Unlocking the Power of Zsh’s Autocomplete Feature

Zsh’s Autocomplete Feature: Unleashing Its True Potential

If you are a developer, then you know that typing is one of the most common activities we undertake. As we become more proficient at typing, our speed increases, but this still does not eliminate human error. Autocomplete is a feature that aims to help us reduce our errors and improve our speed.

In this article, we are going to look at Zsh’s autocomplete feature and how it can be used more effectively.

Zsh’s Autocomplete Feature

Zsh is a sophisticated shell that provides autocomplete functionality. This feature can help increase your productivity by predicting the commands you want to execute or the files you want to select when you type.

By default, Zsh provides a set of completion functions for common commands and file names. However, users can extend these functions to provide completion for custom commands.

How to Use Zsh’s Autocomplete Feature

To use Zsh’s autocompletion feature, you must have it enabled. By default, autocompletion is enabled, but you can always confirm that it is working by typing:

$ echo $fpath

This command will tell you where Zsh is looking for completion functions. The output should be a list of directories that contain the completion scripts.

Completion Functions

Zsh provides a set of completion functions that are available by default. These functions are used to complete command names, file names, and other parameters.

The following are some of the completion functions that are available by default:

1. _files
2. _directories
3. _arguments
4. _commands

The _files completion function is used to complete file names, while _directories is used to complete directory names.

These functions can be customized and extended to provide completion for custom commands or file types.

Customizing Completion Functions

Users can customize completion functions to enhance their functionality. You can add new completion functions, redefine existing ones, or create new options for the completion functions.

For example, let’s say you wanted to create a new completion function to complete the names of all files in the current working directory that ends with ‚.txt‘. Here is how you can do it:

# define new completion function
_my_files () {
_files -g „*txt“

# add new completion function to the list of built-in functions
compctl -K _my_files mycommand

In the example above, we defined a new completion function called ‚_my_files‘. The function is defined to complete file names that end with ‚.txt‘.

Finally, we use the ‚compctl‘ command to add the new function as an option to the ‚mycommand‘. Now, whenever we type ‚mycommand‘ and press tab, the shell will display a list of files in the current directory that end with ‚.txt‘.


Zsh’s autocomplete feature is an incredibly useful tool that can greatly improve your productivity as a developer. By default, Zsh provides a set of completion functions that can be used to complete command names, file names, and other parameters. However, users can extend the functionality of the default completion by creating their functions or options.

In conclusion, mastering Zsh’s autocomplete feature is a valuable skill for any developer looking to increase their productivity and minimize their typing errors.