I've come across this question in an attempt to search for a way to inline expand my glob pattern in bash. But in my case the pattern contains some character class.

Let say I have 3 files:- abc bbc 1bc

When I input:

$> somecommand [[:alpha:]]bc

I would like to know is there any key combination that would expand my command inline as:

$> somecommand abc bbc

I've tried Ctrl+X * key sequence with no luck. It seems it's working only for a simple glob pattern but fails to expand when a pattern contains some character class like [[:alpha:]]

  • somecommand [a-zA-Z]bc?
    – Cyrus
    Nov 3, 2018 at 11:03
  • @Cyrus Assuming that they use [[:alpha:]] because they know it may generate different results depending on the current locale, this may not be a general solution.
    – Kusalananda
    Nov 3, 2018 at 11:19
  • I think it's down to : being considered as a word delimiter. See also ^X* on *:*. Nov 3, 2018 at 11:20
  • @Kusalananda: I had not fully understood the question.
    – Cyrus
    Nov 3, 2018 at 11:22

1 Answer 1


That's because : is among the list of characters that readline considers as word delimiters for word completion (which bash exposes in the $COMP_WORDBREAKS shell variable).



(to remove : from $COMP_WORDBREAKS), Ctrl+X* should work.

One might argue that : shouldn't be in that list in the first place for the very reason that it's used in character classes, but I suppose the rationale is that you want to be able to use completion on things like:


And that mechanism is too crude (you'll notice that Ctrl+X* on 'a'* doesn't work either even if you remove ' from $COMP_WORDBREAKS) to accommodate both so it's a compromise. See zsh, a shell with much more advanced editing capabilities, that works in both cases here.

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