I would like to frequently switch between directories that are in totally unrelated paths, for example /Project/Warnest/docs/ and ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/.

But I don't want to type cd /[full-path]/ all the time. Are there any shortcut commands to switch to previously worked directories?

One solution I could think of is to add environment variables to my bash .profile for the frequently used directories and cd to them using those variables.

But is there any other solution to this?

36 Answers 36


If you're just switching between two directories, you can use cd - to go back and forth.

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  • 14
    How this has eluded me for so long is a mystery. Thank you very much for this excellent tip. – Mr. Shickadance Feb 9 '12 at 15:21
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    +1 Certainly one of my favorites and one that somehow many experts have 'missed'. – Michael Durrant Apr 24 '12 at 2:17

There is a shell variable CDPATH in bash and ksh and cdpath in zsh:

CDPATH    The search path for the cd command. This is a colon-separated
          list of directories in which the shell looks for destination
          directories specified by the cd command.

So you can set in your ~/.bashrc:

export CDPATH=/Project/Warnest:~/Dropbox/Projects/ds

Then cd docs and cd test will take you to the first found such directory. (I mean, even if a directory with the same name will exist in the current directory, CDPATH will still be consulted. If CDPATH will contain more directories having subdirectories with the given name, the first one will be used.)

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  • 16
    It should be mentioned that in general, you'll want the first entry in $CDPATH to be . (an explicitly entry, i.e. : also works). Otherwise you'll end up with the odd behavior where CDPATH dirs take precedence over directories in the current working directory, which you probably do not want. – jw013 Feb 8 '12 at 23:40
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    I do pretty much the same thing, but without the export. That way, CDPATH is not exported to scripts with potentially weird or harmful effects. See here for more discussion and examples. – Telemachus Feb 17 '12 at 12:47
  • "bash and ksh and cdpath in zsh" ... and in tcsh (just answering a question based on that over on Super User and found this while looking for similar answers on SE). – Hennes Nov 13 '13 at 7:36
  • This is POSIX-specified, I think. At least, the POSIX for cd refers to it. – mikeserv Aug 30 '14 at 17:47

Something else you might try is a tool called autojump. It keeps a database of calls to it's alias (j by default) and attempts to make intelligent decisions about where you want to go. For example if you frequently type:

j ~/Pictures

You can use the following to get there in a pinch:

j Pic

It is available of Debian and Ubuntu, and included on a per-user basis in ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc by default.

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  • 5
    Autojump is probably the best tool for this, it takes a little while to build up the database of common dirs, but once it does I think you'll find that you can't live without it. I know every time I'm on someone else's computer I feel crippled. – quodlibetor Feb 13 '12 at 18:29
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    thanks love this tool! And although cd - is handy to know if you don't already know it, I think this is a much better solution than the current top answer. – User Oct 13 '14 at 4:49
  • Installed system-wide on what systems? – ctrl-alt-delor Jan 17 '17 at 16:13
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    @richard It is available as a package (e.g. apt-get install autojump in Ubuntu, but also for many others as documented on their page) for system-wide installation, but each user needs to load it into their shell environment so it can override cd to keep track of where you're going – nealmcb Apr 6 '17 at 17:56
  • Important to say source /usr/share/autojump/autojump.sh should be added to ~/.bashrc for autojump to work. – Pablo A Jul 10 '17 at 2:10

If it's a small number of directories, you can use pushd to rotate between them:

# starting point
$ pwd
# add second dir and change to it
$ pushd ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test
~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test /Project/Warnest/docs
# prove we're in the right place
$ pwd
# swap directories
$ pushd
/Project/Warnest/docs ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test

unlike cd -, you can use this with more than two directories

Following up on Noach's suggestion, I'm now using this:

function pd()
    if [[ $# -ge 1 ]];
        dirs -v
        echo -n "? "
        read choice
    if [[ -n $choice ]];
        declare -i cnum="$choice"
        if [[ $cnum != $choice ]];
        then #choice is not numeric
            choice=$(dirs -v | grep $choice | tail -1 | awk '{print $1}')
            if [[ -z $choice || $cnum != $choice ]];
                echo "$choice not found"
    pushd $choice

example usage:

# same as pushd +1
$ pd 1

# show a prompt, choose by number
$ pd
 0 ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test
 1 /Project/Warnest/docs
 2 /tmp
? 2
/tmp ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test /Project/Warnest/docs

# or choose by substring match
$ pd
 0 /tmp
 1 ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test
 2 /Project/Warnest/docs
? doc
/Project/Warnest/docs /tmp ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test

# substring without prompt
$ pd test
~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test /Project/Warnest/docs /tmp

etc. Obviously this is just for rotating through the stack and doesn't handle adding new paths - maybe I should rename it.

