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The goal here is to quickly search the command line history using glob pattern matching.


When reverse searching the command line history using ctrl-r, a lot of characters have to be typed before arriving at the correct command. For example, to go to “cd ~/work/gitlab/rutils”, one approach is to


and keep hitting ctrl-r until arriving at

cd ~/work/gitlab/rutils

Another approach is to

cd ~/work/gitlab/r

Here almost the entire command had to be typed since the user did many “cd ~/work/gitlab/xxx” type of commands after doing “cd ~/work/gitlab/rutils”.

Ideally, we want to avoid all this typing and get to the final command by typing a few keywords - say cd, rutils.


Add the following lines to ~/.zshrc.

# Use glob patterns when using ctrl-r
#   ctrl-r wordA*wordB
# will match commands where wordA is followed by wordB with zero or more number
# of characters in between. This functionality is not available in old zsh
# versions (ex:- 4.2.6) so check for its availability.
zle -al | grep -q history-incremental-pattern-search-backward
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then
  bindkey "\C-r" history-incremental-pattern-search-backward

After this


will match commands where cd is followed by rutils.

System Information

Tested this tip using zsh 5.0.7 on a machine running Debian Jessie.

% dpkg -l zsh | grep ^ii
ii  zsh            5.0.7-5      amd64        shell with lots of features

tags | reverse search using partial matches shell, reverse search using multiple words shell, use glob patterns in ctrl-r

search_command_line_history_using_glob_pattern_matching.txt · Last modified: 2022/05/05 13:09 by admin