I have many programs which take filename arguments as one(or more) of


Is it possible make zsh complete filenames after some keywords followed by colon?

In bash you can do this by adding : to the COMP_WORDBREAKS variable.

Thanks to Gilles, I manage to work like this.

$ cat ~/.zshrc
function aftercolon() {
  if compset -P 1 '*:'; then
    _files "$expl[@]"
    _files "$expl[@]"

autoload -Uz compinit
compdef aftercolon hello olleh

Now in commands hello and olleh, completion after : works as expected.

I think there might be better way since:

  1. I have odd if/else clause since the commands also take filename without prefix.

  2. And since I have many commands take this kind of argument, I need to add names of every commands. I want to apply this to all commands if possible. It is also okay to apply this to all commands if it is easier


For those who may need, now I found slightly simpler way. Insert following in your .zshrc file

function aftercolon() {
  compset -P '*:'                   # strip stuff up to last :
  compset -S ':*'                   # strip stuff after next colon
  _default -r '\-\n\t /:' "$@"      # do default completion on this

compdef aftercolon cmd1 cmd2 cmd3 cmd4 
# to apply to all commands
compdef aftercolon -first-  # https://superuser.com/questions/1080452/add-strings-to-zsh-tab-completion-for-all-commands-and-arguments

  • 2
    That's a repeat of your SO question which I've already answered, there's no point in repeating that question here. The follow-up questions you asked in comments are a completely different question. If you want to get answers to those question, please edit this question to formulate what you want clearly. May 25, 2018 at 8:41
  • @Gilles The question here clearly formulates all I want. I just want to know the zsh equivalent of COMP_WORDBREAKS which works well with 'MANY programs'.
    – auditory
    May 25, 2018 at 11:57
  • anyway I copied follow-up question from SO.
    – auditory
    May 25, 2018 at 12:07
  • Many commands is completely different from all commands. Ignoring the prefix is also different from completing the prefix and the suffix separately. And having an optional prefix is also different from having a mandatory prefix. The bash feature you mention doesn't even do the same thing, although it occasionally can have the same effect (it it works for you, you're really not picky about getting good completions), so if you were asking the zsh equivalent of bash's COMP_WORDBREAKS, that would be again a completely different question. May 25, 2018 at 21:30
  • Indeed I am not really picky about getting good completion, but just wanted to accomplish what I want in the simplest way. It's always hard to ask good question. Thanks anyway.
    – auditory
    May 26, 2018 at 5:03

1 Answer 1


This is old posting but as a summary, in .zshrc

function aftercolon() {
  compset -P '*:'                   # strip stuff up to last :
  compset -S ':*'                   # strip stuff after next colon
  _default -r '\-\n\t /:' "$@"      # do default completion on this
compdef aftercolon -first-

Now I could complete filename after colon as well in zsh,

$ scp:/path/to/somef<TAB>  # now filename completion works after colon

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