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Updated: Wednesday, February 9, 2022

zshcompctl (1)


zshcompctl - zsh programmable completion


Please see following description for synopsis


ZSHCOMPCTL(1)               General Commands Manual              ZSHCOMPCTL(1)

       zshcompctl - zsh programmable completion

       This  version  of zsh has two ways of performing completion of words on
       the command line.  New users of the shell may prefer to use  the  newer
       and more powerful system based on shell functions; this is described in
       zshcompsys(1), and the basic shell  mechanisms  which  support  it  are
       described in zshcompwid(1).  This manual entry describes the older com-
       pctl command.

       compctl [ -CDT ] options [ command ... ]
       compctl [ -CDT ] options [ -x pattern options - ... -- ]
               [ + options [ -x ... -- ] ... [+] ] [ command ... ]
       compctl -M match-specs ...
       compctl -L [ -CDTM ] [ command ... ]
       compctl + command ...

       Control the editor's completion behavior according to the supplied  set
       of options.  Various editing commands, notably expand-or-complete-word,
       usually bound to tab, will attempt to complete  a  word  typed  by  the
       user, while others, notably delete-char-or-list, usually bound to ^D in
       EMACS editing mode, list the possibilities; compctl controls what those
       possibilities  are.  They may for example be filenames (the most common
       case, and  hence  the  default),  shell  variables,  or  words  from  a
       user-specified list.

       Completion of the arguments of a command may be different for each com-
       mand or may use the default.  The behavior when completing the  command
       word  itself may also be separately specified.  These correspond to the
       following flags and arguments, all of which (except for -L) may be com-
       bined with any combination of the options described subsequently in the
       section `Option Flags':

       command ...
              controls completion for the named commands, which must be listed
              last on the command line.  If completion is attempted for a com-
              mand with a pathname containing slashes and no completion  defi-
              nition  is  found,  the search is retried with the last pathname
              component. If the command starts with a =, completion  is  tried
              with the pathname of the command.

              Any  of the command strings may be patterns of the form normally
              used for filename generation.  These should be quoted to protect
              them  from  immediate  expansion; for example the command string
              'foo*' arranges for completion  of  the  words  of  any  command
              beginning  with  foo.  When completion is attempted, all pattern
              completions are tried in the reverse order of  their  definition
              until one matches.  By default, completion then proceeds as nor-
              mal, i.e. the shell will try to generate more  matches  for  the
              specific  command on the command line; this can be overridden by
              including -tn in the flags for the pattern completion.

              Note that aliases are expanded before the command name is deter-
              mined  unless  the COMPLETE_ALIASES option is set.  Commands may
              not be combined with the -C, -D or -T flags.

       -C     controls completion when the command word itself is  being  com-
              pleted.  If no compctl -C command has been issued,  the names of
              any executable command (whether in the path or specific  to  the
              shell, such as aliases or functions) are completed.

       -D     controls  default  completion behavior for the arguments of com-
              mands not assigned any special behavior.  If no compctl -D  com-
              mand has been issued, filenames are completed.

       -T     supplies completion flags to be used before any other processing
              is done, even before processing for compctls  defined  for  spe-
              cific  commands.   This  is especially useful when combined with
              extended completion (the -x flag, see the section `Extended Com-
              pletion'  below).  Using this flag you can define default behav-
              ior which will apply to all commands without exception,  or  you
              can  alter the standard behavior for all commands.  For example,
              if your access to the user database is too slow and/or  it  con-
              tains  too  many users (so that completion after `~' is too slow
              to be usable), you can use

                     compctl -T -x 's[~] C[0,[^/]#]' -k friends -S/ -tn

              to complete the strings in the array friends after a  `~'.   The
              C[...]  argument  is necessary so that this form of ~-completion
              is not tried after the directory name is finished.

       -L     lists the existing completion behavior in a manner suitable  for
              putting  into  a  start-up  script; the existing behavior is not
              changed.  Any combination of the above forms,  or  the  -M  flag
              (which must follow the -L flag), may be specified, otherwise all
              defined completions are listed.  Any other  flags  supplied  are

       no argument
              If  no  argument is given, compctl lists all defined completions
              in an abbreviated form;  with a list of options, all completions
              with  those  flags  set  (not  counting extended completion) are

       If the + flag is alone and followed immediately by  the  command  list,
       the  completion  behavior  for all the commands in the list is reset to
       the default.  In other words,  completion  will  subsequently  use  the
       options specified by the -D flag.

