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       zshcompctl - zsh programmable completion


       This  version  of  zsh has two ways of performing completion of words on the command line.
       New users of the shell may prefer to use the newer and more powerful system based on shell
       functions;  this  is  described  in  zshcompsys(1),  and  the basic shell mechanisms which
       support it are described in zshcompwid(1).  This manual entry describes the older  compctl
       compctl [ -CDT ] options [ command ... ]
       compctl [ -CDT ] options [ -x pattern options - ... -- ] [ + options [ -x ... -- ] ... [+]
       ] [ command ... ]
       compctl -M match-specs ...
       compctl -L [ -CDTM ] [ command ... ]
       compctl + command ...

       Control the editor's completion  behavior  according  to  the  supplied  set  of  options.
       Various  editing  commands,  notably  expand-or-complete-word,  usually bound to tab, will
       attempt to complete a word typed by the user, while others,  notably  delete-char-or-list,
       usually  bound  to ^D in EMACS editing mode, list the possibilities; compctl controls what
       those possibilities are.  They may for example be filenames (the  most  common  case,  and
       hence the default), shell variables, or words from a user-specified list.


       Completion  of the arguments of a command may be different for each command or may use the
       default.  The behavior when completing the command word  itself  may  also  be  separately
       specified.   These  correspond  to the following flags and arguments, all of which (except
       for -L) may be combined with any combination of the options described subsequently in  the
       section `Option Flags':

       command ...
              controls  completion  for  the  named  commands,  which  must be listed last on the
              command line.  If completion is attempted for a command with a pathname  containing
              slashes  and no completion definition is found, the search is retried with the last
              pathname component. If the command starts with a =, completion is  tried  with  the
              pathname of the command.

              Any  of  the command strings may be patterns of the form normally used for filename
              generation.  These should be quoted to protect them from immediate  expansion;  for
              example  the  command  string  'foo*'  arranges  for completion of the words of any
              command beginning with foo.  When completion is attempted, all pattern  completions
              are  tried in the reverse order of their definition until one matches.  By default,
              completion then proceeds as normal, i.e.  the  shell  will  try  to  generate  more
              matches  for  the  specific  command on the command line; this can be overridden by
              including -tn in the flags for the pattern completion.

              Note that aliases are expanded before the command name  is  determined  unless  the
              COMPLETE_ALIASES option is set.  Commands may not be combined with the -C, -D or -T

       -C     controls completion when the command word itself is being completed.  If no compctl
              -C  command  has  been issued,  the names of any executable command (whether in the
              path or specific to the shell, such as aliases or functions) are completed.

       -D     controls default completion behavior for the arguments of commands not assigned any
              special  behavior.   If  no  compctl  -D  command  has  been  issued, filenames are

       -T     supplies completion flags to be used before any  other  processing  is  done,  even
              before  processing  for compctls defined for specific commands.  This is especially
              useful when combined with  extended  completion  (the  -x  flag,  see  the  section
              `Extended  Completion'  below).   Using  this  flag you can define default behavior
              which will apply to all commands without exception, or you can alter  the  standard
              behavior for all commands.  For example, if your access to the user database is too
              slow and/or it contains too many users (so that completion after `~' is too slow to
              be usable), you can use

                     compctl -T -x 's[~] C[0,[^/]#]' -k friends -S/ -tn

              to  complete  the strings in the array friends after a `~'.  The C[...] argument is
              necessary so that this form of ~-completion is not tried after the  directory  name
              is finished.

       -L     lists  the  existing  completion  behavior  in a manner suitable for putting into a
              start-up script; the existing behavior is not  changed.   Any  combination  of  the
              above  forms,  or  the  -M  flag (which must follow the -L flag), may be specified,
              otherwise all defined  completions  are  listed.   Any  other  flags  supplied  are

       no argument
              If  no  argument  is given, compctl lists all defined completions in an abbreviated
              form;  with a list of options, all completions with those flags set  (not  counting
              extended completion) are listed.

       If  the  +  flag  is  alone  and  followed immediately by the command list, the completion
       behavior for all the commands in the list is  reset  to  the  default.   In  other  words,
       completion will subsequently use the options specified by the -D flag.

       The  form with -M as the first and only option defines global matching specifications (see
       zshcompwid). The match specifications given will be  used  for  every  completion  attempt
       (only  when  using compctl, not with the new completion system) and are tried in the order
       in which they are defined until one generates at least one match. E.g.:

              compctl -M '' 'm:{a-zA-Z}={A-Za-z}'

       This will first try completion without any global match specifications (the empty  string)
       and, if that generates no matches, will try case insensitive completion.


