Apologies, this title is not the most elegant I've ever devised.

But I assume a lot of people will have wondered this, and my question may be a dupe... all I can say is I haven't found it.

When I say "scrolling" up, I mean using the "up arrow" key on the keyboard, which obviously scrolls you up through the history, starting at the most recent command.

So you find a command maybe 30 commands back... and you run it. And then you want to run the command which originally came after it... is there is a snappy way of doing this? Or how do those fluent in BASH do this?

3 Answers 3


Running the command with Ctrl+o instead of Enter will run a command from history and then queue up the next one instead of returning to the front of the bash history.

  • 2
    I just tried this in my own bash running in an xterm on NetBSD, and it doesn't work! Are there settings that can influence this? I have no .inputrc file. C-o is not mentioned in the manual page for readline(3). Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 10:24
  • @Rhialto Are you using vi line editing (enabled with set -o vi) or emacs? Because Ctrl-O won't work with the former as far as I can tell.
    – B Layer
    Commented Feb 13, 2018 at 13:17
  • ...but this can be remedied with the command: bind "\C-o":operate-and-get-next (or add everything after bind to ~/.inputrc)
    – B Layer
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 15:34
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    I found out what my problem is: ^O is taken as the Flush Output character (not supported on Linux), and readline doesn't disable this while it is active. I supplied a simple patch but the bash and readline maintainer maintains that this is Not A Bug. I disagree. See lists.gnu.org/archive/html/bug-readline/2018-01/msg00004.html Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 21:15

Jon Reinhold's answer is great, but there's is a much more powerful solution that I'll suggest. I also have a comment about a gotcha in Jon's answer, but I don't have enough reputation to be able to comment directly, so @Jon Reinhold, if you read this, please address my comment to you below.

Bash includes a command fc, which takes as parameters line numbers of the bash history list. It then opens your default editor with those lines as text. At that point, you can optionally edit the lines. Then, when you exit the editor, bash executes those lines!

An example of an edit you might want to make is append to all but the last line something like "; read -p"next ...". That will cause bash to execute each line, and prompt you before continuing.

Comment for Jon Reinhold: Great answer, but you should qualify it because if the user has set bash variable HISTCONTROL to include erasedups, then after performing C-o the user will be confused because instead of the expected next command in the history being displayed, the one after that will be displayed. This is because bash has deleted the original instance of the executed command, and thus all the commands afterwards have shifted up one line, ie. to one lower index number in the history list.

  • thanks, in attempting to find the answer by searching I had come across the "fc" command. To me this represents the next stage in a BASH neophyte's slow baby steps along the path of glory towards KNOWLEDGE. I wanted the first baby step. Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 16:35
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    @mikerodent No. So it happens fc predates both Ctl-o and bash itself. (Contrary to this answer it is also less useful.)
    – kubanczyk
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 23:08
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    The issue with erasedups is clearly a bash bug (there could have been provision for this situation). Good to know, though.
    – alexis
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 11:32
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    @kubanczyk That's up to debate. If it's a complex, complicated command depending on what needs fixing it would be far quicker for me to use my editor of choice to update the command. It would also be easier.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 22:41

Another way to accomplish your desired behavior would be to get familiar with the bash readline shortcuts (of which CTRL-o is one I believe) and bash history searching.

History search

CTRL-r takes you into bash command history search, where you can begin typing the command you are searching for and bash will autocomplete the command for you. The autocomplete functionality is really pretty good. When the command you want to run is on the input line, you can ENTER to run the command, or press CTRL-e to move the cursor to the end of the command line and exit history search mode.

The cool thing with CTRL-e at this point is that the history buffer is set contextually to this command. The next and previous commands now are the ones ran just before and after the line that the history search located for you. You can press the up or down arrows and grab the next command.

History search is very powerful and a great way to avoid using the up arrow to get way back to the command in the first place. A quick history search can save lots of time manually searching through the history and then you can proceed with CTRL-o like Jon pointed out above.

Readline Short Cuts

If you are looking to up your overall bash-fu, I would recommend giving the readline shortcuts for the arrow keys a shot. You might find that they are more convenient and allow you to increase your typing speed, but of course YMMV. Here are a few more:

  1. CTRL-n for the next command (down arrow equivalent)
  2. CTRL-p for the previous command (up arrow equivalent)
  3. CTRL-b back a character (left arrow equivalent)
  4. CTRL-f forward a character (right arrow equivalent)

These readline shortcuts (along with CTRL-a beginning of line and CTRL-e end of line) will increase your speed and efficiency at the command line imo.

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    I don't know. I find using modifier keys to be slower than arrows or any other single key press. As for EOL/etc. I tend to use home/end keys (stty -a shows some pretty handy things too, of course).
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 22:46
  • @Pryftan Fair enough, the last sentence is presented as an opinion (see 'imo'). I do believe that staying on the home row of the keyboard over the long haul is a good strategy for working in the terminal or any other typing intensive tasks. Some folks have keyboards where the arrow keys are closer to the other characters, in that case perhaps the readline shortcuts are not a compelling convenience. I'll edit the answer to make this last point more clearly an opinion statement.
    – 111---
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 13:46
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    @datUser Tbh I missed the 'imo' (or if I didn't I neglected to consider it - entirely possible). What's true though is the reverse search is useful (have a +1) if it works for you. Of course fc is also something (as already noted) and so is using ! (etc.). Lots of ways to skin a cat in Unices. As for keyboards that's quite true also: I have a Unicomp keyboard (love it and brings back memories) but of course there is also other keyboards to consider not to mention Dvorak. In the end the more options you have the better you're off and the easier your work (or play) is :)
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 18:35

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