       The  form  with -M as the first and only option defines global matching
       specifications (see zshcompwid). The match specifications given will be
       used  for  every  completion attempt (only when using compctl, not with
       the new completion system) and are tried in the order in which they are
       defined until one generates at least one match. E.g.:

              compctl -M '' 'm:{a-zA-Z}={A-Za-z}'

       This  will first try completion without any global match specifications
       (the empty string) and, if that generates no  matches,  will  try  case
       insensitive completion.

       [ -fcFBdeaRGovNAIOPZEnbjrzu/12 ]
       [ -k array ] [ -g globstring ] [ -s subststring ]
       [ -K function ]
       [ -Q ] [ -P prefix ] [ -S suffix ]
       [ -W file-prefix ] [ -H num pattern ]
       [ -q ] [ -X explanation ] [ -Y explanation ]
       [ -y func-or-var ] [ -l cmd ] [ -h cmd ] [ -U ]
       [ -t continue ] [ -J name ] [ -V name ]
       [ -M match-spec ]

       The remaining options specify the type of command arguments to look for
       during completion.  Any combination of these flags  may  be  specified;
       the  result is a sorted list of all the possibilities.  The options are
       as follows.

   Simple Flags
       These produce completion lists made up by the shell itself:

       -f     Filenames and file system paths.

       -/     Just file system paths.

       -c     Command names, including aliases, shell functions, builtins  and
              reserved words.

       -F     Function names.

       -B     Names of builtin commands.

       -m     Names of external commands.

       -w     Reserved words.

       -a     Alias names.

       -R     Names of regular (non-global) aliases.

       -G     Names of global aliases.

       -d     This can be combined with -F, -B, -w, -a, -R and -G to get names
              of disabled functions, builtins, reserved words or aliases.

       -e     This option (to show enabled commands) is in effect by  default,
              but may be combined with -d; -de in combination with -F, -B, -w,
              -a, -R and  -G  will  complete  names  of  functions,  builtins,
              reserved words or aliases whether or not they are disabled.

       -o     Names of shell options (see zshoptions(1)).

       -v     Names of any variable defined in the shell.

       -N     Names of scalar (non-array) parameters.

       -A     Array names.

       -I     Names of integer variables.

       -O     Names of read-only variables.

       -p     Names of parameters used by the shell (including special parame-

       -Z     Names of shell special parameters.

       -E     Names of environment variables.

       -n     Named directories.

       -b     Key binding names.

       -j     Job names:  the first word of the  job  leader's  command  line.
              This is useful with the kill builtin.

       -r     Names of running jobs.

       -z     Names of suspended jobs.

       -u     User names.

   Flags with Arguments
       These have user supplied arguments to determine how the list of comple-
       tions is to be made up:

       -k array
              Names taken from the elements of $array (note that the `$'  does
              not  appear  on  the command line).  Alternatively, the argument
              array itself may be a set of space- or comma-separated values in
              parentheses,  in which any delimiter may be escaped with a back-
              slash; in this case the argument should be quoted.  For example,

                     compctl -k "(cputime filesize datasize stacksize
                                 coredumpsize resident descriptors)" limit

       -g globstring
              The globstring is expanded using filename globbing; it should be
              quoted  to  protect  it  from immediate expansion. The resulting
              filenames are taken as the  possible  completions.   Use  `*(/)'
              instead  of `*/' for directories.  The fignore special parameter
              is not applied to the resulting files.  More  than  one  pattern
              may  be given separated by blanks. (Note that brace expansion is
              not part of globbing.  Use the  syntax  `(either|or)'  to  match

       -s subststring
              The  subststring  is  split  into words and these words are than
              expanded using all shell expansion mechanisms (see  zshexpn(1)).
              The resulting words are taken as possible completions.  The fig-
              nore special parameter is not applied to  the  resulting  files.
              Note that -g is faster for filenames.

       -K function
              Call the given function to get the completions.  Unless the name
              starts with an underscore, the function is passed two arguments:
              the  prefix and the suffix of the word on which completion is to
              be attempted, in other words those characters before the  cursor
              position, and those from the cursor position onwards.  The whole
              command line can be accessed with the -c and  -l  flags  of  the
              read  builtin.  The function should set the variable reply to an
              array containing the completions (one completion  per  element);
              note  that reply should not be made local to the function.  From
              such a function the command line can be accessed with the -c and
              -l flags to the read builtin.  For example,

                     function whoson { reply=(`users`); }
                     compctl -K whoson talk

              completes only logged-on users after `talk'.  Note that `whoson'
              must return an array, so `reply=`users`' would be incorrect.