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  • 7
    Ooh, I knew about pushd and popd for traversal, but not that pushd could rotate what's been used so far... – Izkata Feb 8 '12 at 20:29

I use alias in bashrc to do those cds.
such as:

alias wdoc='cd ~/Project/Warnest/docs'
alias dstest='cd ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test'
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  • is bashrc a file like .profile? in which I need to add those lines? – saiy2k Feb 8 '12 at 7:43
  • ~/.bashrc or /etc/bash.bashrc. I did not use .profile before, so don't know the relationship between them :-( – Felix Yan Feb 8 '12 at 7:45
  • scripts bashrc will start everytime you open terminal. profile with startup. – user14517 Feb 8 '12 at 10:42
  • added those lines to my .bash_profile and it works great.. thx :) – saiy2k Feb 8 '12 at 10:56
  • I have several specific project folders i go to regularly, this is the easiest way to set them up and maintain them. Also, for me, it results in the absolute least number of characters typed of all the solutions here. KISS! :-) – moodboom Jun 10 '16 at 12:08

Use "pushd -n" (assuming you use bash).

Add to your ~/.bashrc:

pushd -n /Project/Warnest/docs/
pushd -n ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/


cd ~ is your home,

cd ~1 is ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/

cd ~2 is /Project/Warnest/docs/

You can use ~1,~2 etc in exactly the same way as ~.

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I found a script (typically called acd_funch.sh) that solved this issue for me. With this you can type cd -- to see the last 10 directories that you've used. It'll look something like this:

0  ~/Documents/onedir
1  ~/Music/anotherdir
2  ~/Music/thirddir
3  ~/etc/etc

To go to ~/Music/thirddir just type cd -2


NOTE: This script was originally published in a linux gazette article which is available here: acd_func.sh -- extends bash's CD to keep, display and access history of visited directory names.

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Try the cdable_vars shell option in bash. You switch it on with shopt -s cdable_vars.

Then you need to set your variables export dir1=/some/path. and finally cd dir1, etc. You can then put it in your ~/.bashrc to make it stick.

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There are a lot of good suggestions here. Which to use would depend on whether you have a small fixed list of directories you switch among, or whether you are looking for a more generic solution.

If it's a small fixed list, setting up simple aliases (as Felix Yan suggested) would be easiest to use.

If you're looking for a more generalized solution (i.e. many different directories, changing over time), I'd use pushd and popd (as Useless suggested). I personally find the default pushd/popd to be hard to use, especially as you start switching among many folders; however I wrote a few tweaks that make it much easier for me. Add the following to your bashrc:

alias dirs='dirs -v'
pd () 
    if [ -n "$1" ]; then
        pushd "${1/#[0-9]*/+$1}";
    fi > /dev/null
  • Use pd (as a shorter form of pushd) to jump to a new folder, remembering where you were.
  • Use dirs to see the list of saved directories.
  • Use pd 3 to jump to directory number 3.

Example Usage:

$ PS1='\w\$ '   ## just for demo purposes
~$ pd ~/Documents/data
~/Documents/data$ pd ../spec
~/Documents/spec$ pd ~/Dropbox/Public/
~/Dropbox/Public$ pd /tmp
/tmp$ pd /etc/defaults/
/etc/defaults$ dirs
 0  /etc/defaults
 1  /tmp
 2  ~/Dropbox/Public
 3  ~/Documents/spec
 4  ~/Documents/data
 5  ~
/etc/defaults$ pd 2
~/Dropbox/Public$ dirs
 0  ~/Dropbox/Public
 1  ~/Documents/spec
 2  ~/Documents/data
 3  ~
 4  /etc/defaults
 5  /tmp
~/Dropbox/Public$ pd 4
/etc/defaults$ dirs
 0  /etc/defaults
 1  /tmp
 2  ~/Dropbox/Public
 3  ~/Documents/spec
 4  ~/Documents/data
 5  ~
/etc/defaults$ pd 3
~/Documents/spec$ popd
~/Documents/data ~ /etc/defaults /tmp ~/Dropbox/Public
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The following appeared to work on the one case I tested it on, and you can just drop your directory names as symlinks in ~/Bookmarks:

