I have some AIX 7 servers that are restricted to what software I can install and wonder if I can get ksh to use the tab key to complete filenames at the shell promot.

The man pages are sparse for ksh and I don't see any relevant questions here covering this ground. Due to the majority of users using ksh, I'm hesitant to shift my shell to bash - but I suppose that's an easy out.

I log in initially from a PC using putty/ssh and work mostly from xterm once the X11 forwarding brings back the traffic to Hummingbird Exceed on the PC.

Can /usr/bin/ksh that ships with bos.rte.shell for AIX 7.1 be configured to trigger filename completion (which is normally triggered by pressing ESC+\ ) by pressing the TAB key?

  • What does 'echo $TERM' has to say?
    – schaiba
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 20:54
  • @schaiba - Thanks for catching my incomplete phrasing of the question. My $TERM is xterm whether I'm logged in over putty/ssh or have spawned xterms...
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 20:59
  • Please include the value of ${.sh.version} in your question. Double TAB for filename completeion was added relatively late. Commented Jul 21, 2013 at 21:36
  • @HenkLangeveld I get a "bad substitution" error when I try to echo ${.sh.version} - The version of box.rte.shell is
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


I gather your shell is in vi mode. Not sure this will work, as my AIX knowledge is limited, but yu can try to add this to your profile:

set -o emacs
bind "^I=complete"

Google says that ksh in AIX is kinda crippled from this point of view, so maybe bash would be a better bet.

  • This doesn't work either in the ksh version I have installed. I prefer the vi bindings, but switched over to emacs to see if this would let the tab key work as expected.
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 12:36
  • bind is missing for me on AIX 7.1 Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 22:53

See if /usr/bin/ksh93 is available:

ksh93 --version

If it says

version         sh (AT&T Research)

then use that as your interactive shell. It will have the ${.sh.version} and should have the TAB expansion.

  • This is likely going to end up being the answer unless there's an obvious way to teach the old ksh new tricks. It appears the /usr/bin/ksh is intentionally not updated with features and the second binary has more recent features compiled. Since it seems to work out of the box, pressing tab works as expected now with little risk that other scripts will fail on a difference between ksh and ksh93.
    – bmike
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 15:09
  • 1
    Actually, IBM probably followed the concept of changing names when changing interfaces, unlike what Sun did when they updated ksh to ksh93 in (Open)Solaris. Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:40

There is an alternative for this question.

First set vi mode for ksh:

$ set -o vi

After, you can use the Tab key this way. Example: You want complete the next path:

$ cd /usr/local/s

Type Tab key twice and You will see this:

$ cd /usr/local/s
1) sbin/
2) share/
3) src/

Assuming you want to option 2 (/usr/local/share/ folder), type 2 Tab (2 key followed by the Tab key). And You will see this:

$ cd /usr/local/share/ 

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