       -H num pattern
              The possible completions are taken from  the  last  num  history
              lines.   Only  words matching pattern are taken.  If num is zero
              or negative the whole history is searched and if pattern is  the
              empty  string  all words are taken (as with `*').  A typical use

                     compctl -D -f + -H 0 ''

              which forces completion to look back in the history list  for  a
              word if no filename matches.

   Control Flags
       These do not directly specify types of name to be completed, but manip-
       ulate the options that do:

       -Q     This instructs the shell not to quote any metacharacters in  the
              possible  completions.  Normally the results of a completion are
              inserted into the command line with any metacharacters quoted so
              that  they are interpreted as normal characters.  This is appro-
              priate for filenames and ordinary strings.  However, for special
              effects,  such  as inserting a backquoted expression from a com-
              pletion array (-k) so that the expression will not be  evaluated
              until the complete line is executed, this option must be used.

       -P prefix
              The  prefix  is  inserted  just before the completed string; any
              initial part already typed will be completed and the whole  pre-
              fix ignored for completion purposes.  For example,

                     compctl -j -P "%" kill

              inserts  a  `%'  after  the  kill command and then completes job

       -S suffix
              When a completion is found the suffix is inserted after the com-
              pleted  string.   In  the  case of menu completion the suffix is
              inserted immediately, but it is still possible to cycle  through
              the list of completions by repeatedly hitting the same key.

       -W file-prefix
              With  directory  file-prefix:   for command, file, directory and
              globbing completion (options -c, -f, -/, -g), the file prefix is
              implicitly added in front of the completion.  For example,

                     compctl -/ -W ~/Mail maildirs

              completes  any subdirectories to any depth beneath the directory
              ~/Mail, although that prefix does  not  appear  on  the  command
              line.   The  file-prefix may also be of the form accepted by the
              -k flag, i.e. the name of an array or a literal list  in  paren-
              thesis.  In  this  case  all the directories in the list will be
              searched for possible completions.

       -q     If used with a suffix as specified by the -S option, this causes
              the  suffix to be removed if the next character typed is a blank
              or does not insert anything or if the suffix  consists  of  only
              one  character  and the next character typed is the same charac-
              ter; this the same rule used for the  AUTO_REMOVE_SLASH  option.
              The  option  is  most  useful for list separators (comma, colon,

       -l cmd This option restricts the range of command line words  that  are
              considered  to  be  arguments.   If  combined  with  one  of the
              extended completion patterns  `p[...]',  `r[...]',  or  `R[...]'
              (see  the  section  `Extended  Completion'  below)  the range is
              restricted to the range of arguments specified in the  brackets.
              Completion is then performed as if these had been given as argu-
              ments to the cmd supplied with the option. If the cmd string  is
              empty  the  first word in the range is instead taken as the com-
              mand name, and command name completion performed  on  the  first
              word in the range.  For example,

                     compctl -x 'r[-exec,;]' -l '' -- find

              completes  arguments  between  `-exec' and the following `;' (or
              the end of the command line if there is no such  string)  as  if
              they were a separate command line.

       -h cmd Normally  zsh  completes  quoted  strings  as a whole. With this
              option, completion can be done separately on different parts  of
              such  strings. It works like the -l option but makes the comple-
              tion code work on the parts of the current word that  are  sepa-
              rated by spaces. These parts are completed as if they were argu-
              ments to the given cmd. If cmd is the empty  string,  the  first
              part is completed as a command name, as with -l.

       -U     Use  the whole list of possible completions, whether or not they
              actually match the word on the command line.  The word typed  so
              far will be deleted.  This is most useful with a function (given
              by the -K option) which can examine the word  components  passed
              to  it  (or  via the read builtin's -c and -l flags) and use its
              own criteria to decide what matches.  If there is no completion,
              the original word is retained.  Since the produced possible com-
              pletions seldom have interesting common prefixes  and  suffixes,
              menu  completion  is started immediately if AUTO_MENU is set and
              this flag is used.

