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What’s the most important non-kernel piece of software in UNIX-like OSes? The shell. A good shell.

I’m working with UNIX-like OSes a long time. I wasn’t using a shell all the time, but the black window with a monospace font was seen more often on my screen with time. A black window with bash in it. Are you wondering why? They set it as the default shell. And some users might not bother with changing their settings or testing other shells.

[email protected]:~$ zsh

Are you still using bash? Switch over to zsh and learn why it’s better. Let’s begin with a reason list.

Reason #1. Intelligent Completion

The zsh’s bulit-in completion is the best one ever made. For example, here is how regular bash responds to pacman <Tab><Tab>:

[[email protected] ~]$ pacman
Display all XXX possibilities? (y or n)

(The possibilities are all the files and directories in the current working directory.)

And here’s another bash response, this time with bash-completion:

[[email protected] ~]$ pacman -
-D          -h          -Q          -R          -S          -U          -V
--database  --help      --query     --remove    --sync      --upgrade   --version

That’s much more helpful, but a new user still wouldn’t know what to do.

Are you wondering what zsh did after adding a - before the first <Tab>?

[[email protected] ~]$ pacman -Q
-Q  -- Query the package database
-R  -- Remove a package from the system
-S  -- Synchronize packages
-U  -- Upgrade a package
-V  -- Display version and exit
-h  -- Display usage

(If you will press tab once, it will just show the possibilities. If you will press it once again, it will change to -R.)

Do you want to start the GNOME’s Preferred Applications dialog box from the shell, without using the Tab key? Good luck! The name is gnome-default-applications-properties. That’s 38 characters. THIRTY EIGHT characters. If you will make a typo in bash, you’ll see “command not found”, swear a few times and find the typo yourself. With zsh, instead of searching for typo, you can press <Tab>. In many cases, you’ll see the proper command.

Reason #2. No cd required

If you will add one line to your zshrc, you’ll be able to skip cd if you want to go to a directory (doesn’t work if there’s something in the $PATH with the same name)::
setopt autocd

Reason #3. Bulit-in commands

Do you want to use the basic more/less/$PAGER to read a file? Just say <filename and you’re done. Do you need to use FTP? You can use zftp.

Reason #4. bindkeys

Wish to use some keys for special text operations? You can use bindkeys. I’m binding these keystrokes:

bindkey "\e[1~" beginning-of-line       # Home
bindkey "\e[4~" end-of-line             # End
bindkey "\e[5~" beginning-of-history    # PageUp
bindkey "\e[6~" end-of-history          # PageDown
bindkey "\e[2~" quoted-insert           # Ins
bindkey "\e[3~" delete-char             # Del
bindkey "^[OH"  beginning-of-line       # Home
bindkey "^[OF"  end-of-line             # End
bindkey "^[[5~" beginning-of-history    # PageUp
bindkey "^[[6~" end-of-history          # PageDown
bindkey "^[[2~" quoted-insert           # Ins
bindkey "^[[3~" delete-char             # Del
bindkey "^[[1;5D" backward-word         # ^Left
bindkey "^[[1;5C" forward-word          # ^Right

Getting Help

Do you need help? Choose one of the sources.

#zsh @ freenode

Do you love IRC, like me? Visit #zsh at freenode.

ZSHWiki

The Z Shell has its very own wiki at <http://zshwiki.org>.

Mailing Lists

Subscribe to a mailing list: <http://zsh.sourceforge.net/Arc/mlist.html>.

Website/Web Documentation

You can find some information at <http://zsh.sourceforge.net/>.

The Man Page aka Because zsh contains many features, the zsh manual has been split into a number of sections

The zsh man page just tells you the most important things and informs you about other sections. If you aren’t sure where to search, try man zshall.

zsh          Zsh overview
zshroadmap   Informal introduction to the manual
zshmisc      Anything not fitting into the other sections
zshexpn      Zsh command and parameter expansion
zshparam     Zsh parameters
zshoptions   Zsh options
zshbuiltins  Zsh built-in functions
zshzle       Zsh command line editing
zshcompwid   Zsh completion widgets
zshcompsys   Zsh completion system
zshcompctl   Zsh completion control
zshmodules   Zsh loadable modules
zshcalsys    Zsh built-in calendar functions
zshtcpsys    Zsh built-in TCP functions
zshzftpsys   Zsh built-in FTP client
zshcontrib   Additional zsh functions and utilities
zshall       Meta-man page containing all of the above

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