I use bash on both my Mac and as my cygwin shell. Overall, I'm quite pleased with it.

My one complaint however is that its TAB completion isn't as good as Windows Command Line TAB completion.

For example, if there are two files with the same prefix, then bash just beeps at me when I try to TAB complete. If I keep nailing TAB, then it will eventually show me a list of potential files.

I definately prefer how Windows will cycle through potential files right on the command line.

Is there a way to get bash to operate similar to Windows Command Line in this regard?

If there isn't (I do not want to switch shells), am I missing something about TAB completion in bash? Is there a more efficient way to use it?

1 Answer 1


To get the ‘cycle through possible completions’ behavior, copy the following into an appropriate place in your .bashrc file:

[[ $- = *i* ]] && bind TAB:menu-complete

Also, bash-completion provides many extra kinds of completion besides just pathname completion. For example, menu-complete works fine with Git's bash-completion module to complete command names, option names, etc.

  • what is the procedure to do this for OSx terminal?
    – Alex
    Nov 30, 2011 at 14:19
  • 2
    @Alex: You edit the file .bashrc in your home directory so that it contains the specified line. If your .bash_profile file (in the same directory) does not also have a line like source ~/.bashrc, then you should also edit it to include such a line. The setting will be active in new Terminal windows. If you do not have a preferred editor, you can open the file in TextEdit with the command open -e ~/.bashrc; if the file does not yet exist, you will need to create it first with (e.g.) the command touch ~/.bashrc. Dec 1, 2011 at 2:46
  • 1
    @Alex, Bash is the default shell on 10.3 and later, including 10.7 (Lion). First echo $SHELL. That will be the shell selected for your user account. If that’s not what you want, you’ll need to change your shell with chpass -s /bin/bash (or whatever shell you want). If $SHELL is fine, then check Terminal > Preferences > Startup > Shells open with: and Terminal > Preferences > Settings > Profiles > Shell > Startup to see if the default user shell has been overridden with a custom command.
    – Chris Page
    Jun 14, 2012 at 20:31
  • 5
    Does anyone have any idea what should I bind to go one option back with Shift + Tab?
    – ppp
    Jan 2, 2014 at 8:12
  • 4
    @ppp in your .bashrc: bind '"\e[Z":menu-complete-backward'
    – vault
    Feb 23, 2016 at 10:24

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