       -y func-or-var
              The list provided by func-or-var is  displayed  instead  of  the
              list  of  completions whenever a listing is required; the actual
              completions to be inserted are not affected.  It can be provided
              in  two ways. Firstly, if func-or-var begins with a $ it defines
              a variable, or if it begins with a left  parenthesis  a  literal
              array, which contains the list.  A variable may have been set by
              a call to a function using the -K option.  Otherwise it contains
              the  name  of  a  function  which will be executed to create the
              list.  The function will be  passed  as  an  argument  list  all
              matching  completions,  including prefixes and suffixes expanded
              in full, and should set the array reply to the result.  In  both
              cases,  the display list will only be retrieved after a complete
              list of matches has been created.

              Note that the returned list does not have to correspond, even in
              length,  to  the original set of matches, and may be passed as a
              scalar instead of an array.  No special formatting of characters
              is performed on the output in this case; in particular, newlines
              are printed literally and if they appear output  in  columns  is

       -X explanation
              Print  explanation  when trying completion on the current set of
              options. A `%n' in this string is  replaced  by  the  number  of
              matches that were added for this explanation string.  The expla-
              nation only appears if completion was tried  and  there  was  no
              unique  match,  or when listing completions. Explanation strings
              will be listed together with the matches of the group  specified
              together  with the -X option (using the -J or -V option). If the
              same explanation string is given to  multiple  -X  options,  the
              string  appears  only  once  (for  each group) and the number of
              matches shown for the `%n' is the total number  of  all  matches
              for each of these uses. In any case, the explanation string will
              only be shown if there was at least  one  match  added  for  the
              explanation string.

              The  sequences  %B,  %b,  %S,  %s,  %U,  and  %u  specify output
              attributes (bold, standout, and underline), %F, %f, %K, %k spec-
              ify  foreground  and background colours, and %{...%} can be used
              to include literal escape sequences as in prompts.

       -Y explanation
              Identical to -X, except that  the  explanation  first  undergoes
              expansion  following  the  usual  rules  for  strings  in double
              quotes.  The expansion will be carried out after  any  functions
              are  called for the -K or -y options, allowing them to set vari-

       -t continue
              The continue-string contains a character  that  specifies  which
              set of completion flags should be used next.  It is useful:

              (i)  With -T, or when trying a list of pattern completions, when
              compctl would usually continue with  ordinary  processing  after
              finding matches; this can be suppressed with `-tn'.

              (ii)  With  a  list of alternatives separated by +, when compctl
              would normally stop  when  one  of  the  alternatives  generates
              matches.   It  can be forced to consider the next set of comple-
              tions by adding `-t+' to the flags of the alternative before the

              (iii)  In  an extended completion list (see below), when compctl
              would normally continue until a  set  of  conditions  succeeded,
              then use only the immediately following flags.  With `-t-', com-
              pctl will continue trying extended completions  after  the  next
              `-';  with  `-tx'  it  will  attempt completion with the default
              flags, in other words those before the `-x'.

       -J name
              This gives the name of the group the matches  should  be  placed
              in. Groups are listed and sorted separately; likewise, menu com-
              pletion will offer the matches in the groups  in  the  order  in
              which  the  groups  were defined. If no group name is explicitly
              given, the matches are stored in  a  group  named  default.  The
              first  time  a group name is encountered, a group with that name
              is created. After that all matches with the same group name  are
              stored in that group.

              This  can  be useful with non-exclusive alternative completions.
              For example, in

                     compctl -f -J files -t+ + -v -J variables foo

              both files and variables are possible completions,  as  the  -t+
              forces  both  sets  of alternatives before and after the + to be
              considered at once.  Because of the  -J  options,  however,  all
              files are listed before all variables.

       -V name
              Like  -J,  but  matches  within  the group will not be sorted in
              listings nor in menu completion. These unsorted groups are in  a
              different  name space from the sorted ones, so groups defined as
              -J files and -V files are distinct.

       -1     If given together with the -V  option,  makes  only  consecutive
              duplicates  in  the  group be removed. Note that groups with and
              without this flag are in different name spaces.

       -2     If given together with the -J or -V option, makes all duplicates
              be kept. Again, groups with and without this flag are in differ-
              ent name spaces.

       -M match-spec
              This defines additional  matching  control  specifications  that
              should  be  used  only  when testing words for the list of flags
              this flag appears in. The format of  the  match-spec  string  is
              described in zshcompwid.

       compctl [ -CDT ] options + options [ + ... ] [ + ] command ...

       The  form  with  `+' specifies alternative options. Completion is tried
       with the options before the first `+'. If this produces no matches com-
       pletion  is  tried with the flags after the `+' and so on. If there are
       no flags after the last `+' and a match has not been found up  to  that
       point, default completion is tried.  If the list of flags contains a -t
       with a + character, the next list of flags is used even if the  current
       list produced matches.

       Additional  options are available that restrict completion to some part
       of the command line; this is referred to as `extended completion'.

       compctl [ -CDT ] options -x pattern options - ... --
               [ command ... ]
       compctl [ -CDT ] options [ -x pattern options - ... -- ]
               [ + options [ -x ... -- ] ... [+] ] [ command ... ]

       The form with `-x'  specifies  extended  completion  for  the  commands
       given;  as  shown, it may be combined with alternative completion using
       `+'.  Each pattern is examined in turn; when a match is found, the cor-
       responding  options,  as described in the section `Option Flags' above,
       are used to generate possible completions.  If no pattern matches,  the
       options given before the -x are used.

       Note  that  each  pattern  should  be supplied as a single argument and
       should be quoted to prevent expansion of metacharacters by the shell.

       A pattern is built of sub-patterns separated by commas; it  matches  if
       at  least  one  of  these sub-patterns matches (they are `or'ed). These
       sub-patterns are in turn composed of other  sub-patterns  separated  by
       white  spaces  which  match  if all of the sub-patterns match (they are
       `and'ed).  An element of the sub-patterns is of the form `c[...][...]',
       where  the pairs of brackets may be repeated as often as necessary, and
       matches if any of the sets of brackets match (an  `or').   The  example
       below makes this clearer.

       The elements may be any of the following:

              Matches  if the current word on the command line starts with one
              of the strings given in brackets.  The string is not removed and
              is not part of the completion.

              Like s[string] except that the string is part of the completion.

              Matches  if the number of the current word is between one of the
              from and to pairs inclusive. The comma and to are  optional;  to
              defaults  to  the  same value as from.  The numbers may be nega-
              tive: -n refers to the n'th last word on the line.

              Matches if the string matches the word offset by offset from the
              current word position.  Usually offset will be negative.

              Like c but using pattern matching instead.

              Matches  if  the  word  in position index is equal to the corre-
              sponding string.  Note that the word count  is  made  after  any
              alias expansion.

              Like w but using pattern matching instead.

              Matches if the current word contains string.  Anything up to and
              including the indexth occurrence of this string will not be con-
              sidered part of the completion, but the rest will.  index may be
              negative to count from the end: in most cases, index will  be  1
              or -1.  For example,

                     compctl -s '`users`' -x 'n[1,@]' -k hosts -- talk

              will  usually  complete  usernames, but if you insert an @ after
              the name, names from the array hosts (assumed to  contain  host-
              names,  though  you  must  make the array yourself) will be com-
              pleted.  Other commands such as rcp can be handled similarly.

              Like n except that the string  will  be  taken  as  a  character
              class.   Anything  up to and including the indexth occurrence of
              any of the characters in string will not be considered  part  of
              the completion.

              Matches  if  the  total number of words lies between min and max

              Matches if the cursor is after a  word  with  prefix  str1.   If
              there  is also a word with prefix str2 on the command line after
              the one matched by str1 it matches only if the cursor is  before
              this  word. If the comma and str2 are omitted, it matches if the
              cursor is after a word with prefix str1.

              Like r but using pattern matching instead.

              Matches the word currently being completed is in  single  quotes
              and the str begins with the letter `s', or if completion is done
              in double quotes and str starts with the letter `d', or if  com-
              pletion is done in backticks and str starts with a `b'.

              compctl -u -x 's[+] c[-1,-f],s[-f+]' \
                -g '~/Mail/*(:t)' - 's[-f],c[-1,-f]' -f -- mail

       This is to be interpreted as follows:

       If the current command is mail, then

              if ((the current word begins with + and the previous word is -f)
              or (the current word begins with -f+)), then complete the
              non-directory part (the `:t' glob modifier) of files in the directory
              ~/Mail; else

              if the current word begins with -f or the previous word was -f, then
              complete any file; else

              complete user names.

zsh 5.8                        February 14, 2020                 ZSHCOMPCTL(1)