mkdir "$HOME/Bookmarks"
ln -s /tmp "$HOME/Bookmarks/testdir"

function ccd() { cd $(readlink "$HOME/Bookmarks/$1") ; }

ccd testdir && echo $PWD
# gives /tmp
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  • that ccd() function need to typed in the terminal prompt or somewhere else? can u pls explain? – saiy2k Feb 8 '12 at 8:41
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    @saiy2k: sorry, yes. The function line goes into your .bashrc (you can type it in your terminal to test, but it'll be gone when you close that window), the lines before set up the test case of "testdir" becoming a name for /tmp, and the last line is the test to see if it works. – Ulrich Schwarz Feb 8 '12 at 17:19

You could do worse than try j2.

From the README:

Spend a lot of time cd-ing around a complex directory tree?

j keeps track of where you’ve been and how much time you spend there, and provides a convenient way to jump to the directories you actually use.

I use it extensively & recommend it.

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I'd advice using zsh, that shell as very good TAB completion for directories, files, and even options for most cli programs.

I've been using that shell for years now, and I'd miss the functionality if it was gone. Scripting the zsh is a lot of fun, too, with a large number of one-liners that can help you every day.

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  • No need to change to zsh for TAB completeion since bash has it all the same. For other functionality maybe but not for this. – Peer Stritzinger Feb 9 '12 at 11:14
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    @PeerStritzinger Bash introduced that kind of functionality in BASH 4.0, but compared to zsh, it is still quite far behind. Saying "all the same" is certainly incorrect. – polemon Feb 22 '12 at 0:02
  • Well zsh is ceartainly the übershell but just for tab completion there is no need to change (question was asked for bash). Besides bash 4.0 was introduced about 3 years ago ... – Peer Stritzinger Feb 22 '12 at 9:45

In my experience, the greatest speedup in navigating in a shell is to use its history search functionality. In Bash you can search backwards in your history of commands by pressing Ctrl+R and type in some pattern. That pattern is then matched against previous entries in your history -- may it be cd commands or other operations -- and suggestions are made as you type. Simply hit enter to run the suggested command again. This is called reverse-search-history in Bash and I love it. It saves me a lot of keystrokes and spares my internal memory.

It's a good thing because you only have to remember some smaller part of a command, like Drop or Wa to distinguish between the two history entries cd ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/ and cd /Project/Warnest/docs/.

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I also use these aliases (add them to ~/.bashrc):

alias ..='cd ..'
alias ...='cd ../..'
alias ....='cd ../../..'
alias .....='cd ../../../..'

It's much quicker to go to the upper directory with them (yet it only solves half of the navigation).

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    These are helpful aliases, but I'm not entirely sure that they will match the OP's needs. You might consider expanding on your answer to suggest how these might be directly helpful for the OP's issue. – HalosGhost Jul 11 '14 at 18:36

if you're using zsh:

  • you don't have to type cd, just type directory path (/foo/bar/baz<Enter> equals to cd /foo/bar/baz<Enter>)

    requires auto_cd option to be set

  • you can expand abbreviated paths with Tab key (/u/sh/pi<Tab> expands to /usr/share/pixmaps; works for file names as well)
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There is a rather nice tool for quick directory changes:

xd - eXtra fast Directory changer http://xd-home.sourceforge.net/xdman.html

a bit awkward is that you need to map it in bash profile or similar as it only outputs the directory

# function to do `cd` using `xd`
# -g turns generalized directory search command processing on
# which improves the whole thing a bit
        cd `/usr/bin/xd -g $*`

you can do things like:

