How can I configure Bash, Zsh or Tmux to complete the last matching identifier on the screen? Consider this common scenario:

$ git fetch
remote: Counting objects: 16, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (9/9), done.
remote: Total 9 (delta 4), reused 0 (delta 0)
Unpacking objects: 100% (9/9), done.
From /opt/git/thunder
 * [new branch]      issue540   -> origin/issue547314
   e9204cf..4d42c3f  v2.1       -> origin/v2.1

How can I get Bash / Zsh/ Tmux to complete issue547 on the CLI easily? When I press Tab after $ git checkout is Git helpfully completes to issue, but I must complete the digits by myself because all the previous digits do in fact match existent Git branches.

In VIM, pressing Ctrl+P for omnicomplete will complete as the previous match, so in this case issue547314 will in fact be completed. How can I get this behaviour in Bash, in Zsh or in Tmux?

I'm currently using Bash 4.2 and Tmux 1.10 on Ubuntu Server (usually 12.04 LTS). I can update to the latest Ubuntu Server LTS (14.04) if needed.

EDIT: I would not mind any solution that uses Bash, Zsh, or Tmux as long as it is not difficult to use. So Tab or Ctrl+P or some other such shortcut would be fine, but not Alt+Meta+Super+Shift+א.

  • Pretty sure this would take a fairly large revision of the bash source.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 19:15
  • @Kevin: I figured as much, but hopefully either the amazing zsh can handle it, or perhaps tmux.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 20:25
  • Kitty (the terminal emulator) supports something like this.
    – HappyFace
    Commented Nov 26, 2022 at 22:33

3 Answers 3


I think that feature that OP is looking for is called dabbrev-expand in Emacs world:

Expand the word in the buffer before point as a dynamic abbrev, by searching in the buffer for words starting with that abbreviation (v-expand).

xterm also has dabbrev-expand feature but it's a bit less smart than Emacs counterpart but it's very useful to me and one was one of the reasons for which I switched to xterm. Inside xterm window one can use a custom keybinding specified in ~/.Xresources to invoke dabbrev-expand on a given string. For example, I have the following entry in my ~/.Xresources (I use uxterm, an Unicode version of xterm):

UXTerm*VT100.Translations: #override \n\
     Meta <Key>/:dabbrev-expand() \n\

Inside xterm window I can use M-/ (ALT + /) to invoke dabbrev-expand. xterm will look for all strings visible on the screen that start with letters I typed. Example:

$ echo a_very_long_string bye by
$ a_v

If I pressed M-/ now xterm would expand a_v to a_very_long_string. Unfortunately, as I said xterm is not so smart and its dabbrev-expand feature will only work on full strings. So, in your case is would be expanded to issue540 and not issue547314 because issue547314 is a part of origin/issue547314 (think about it as \b in regular expressions, it's a bit similar although most regular expressions engines would catch both occurrences of issue strings in \bissue.+\b). But, you can type or and then pres M-/. xterm will first expand or to origin/v2.1, this is not what we want so press M-/ again and xterm will expand it to origin/issue547314. Now, if you use Bash you can do M-b, C-w and C-e to remove origin/ part. To sum up, dabbrev-expand inside xterm is not as good as in Emacs (and Vim I guess) but it's still faster than rewriting long strings by hand and less typo-prone. And in most cases it will expand directly to the desired string without need to remove redundant parts. You just need to get used to it - look at string you want to have at cursor and see if it's not preceded by something else, and if it is type a preceding part and remove it after expansion.

Note that xterm is not compiled with dabbrev-expand feature by default and you have to enable it explicitly. However, version of xterm in Ubuntu repositories is compiled with dabbrev-expand and you can use it right away.

  • Thank you Arkadiusz, this seems to be close enough to what I need. Note that I cannot get it to work! Perhaps my xterm and uxterm are not compiled for dabbrev-expand, I could find no mention of the feature in -help. How can I see the compile flags (like with vim --version)? Note that I also tried the config line in ~/.Xresources as Meta <KeyPress> /: dabbrev-expand() \n\ as found here but that did not help, either.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 5:59
  • It may be your xterm has been compiled without dabbrev-expand. How did you install xterm? After modifying ~/.Xresources do xrdb -merge .Xresources in xterm. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 10:52
  • That most certainly did it, Arkadiusz! Thank you!
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 11:24
  • I'm going to give the question a few more hours until the bounty period ends, but I'm pretty sure that you are a shoe-in. The only problem is the requirement for xterm, which is terrible! But now that I know the proper name for the feature I can google it for other applications. Thanks!
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 11:36
  • 1
    xterm can be made not so terrible, including antialiased fonts: lukas.zapletalovi.com/2013/07/hidden-gems-of-xterm.html Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 8:58

You can do something like this with extrakto:

  • press tmux prefix + tab to start extrakto
  • fuzzy find the text/path/url
  • press
    • tab to insert it to the current pane,
    • enter to copy it to the clipboard,
    • ctrl-o to open the path/url or
    • ctrl-e to edit with $EDITOR

Bash as a similar facility called bash completetion. You can make use of it by hitting the Tab key when providing arguments to commands when you're typing them.


If I start by typing ls and then hitting Tab twice you'll get Bash to provide a list of matching files (and command line switches) to whatever command you're attempting to use:

$ ls <---- hit Tab x 2
Display all 232 possibilities? (y or n)

And here's the example with switches:

$ ls -- <---- hit Tab x 2
--all                 --format=                                  --quote-name
--almost-all          --group-directories-first


My installation already included a rule for git:


The installation of this file was done when I installed the git package. I'm on Fedora 19, but other distros should be doing this as well.

$ rpm -qf /etc/bash_completion.d/git

Looking at the rules file it explains that it will facilitate auto-completion in the following situations:

# The contained completion routines provide support for completing:
#    *) local and remote branch names
#    *) local and remote tag names
#    *) .git/remotes file names
#    *) git 'subcommands'
#    *) tree paths within 'ref:path/to/file' expressions
#    *) file paths within current working directory and index
#    *) common --long-options

So this should "just work" for you.

  • 2
    Bash completion and Git completion work (as I mention in the OP). The change that I would like to perform is to have it complete on the first Tab press the last legal value shown on the screen. This is how VIM Omnicompletion works.
    – dotancohen
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 14:04
  • @dotancohen - I don't see now that would be possible beyond what I've described.
    – slm
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 14:06

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