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Z-Shell Frequently-Asked Questions

Peter Stephenson


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introducing zsh and how to install it

1.1: Sources of information

1.2: What is it?

1.3: What is it good at?

1.4: On what machines will it run?

1.5: What's the latest version?

1.6: Where do I get it?

1.7: I don't have root access: how do I make zsh my login shell?

Chapter 2: How does zsh differ from...?

2.1: Differences from sh and ksh

2.2: Similarities with csh

2.3: Why do my csh aliases not work? (Plus other alias pitfalls.)

2.4: Similarities with tcsh

2.5: Similarities with bash

2.6: Shouldn't zsh be more/less like ksh/(t)csh?

2.7: What is zsh's support for Unicode/UTF-8?

2.8: Why does my bash script report an error when I run it under zsh?

Chapter 3: How to get various things to work

3.1: Why does $var where var="foo bar" not do what I expect?

3.2: In which startup file do I put...?

3.3: What is the difference between `export' and the ALL_EXPORT option?

3.4: How do I turn off spelling correction/globbing for a single command?

3.5: How do I get the Meta key to work on my xterm?

3.6: How do I automatically display the directory in my xterm title bar?

3.7: How do I make the completion list use eight bit characters?

3.8: Why do the cursor (arrow) keys not work? (And other terminal oddities.)

3.9: Why does my terminal act funny in some way?

3.10: Why does zsh not work in an Emacs shell mode any more?

3.11: Why do my autoloaded functions not autoload [the first time]?

3.12: How does base arithmetic work?

3.13: How do I get a newline in my prompt?

3.14: Why does bindkey ^a command-name or stty intr ^- do something funny?

3.15: Why can't I bind \C-s and \C-q any more?

3.16: How do I execute command foo within function foo?

3.17: Why do history substitutions with single bangs do something funny?

3.18: Why does zsh kill off all my background jobs when I logout?

3.19: How do I list all my history entries?

3.20: How does the alternative loop syntax, e.g. while {...} {...} work?

3.21: Why is my history not being saved?

3.22: How do I get a variable's value to be evaluated as another variable?

3.23: How do I prevent the prompt overwriting output when there is no newline?

3.24: What's wrong with cut and paste on my xterm?

3.25: How do I get coloured prompts on my colour xterm?

3.26: Why is my output duplicated with `foo 2>&1 >foo.out | bar'?

3.27: What are these `^' and `~' pattern characters, anyway?

3.28: How do I edit the input buffer in $EDITOR?

3.29: Why does `which' output for missing commands go to stdout?

3.30: Why doesn't the expansion *.{tex,aux,pdf} do what I expect?

Chapter 4: The mysteries of completion

4.1: What is completion?

4.2: What sorts of things can be completed?

4.3: How does zsh deal with ambiguous completions?

4.4: How do I complete in the middle of words / just what's before the cursor?

4.5: How do I get started with programmable completion?

4.6: Suppose I want to complete all files during a special completion?

Chapter 5: Multibyte input and output

5.1: What is multibyte input?

5.2: How does zsh handle multibyte input and output?

5.3: How do I ensure multibyte input and output work on my system?

5.4: How can I input characters that aren't on my keyboard?

Chapter 6: The future of zsh

6.1: What bugs are currently known and unfixed? (Plus recent important changes)

6.2: Where do I report bugs, get more info / who's working on zsh?

6.3: What's on the wish-list?

6.4: Did zsh have problems in the year 2000?

6.5: When reporting a bug, how do I reduce my .zshrc into a minimal reproduction recipe?

coordinator@zsh.org (Peter Stephenson)
(C) P.W. Stephenson, 1995--2020 (see end of document)

This document contains a list of frequently-asked (or otherwise significant) questions concerning the Z-shell, a command interpreter for many UNIX systems which is freely available to anyone with FTP access. Zsh is among the most powerful freely available Bourne-like shells for interactive use.

If you have never heard of sh, csh or ksh, then you are probably better off to start by reading a general introduction to UNIX rather than this document.

If you just want to know how to get your hands on the latest version, skip to question 1.6; if you want to know what to do with insoluble problems, go to 6.2.