Coming from a FreeBSD world I wish to make the Linux terminal behave like FreeBSD one, especially the 9.1 version, basically when you type cd in the terminal and push the "up" arrow you can browse all the commands in the history starting with cd which makes you gain a lot time.

I don't know how to enable this feature in Linux Debian or CentOS which force me to type the whole, could someone please help.

  • 7
    That's a function of the shell, not the terminal. What shell are you using in FreeBSD? You may be able to get the same (or similar) shell for Linux.
    – cjm
    Oct 17, 2013 at 17:20
  • I am using the tcsh shell. Oct 17, 2013 at 17:29
  • 2
    I'm using tcsh under OS X and didn't have this handy-looking behavior… After some searching, I found I could enable it by putting bindkey -k (up|down) history-search-(back|for)ward in my .tcshrc as described here. Cool! Oct 17, 2013 at 20:27
  • Other answers tackle it, but if you want more, take a look at github.com/zsh-users/zsh-history-substring-search Prezto (github.com/sorin-ionescu/prezto) is also full of zsh goodies.
    – Fuad Saud
    Oct 21, 2013 at 23:23

3 Answers 3


Add to the following to ~/.inputrc:

# Press up-arrow for previous matching command
# Press down-arrow for next matching command


~/.inputrc is the configuration file for GNU readline. Many shells, including bash and tcsh use readline for command line editing. The two lines above will tell readline to invoke its history search functionality when the escape sequences for the up-arrow key (\e[A) and down-arrow key (\e[B) are encountered.

  • I like to add F12 to put last word of the last line onto end of current command.Last word is often a path which I want try out in various arcane clichés. And Shift F12 to put me back editting the whole last line from the start. ~/.inputrc is a handy tool.
    – jalanb
    Dec 8, 2015 at 3:11
  • The Shift F12 one requires vi mode.
    – jalanb
    Dec 8, 2015 at 3:20

What's happening is that FreeBSD and Linux use different shells by default. FreeBSD defaults to tcsh, which had better interactive features than bash in the past (but bash has caught up) but markedly worse scripting features.

The most straightforward way to get the environment you're used to would be to switch your shell to tcsh on Linux. Provided that tcsh is installed system-wide (if it isn't, ask your system administrator to install it), run chsh -s tcsh to change your default shell.

Alternatively, you can set up bash to have this command you're used to. By default, the Up and Down arrows navigate among all the commands in the history, not just the ones that start with the prefix you've typed. To change this to the behavior you're used to, put the following lines in bash's initialization file, which is .bashrc in your home directory. Either run . ~/.bashrc or start a new shell to re-read the initialization file.

bind '"\eOA": history-search-backward'
bind '"\e[A": history-search-backward'
bind '"\eOB": history-search-forward'
bind '"\e[B": history-search-forward'

The escape sequences are what your terminal sends to the shell when you press an arrow key. Up may be \eOA (escape, O, A) or \e[A depending on your terminal, and similarly for Down.

By default, bash offers different key bindings to search the command history. You can press Ctrl+R, then enter some characters to search for a command containing this substring anywhere on the line. Press Ctrl+S to go forward instead of backward. The search is incremental (i.e. as-you-type); Alt+P and Alt+N give you a non-incremental search.

Instead of bash and tcsh, you could switch to zsh, which has some neat features not found in other shells. Zsh has Ctrl+R and Ctrl+S by default just like bash. To get Up and Down like you had in tcsh, put the following lines in ~/.zshrc:

bindkey '\eOA' history-beginning-search-backward
bindkey '\e[A' history-beginning-search-backward
bindkey '\eOB' history-beginning-search-forward
bindkey '\e[B' history-beginning-search-forward

If you'd like to use the same shell everywhere, you can use bash or zsh on FreeBSD too, provided that the port is installed (again, ask your system administrator).


tcsh is available for most Linux distributions. Try installing the tcsh package, then running chsh -s /bin/tcsh to make it your default shell.

  • 1
    Or you might consider switching to bash (I did). Oct 17, 2013 at 19:47

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .