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Chapter 6: The future of zsh

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

Bugs tend to be tracked on the zsh-workers mailing list; see the next section. Check the mailing list to see if a bug has been reported. (There is a bug tracker at the zsh development site at Sourceforge, but it's not in active use.)

To see how recent versions of the shell have changed, look at the README file in the source distribution. This indicates the most important changes, and in particular draws attention to incompatibilities you might notice.

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

The shell is being maintained by various (entirely self-appointed) subscribers to the mailing list,


    zsh-workers@zsh.org
  
so mail on any issues (bug reports, suggestions, complaints...) related to the development of the shell should be sent there. If you want someone to mail you directly, say so. Most patches to zsh appear there first.

Please note when reporting bugs that many exist only on certain architectures, which the developers may not have access to. In this case debugging information, as detailed as possible, is particularly welcome.

Two progressively lower volume lists exist, one with messages concerning the use of zsh,


    zsh-users@zsh.org
  
and one just containing announcements: about releases, about major changes in the shell, or this FAQ, for example,

    zsh-announce@zsh.org
  
(posting to the last one is currently restricted).

Finally, there is a private mailing list (the general public cannot subscribe to it) for discussing bug reports with security implications, i.e., potential vulnerabilities: zsh-security@zsh.org. If you find a security problem in zsh itself, please mail this address.

Note that you should only join one of these lists: people on zsh-workers receive all the lists, and people on zsh-users will also receive the announcements list.

The lists are handled by an automated server. The instructions for zsh-announce and zsh-users are the same as for zsh-workers: just change zsh-workers to whatever in the following.

To join zsh-workers, send email to


    zsh-workers-subscribe@zsh.org
  
(the actual content is unimportant). Replace subscribe with unsubscribe to unsubscribe. The mailing software (Sympa) has various bells and whistles: you can retrieve archived messages. Mail sympa@zsh.org?subject=help for detailed information. Administrative matters are best sent to zsh-workers-owner@zsh.org.

Note that this location changed in August 2020, and the instructions to go with it are slightly different.

An archive of mailings for the last few years can be found at http://www.zsh.org/mla/ at the main zsh archive site.

Of course, you can also post zsh queries to the Usenet group comp.unix.shell; if all else fails, you could even e-mail me.

6.3: What's on the wish-list?

The code bears the marks of the ages and many things could be done much better with a rewrite. A more efficient set of code for lexing/parsing/execution might also be an advantage. Volunteers are particularly welcome for these tasks.

Some future possibilities which have been suggested:

6.4: Did zsh have problems in the year 2000?

Not that I heard of; it's up to you to be careful with two-digit dates, though, which are produced by the prompt escapes %W and %D, and also by the command `print -P'. Earlier versions of zsh may show problems here.

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

When reporting a bug, the gold standard is to include with the bug a minimal reproduction recipe, with which anyone who reads the bug report can reproduce the bug for themselves at will.

When you run into a bug in the shell, particularly during interactive use, a reproduction recipe would ideally start by running zsh -f and then, within that instance of the shell, run a minimal short sequence of commands that reproduces the bug. A good way to devise such recipes is the following:

  1. First, ensure the bug is reproducible. To do this, start a new instance of the shell --- for example, open a new tab in your terminal emulator --- and reproduce the bug there.

  2. Start a new instance of the shell by running the command zsh -f from your regular shell prompt, and reproduce the bug there. (The -f flag inhibits .zshenv, /etc/zprofile, .zprofile, /etc/zshrc, and .zshrc from being sourced.)

    If you succeeded in reproducing the bug in zsh -f, copy the commands you used and their outputs (from the zsh -f invocation to the point the bug occurred) and include them in your bug report. Skip the remaining steps of this procedure.

    If, however, the bug happens in your regular shell but not in zsh -f, read the next steps.

  3. Make a backup of your .zshrc file.

  4. Delete your .zshrc file, start a new instance of zsh, and confirm that the problem does not reproduce there. (If the problem does reproduce there, it's caused by something in .zshenv, .zprofile, /etc/zprofile, or /etc/zshrc, so apply this procedure from the top to those files rather than to your .zshrc.)

  5. At this point, you know that the problem is caused by something in your .zshrc file, but not what line exactly. To find the responsible line, we will use a variation of the binary search algorithm, as follows:

    Suppose your .zshrc file has 200 lines. To start, copy the first half of your .zshrc --- that is, lines 1 through 100 --- from the backup copy to your live .zshrc file, and check whether the bug reproduces then. Now, empty the live .zshrc file again, and copy the second half of your .zshrc file from the backup to the live .zshrc file --- the live file should now contain lines 101 through 200, only --- and see whether the problem reproduces.

    Normally, the bug will reproduce either with lines 1 through 100 or with lines 101 through 200, but not in both cases. To isolate the specific line that causes the bug, repeat the above process on the relevant half of the file: for example, if you've determined that the bug reproduces when only lines 101 through 200 are installed, check whether the bug reproduces (a) when only lines 101 through 150 are installed, and (b) when only lines 151 through 200 are installed. Repeat the process until the resulting .zshrc is minimal.

    It is not important to break the file into two halves exactly. Breaking the file into two parts sized one-third and two-thirds, for example, will work equally well. You can even try restoring one line at a time, but this is impractical for all but the shortest .zshrc files.

  6. Include the minimal set of lines you devised in the previous step, along with the commands you used and their outputs, in your bug report.

  7. Restore your .zshrc from backup.

Bug reports should be emailed to the zsh-workers@zsh.org public mailing list; see 6.2 for details.

Acknowledgments:

Thanks to zsh-list, in particular Bart Schaefer, for suggestions regarding this document. Zsh has been in the hands of archivists Jim Mattson, Bas de Bakker, Richard Coleman, Zoltan Hidvegi and Andrew Main, and the mailing list has been run by Peter Gray, Rick Ohnemus, Richard Coleman, Karsten Thygesen and Geoff Wing, all of whom deserve thanks. The world is eternally in the debt of Paul Falstad for inventing zsh in the first place (though the wizzo extended completion is by Sven Wischnowsky).

Copyright Information:

This document is copyright (C) P.W. Stephenson, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2012, 2020. This text originates in the U.K. and the author asserts his moral rights under the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

Permission is hereby granted, without written agreement and without license or royalty fees, to use, copy, modify, and distribute this documentation for any purpose, provided that the above copyright notice appears in all copies of this documentation. Remember, however, that this document changes monthly and it may be more useful to provide a pointer to it rather than the entire text. A suitable pointer is "information on the Z-shell can be obtained on the World Wide Web at URL https://zsh.sourceforge.io/".