I switched to zsh, but I dislike the completion. If I have 20 files, each with a shared prefix, on pressing tab, zsh will fully complete the first file, then continue going through the list with each press of tab. If I want one near the end, I would have to press tab many times.

In bash, this was simple - press tab and I would get the prefix. If I continued typing (and pressing tab), bash would complete as far as it could be certain of. I find this behavior to be much more intuitive but prefer the other features of zsh to bash.

Is there a way to get this style of completion? Google suggested setopt bash_autolist, but this had no effect for me (and no error message was printed upon starting my shell).


3 Answers 3



setopt autolist
unsetopt menucomplete
  • Works pretty well, not exactly the same but it's definitely something I can get used to. Thanks a lot!
    – nsm
    Jun 2, 2010 at 23:39

What you want is probably this:

setopt noautomenu
  • 5
    (10 years later) The accepted answer had no (apparent) effect for me. This was exactly what I wanted and what is seems like the OP was asking for.
    – Jer
    Feb 10, 2020 at 20:44

There's another option if you use the "menu select" option in .zshrc like this:

autoload -U compinit
zstyle ':completion:*:*:*:*:*' menu select

You will be able to navigate through the result with arrow keys. Let's take your example with "20 files with a shared prefix":

  • when first hitting [TAB], zsh will complete the more it can and then display a list of possibilities
  • then you can either complete like you would have in bash (type an extra character, goto 0)
  • or re-type [TAB] and then you will see the possible choices highlighted in the menu below your shell prompt ; bonus, you can navigate in the possibilities with your arrow keys

In the end to reach the last possibility:

  • with Bash, at best, you hit [TAB] then an extra char then [TAB] again (maybe more)
  • with Zsh, you hit [TAB] then [TAB] again (to enter the menu), then "<-" (left arrow key) to reach the last elements

Both are 3 key strokes in this very case. The rest is mostly a matter of taste.

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