replacement for terminal and the successor to iTerm. Most software engineers prefer iTerm2 over the default terminal that ships with macOS as a result of its cool features. You can integrate zsh into iTerm2 to increase productivity.

To install iTerm2, run the command:

brew cask install iterm2

Step 3: Install ZSH

Zsh is a shell designed for interactive use, although it is also a powerful scripting language.

By default, macOs ships with zsh located in/bin/zsh.

Let’s install zsh using brew and make iTerm2 use it.

brew install zsh

Step 4: Install Oh My Zsh

“Oh My Zsh is an open source, community-driven framework for managing your zsh configuration. It will not make you a 10x developer…but you might feel like one”
— Robby Russell

It runs on Zsh to provide cool features configurable within the ~/.zhrc config file. Install Oh My Zsh by running the command

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"

Check the installed version

zsh --version

You can upgrade it to get the latest features it offers.


Restart iTerm2 to dive into the new experience of using Zsh. Welcome to the “Oh My Zsh” world ?.

That’s not all. Now, we will install the dependencies to get the best out of Zsh.

Step 5: Change the Default Theme

Oh My Zsh comes bundled with a lot of themes. The default theme is robbyrussell, but you can change it to any theme of your choice. In this scenario, I changed it to agnoster, an already pre-installed theme.

You then need to select this theme in your ~/.zshrc. To open the config file (.zshrc), run the command:

nano ~/.zshrc
Zsh theme set to agnoster

Or open the file in a text editor with

open ~/.zshrc

Set the zsh theme and update your changes

source ~/.zhrc

Using a Custom Theme

To install another theme not pre-installed, clone the repository into custom/themesdirectory. In this scenario, we’ll install powerlevel9k,

$ git clone ~/.oh-my-zsh/custom/themes/powerlevel9k

Then, select this theme in your ~/.zshrc


Update your changes by running the command source ~/.zshrc

Navigate to iTerm2 > Preferences > Profiles > Colors if you wish to change the background color of the terminal.

The selected theme in this scenario requires powerline fonts. So, let’s install that.

Step 6: Install Fonts

I will be using Inconsolata. Get your preferred font out of these powerline fonts. Then, download and install it.


Or download the entire font.

git clone

cd fonts


To change the font, navigate to iTerm2 > Preferences > Profiles > Text > Change Font.

Now, you can see Inconsolata listed as one of the fonts. Select your preferred font. For fonts that support ligatures like FiraCode, check the “Use ligatures” option to view your arrows and other operators in a stylish manner like ( ).

Select a powerline font

Step 7: Install Color Scheme

Let’s change the color scheme to bring out the beauty of our terminal. Navigate to iTerm2-Color-Schemes and download the ZIP folder. Then, extract the downloaded folder cos what we need resides in the schemes folder.

Navigate to iTerm2 > Preferences > Profile > Colors > Color Presets > Import

  • Navigate to the schemes folder and select your preferred color schemes to import them.
  • Click on a specific color scheme to activate it. In this scenario, I activated Batman which is my preferred color scheme.

Tada! ? We’re done with the basic settings.

Batman color scheme

Step 8: Install Plugins

Oh My ZSH comes preloaded with a git plugin. To add more, for instance, docker, auto-suggestion, syntax highlighting and more:

  • Clone the Git repository
git clone ${ZSH_CUSTOM:-~/.oh-my-zsh/custom}/plugins/zsh-docker
  • Head over to .oh-my-zsh > custom > plugins directory to view the cloned directory. To access this, run the command open ~/.oh-my-zsh
  • Add the plugin to the plugin section of the config file ~/.zshrc shown below
  • Update your changes by running the command source ~/.zshrc

Step 9: Add Aliases

Aliases are shortcuts used to reduce the time spent on typing commands. Add aliases to commands you run in the section shown below.

Typing dckimgs executes docker images command

Thanks for reading.

If you know about other means of improving productivity using ZSH, you can drop them on the comment section, I will be glad to hear from you.