I use Ctrl+R all the time, but I often end up going past the command I'm after as I'm pressing it so quickly.

To forward search, Ctrl+S can be used provided it's not used the terminal first (konsole in my case, in which stty -ixon in ~/.bashrc fixes it).

However, I have to press it twice: once it seems to enter i-search after being in reverse-i-search mode and a second time to actually step backwards.

Is there a way to remove the need for pressing the shortcut twice?

  • 3
    As with Ctrl-R, the first Ctrl-S waits for a string to search. The second one reuse the same search string you used before (with Ctrl-R in your situation). I know of no way to avoid those two steps. readline lacks a "search the same string the other way round" function.
    – xhienne
    Mar 25, 2017 at 1:30

2 Answers 2


Here's a different approach. If you are comfortable with some basic vi editing commands, bash supports a vi-mode for command line editing. If you really hate vi you won't like this. But if you can tolerate it, you may find it preferable and with fewer keystrokes.

set -o vi

History search works like this:

  • Esc to enter command mode
  • / to begin search
  • Type text of search string
  • Enter to perform search
  • n to go to next match
  • N to jump back to the previous match
  • i to get back into insert mode
  • Enter to run command
  • The vi-style equivalents to Ctrl-R and Ctrl-S are n and N, respectively. And they don't require tapping twice. Intriguing! May 27, 2017 at 23:41

Apparently the Bash history search requires a first press of the shortcut to let you know which direction you're searching, then a second press to actually perform the search. I don't think is possible to change the way it works without modifying the source code.

However, you can install hstr (https://github.com/dvorka/hstr) which features a suggest box with advanced search options to easily view, navigate, search, and manage your command history:

enter image description here

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