# change to /var/log/a* (gives you a list to choose from)    
f vla
# to skip the list and go directly to /var/log/apache2
f vlapach
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  • Change the function to f() { cd "$(xd -g "$@")"; } to properly handle spaced directories and spaces in the arguments to xd (you probably don't need the path). If you never use xd in another manner, you can alternatively do xd() { cd "$(command xd -g "$@")"; } (alternatively, use /usr/bin/xd in place of command xd – you can always run command xd … if you need to bypass it). – Adam Katz Jun 5 '19 at 15:17

You never ever should type full path in shell anyway. You always can use:

soffice /P*/W*/*/mydoc*

instead of

soffice /Project/Warnest/docs/mydoc.odt
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  • 1
    This is like tab-completing, but worse in every way – Michael Mrozek May 14 '16 at 18:41
  • You can't do this with tab completing with euqal amount of keypressing unless Project is only file starting with P, etc. Also you have to wait for completion each time, using * you have no need to wait. – gena2x Nov 23 '16 at 12:08
  • I think you have it backwards -- you can't do P* unless Project is the only file starting with P. Tab completion can cycle (by default in most shells; you need to rebind tab to menu-complete in bash), and resolves instantly in simple cases like this, there's no waiting around for it – Michael Mrozek Nov 23 '16 at 15:47
  • Regarding 'you can't do it' - you can, try it, you missing whole point if you think you can't. Try echo /u*/b*/g++ – gena2x Nov 23 '16 at 17:26
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    I understand what you mean, it's faster as long as you're sure you've typed an unambiguous path, but something like /P*/W*/*/mydoc* sounds like it would work fine until one day you happened to make another file that matches that glob, and suddenly you end up opening both at once. /u*/*/g++ is impressively few characters, but hopefully nothing else in any of the subfolders of any of my root folders starting with u is named g++. (As a nice compromise, in some shells you can use tab to expand globs in-place as you go) – Michael Mrozek Nov 23 '16 at 17:42

There's also OLDPWD, an environment variable which, according to IEEE 1003.1 (POSIX), should be updated with the previous working directory each time cd changes the working directory (for the curious ones, line 80244 of page 2506 of IEEE 1003.1-2008).

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There is also a "wcd" app created specifically for this (also ported to cygwin, since I am on that). You can create shortcuts, bookmarks of dirs with it. Also supports wild cards. Reading the man page & docs in /usr/share/wcd should help a lot.


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cdargs is the most efficient tool for bookmarking a directory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWB2FIQlzZg

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  • Is this a product you are associated with? – Kazark Feb 27 '13 at 19:21
  • Thanks for pointing me to cdargs. Simply sudo apt-get cdargs on ubuntu. BTW the youtube video is really bad but the tool is great. – DavidG Jul 21 '14 at 16:00

I had the same question, and first found this answer. I installed the utility z (https://github.com/rupa/z).

This is exactly what you look for, because z learns from your cd commands, and keeps track of the directories according to the frecency principle (frequent & recent). So after you do both cd commands once, you can do somtehing like:

z docs
z ds

to jump to /Project/Warnest/docs/ and ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/ respectively. The arguments to z are regexes, so you don't even need to type a full folder name.

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Update (2016): I now use FASD for this, which allows fuzzy search based on your latest directories.

I've created a tool for this, in Ruby. It allows you to use YAML files to declare your projects.

I've wrote a little article about it here: http://jrnv.nl/switching-projects-terminal-quickly/

I've also posted the source on GitHub: https://github.com/jeroenvisser101/project-switcher

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Try https://pypi.org/project/fastcd/ It sets hook that records visited directories from bash. And sets script as "j" alias, that shows you the last visited directories, with the ability to quickly cd (start typing to filter directories).

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  • How does this work? If it's aliases, what does this tool do for you that you can't do by manually editing .bashrc? – G-Man Says 'Reinstate Monica' Nov 3 '14 at 22:55
  • It launches daemon that records visited directories in ~/.fastcd for launched shells(bash). "j" launches tool that shows you the last visited directories, with the ability to quickly cd. Modification of .bashrc is required to make the "j" alias. You can see source code for more information, i guess – Sam Toliman Nov 3 '14 at 23:36
  • Thanks for your quick response. This is the sort of information that should be in the answer. Please edit your answer to include this info. – G-Man Says 'Reinstate Monica' Nov 4 '14 at 15:21


  1. Use an Fish for interactive shell that empower you immediately (fish>zsh>bash).
  2. Use POSIX/Bash for scripting that is the most widely supported syntax (POSIX>Bash>Zsh>Fish).


