Get Current Screen Resolution in Command Line on Mac OS

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Typically Mac users will get the screen resolution of connected displays through the Displays system preference pane in OS X. There is certainly nothing wrong with that approach, it’s easy and fast, but since it uses OS X’s graphical interface it’s not necessarily useful for scripting purposes or remote management via Remote Login and SSH connections. In these and many other situations, you may want to get the current display screen resolutions from the command line in Mac OS X.

You can get the precise screen resolution by using the system_profiler command, which fetches detailed system information as a command line version of the Apple System Profiler utility, long bundled with OS X. The syntax to use is simple and you’ll probably want to clean up output with grep to display resolution only.

The system_profiler command to get only the resolution of connected displays is as follows, as usual with the command line syntax, make sure the command is on one line:

system_profiler SPDisplaysDataType | grep Resolution

There’s no need to use sudo, but you can precede the command with it if you want to for some reason.

The output is easy to read and should look something like this:

$ system_profiler SPDisplaysDataType | grep Resolution Resolution: 1920 x 1080

If you’re using multiple monitors with your Mac, the resolution is reported for each connected display. If the connected external display is a TV, the TV display resolution is also reported as 720p or 1080p.

The command should work in just about any version of Mac OS X, but keep in mind that current versions of Yosemite will be dumping unnecessary output that should probably be cleaned up up with awk if you are going to use this for scripting. It’s still legible, but it’s a bit messy.

Note that you can skip the grep portion of the command if you wish. This will report extensive display details that can also be useful.

Note that the output shows the active resolution, not the maximum possible resolution on the screen. For example, a Retina display shows what is currently being used in terms of screen space, not the maximum possible resolution of the display.

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mac OS



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