Z-Shell Frequently-Asked Questions

Peter Stephenson


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?

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

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

3.4: How do I get the meta key to work on my xterm?

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

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

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

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

3.9: How does base arithmetic work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.16: How do I list all my history entries?

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

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 get started with programmable completion?

4.5: And if programmable completion isn't good enough?

Chapter 5: The future of zsh

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

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

5.3: What's on the wish-list?

Changes since last issue:

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 shell 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 5.2.