Android (Studio) and the terminal

2 minute read

Sooner or later you will get to the point where you need to use Android tools via the terminal.

Tools like adb the Android Debug Bridge to communicate with a running emulator or device. Or emulator to start an emulator from the command line.

The tools are located deep in the paths of the Android SDK like /Users/joachim/Library/Android/sdk/platform-tools/adb. So that you don’t always have to prepend the full path name, it’s a good idea to extend the PATH variable.

Add the following lines to your ~/.zshrc.

export ANDROID_SDK_ROOT=$HOME/Library/Android/sdk
export PATH=${PATH}:$ANDROID_SDK_ROOT/emulator
export PATH=${PATH}:$ANDROID_SDK_ROOT/platform-tools

Note: Most likely you will find some tutorials and documents that mention that the environment variable ANDROID_HOME must be set. This is deprecated according to the documentation. ANDROID_SDK_ROOT has exaclty the same effect and replaces ANDROID_HOME.

Note2: Make sure to keep the order of the PATH export lines. The tool emulator is packed in platform-tools and emulator folder. The correct emulator is in the emulator folder. Keeping that before platform-tools makes sure that it will be the preferred one.

Restart your terminal program or run the following line to reload the zshrc configurations in the current terminal session:

source ~/.zshrc

Terminal in Android Studio

Android Studio uses the configuration ~/.zshrc as well. So with the exports above you will now be able to use the tools from the terminal within Android Studio as well.

Shared History

Beginning with Android Studio Arctic Fox the embedded terminal also shares the terminal history .zsh_history with the system terminal. So no further configuration is required.

In Android Studio 4.1 echo $HISTFILE would result in something like


As mentioned, if you use Arctic Fox or newer you will see the default


But to be on the safe side, I suggest that you add the following line to your ~/.zshrc:

export HISTFILE=$HOME/.zsh_history

With this explicit setting, all terminals that share the ~/.zshrc configuration share the same .zsh_history - even if a future Android Studio version has a regression - who knows ;)

Tip: If you use the terminal frequently, you may not want certain commands in the history. For example, you only want to mess around with some parameters and don’t want to find every intermediate command in the history. Add the following line below the export HISTFILE line:


With this option, any command, with a preceding space, will NOT be included in the history.

For more inspiration, check out my zshrc Github repo.