Having tested different shells here is my feedback (in order of testing/adoption):

  • Bash:
    • auto-completion: basic ;
    • path expansion: no ;
    • scripting: excellent.
  • Zsh+oh-my-zsh:
    • auto-completion: good (cycling through);
    • path expansion: yes (cd /e/x1cd /etc/X11/) ;
    • scripting: good.
  • Fish+oh-my-fish (current) is the best out of the box:
    • auto-completion: native and supported options;
    • path expansion: yes ;
    • scripting: too much difference from POSIX-compatible.

Use meaningful aliases

Every shell can be expanded using function and alias, here are the ones I use related to your issue (POSIX-compatible):

back () {  # go to previous visited directory
        cd - || exit

up () {  # go to parent directory
        cd ..|| exit

There are basic, but really meaningful so easy to remember and autocomplete.

Know your shell

Configure CDPATH to add your most used directories (e.g. ~/projects/, /etc/init.d/) so you can quickly jump to them.

See manatwork answer for mroe details on CDPATH.

Hangout and read

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  • When a shell function calls exit, you exit the interactive shell. Those "meaningful aliases" could just be alias back='cd -' and alias up='cd ..' — but don't worry, those commands will never return false (no previous directory? it sends you home! already in root? it's a no-op!) and therefore you'll never exit. Also consider alias back='cd $OLDPWD' (note the single quotes) since it won't have any output (cd - tells you where it is sending you, which is likely unnecessary since your prompt has that info) – Adam Katz Mar 7 '19 at 16:03

I've been using my own utility cdhist to manage this for many years. It aliases your cd command and automatically keeps a directory stack.

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You can use export to assign your directory paths to variables and then reference them.

export dir1=/Project/Warnest/docs/
export dir2= ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/
cd $dir1
cd $dir2
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  • Yes, this is sufficient for a few favorite dirs. No need to install any other utilities. Just put the export statements in your ~/.bashrc, and they'll always be available. – wisbucky May 21 '18 at 21:44

Some suggestions here:

Most direct idea, I will add alias in the .profile file

vi ~/.profile
alias dir1='cd /myhome/onedir'
alias dir2='cd /jimmy/anotherdir'

Then use $ dir1 or dir2, can cd

If you are always switching in two dirs only. using cd - will switch between them.

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The solution I use for this situation is screen. Start screen and create a window for each directory with C-a c and navigate there. Change between windows/directories with C-a n or C-a p. Name the windows with C-a A. Then you can pop up a list of your windows with C-a " and navigate using the window number or name. Since it is screen, you can detach from the session saving your work space and re-attach later with the same set up.

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It seems that what you need is basically a project file for your workflow. With directories that belong to your activity, like in a programming IDE. Try Zsh Navigation Tools and the tool n-cd there. It will allow you to navigate across last visited folders and also define a Hotlist with directories of your choice:


n-cd can be bound to a key combination with:

zle -N znt-cd-widget

bindkey "^T" znt-cd-widget

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anc is a cmd line tool (short for anchor), that keeps bookmarks of directories. (so far only tested with bash)

In your case:

anc a /Project/Warnest/docs/ ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/

this adds both directories to the anchor(think bookmarks) list

now if you want to jump to /Project/Warnest/docs/ from anywhere on your system type:

anc Warn

and if you want to jump to ~/Dropbox/Projects/ds/test/ type:

anc ds test

Apart from matching text against the bookmarked paths anc has many other convenient ways for jumping around directories.

anc i

starts the interactive mode, that lists all bookmarks by number, so all you have to type is the number

If you type:

anc Pro[TAB]

a list matching all bookmarks (in your case both bookmarks) gets shown and you can select from it using your arrow keys, this is a very quick and intuitive way.

Get anc at the project's github page: https://github.com/tobimensch/anc

There's also a README with example usage.

Full disclosure: I'm the author of this script. I hope some people will find it useful.

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