       [ -fcFBdeaRGovNAIOPZEnbjrzu/12 ]
       [ -k array ] [ -g globstring ] [ -s subststring ]
       [ -K function ]
       [ -Q ] [ -P prefix ] [ -S suffix ]
       [ -W file-prefix ] [ -H num pattern ]
       [ -q ] [ -X explanation ] [ -Y explanation ]
       [ -y func-or-var ] [ -l cmd ] [ -h cmd ] [ -U ]
       [ -t continue ] [ -J name ] [ -V name ]
       [ -M match-spec ]

       The remaining options specify the type of command arguments to look for during completion.
       Any combination of these flags may be specified; the result is a sorted list  of  all  the
       possibilities.  The options are as follows.

   Simple Flags
       These produce completion lists made up by the shell itself:

       -f     Filenames and file system paths.

       -/     Just file system paths.

       -c     Command names, including aliases, shell functions, builtins and reserved words.

       -F     Function names.

       -B     Names of builtin commands.

       -m     Names of external commands.

       -w     Reserved words.

       -a     Alias names.

       -R     Names of regular (non-global) aliases.

       -G     Names of global aliases.

       -d     This  can  be  combined  with  -F,  -B,  -w, -a, -R and -G to get names of disabled
              functions, builtins, reserved words or aliases.

       -e     This option (to show enabled commands) is in effect by default, but may be combined
              with  -d;  -de in combination with -F, -B, -w, -a, -R and -G will complete names of
              functions, builtins, reserved words or aliases whether or not they are disabled.

       -o     Names of shell options (see zshoptions(1)).

       -v     Names of any variable defined in the shell.

       -N     Names of scalar (non-array) parameters.

       -A     Array names.

       -I     Names of integer variables.

       -O     Names of read-only variables.

       -p     Names of parameters used by the shell (including special parameters).

       -Z     Names of shell special parameters.

       -E     Names of environment variables.

       -n     Named directories.

       -b     Key binding names.

       -j     Job names:  the first word of the job leader's command line.  This is  useful  with
              the kill builtin.

       -r     Names of running jobs.

       -z     Names of suspended jobs.

       -u     User names.

   Flags with Arguments
       These  have user supplied arguments to determine how the list of completions is to be made

       -k array
              Names taken from the elements of $array (note that the `$' does not appear  on  the
              command  line).  Alternatively, the argument array itself may be a set of space- or
              comma-separated values in parentheses, in which any delimiter may be escaped with a
              backslash; in this case the argument should be quoted.  For example,

                     compctl -k "(cputime filesize datasize stacksize
                                 coredumpsize resident descriptors)" limit

       -g globstring
              The  globstring is expanded using filename globbing; it should be quoted to protect
              it from immediate expansion. The resulting filenames  are  taken  as  the  possible
              completions.   Use  `*(/)'  instead  of  `*/' for directories.  The fignore special
              parameter is not applied to the resulting files.  More  than  one  pattern  may  be
              given separated by blanks. (Note that brace expansion is not part of globbing.  Use
              the syntax `(either|or)' to match alternatives.)

       -s subststring
              The subststring is split into words and these words are  than  expanded  using  all
              shell  expansion  mechanisms  (see  zshexpn(1)).   The resulting words are taken as
              possible completions.   The  fignore  special  parameter  is  not  applied  to  the
              resulting files.  Note that -g is faster for filenames.

       -K function
              Call  the  given  function  to get the completions.  Unless the name starts with an
              underscore, the function is passed two arguments: the prefix and the suffix of  the
              word on which completion is to be attempted, in other words those characters before
              the cursor position, and those from the cursor position onwards.  The whole command
              line  can  be  accessed  with the -c and -l flags of the read builtin. The function
              should set  the  variable  reply  to  an  array  containing  the  completions  (one
              completion  per element); note that reply should not be made local to the function.
              From such a function the command line can be accessed with the -c and -l  flags  to
              the read builtin.  For example,

                     function whoson { reply=(`users`); }
                     compctl -K whoson talk

              completes  only  logged-on  users  after `talk'.  Note that `whoson' must return an
              array, so `reply=`users`' would be incorrect.

       -H num pattern
              The possible completions are taken from the last num  history  lines.   Only  words
              matching  pattern  are  taken.   If  num  is  zero or negative the whole history is
              searched and if pattern is the empty string all words are taken (as with  `*').   A
              typical use is

                     compctl -D -f + -H 0 ''

              which  forces completion to look back in the history list for a word if no filename

   Control Flags
       These do not directly specify types of name to be completed, but  manipulate  the  options
       that do:

       -Q     This  instructs  the  shell  not  to  quote  any  metacharacters  in  the  possible
              completions.  Normally the results of a completion are inserted  into  the  command
              line  with  any  metacharacters  quoted  so  that  they  are  interpreted as normal
              characters.  This is appropriate for filenames and ordinary strings.  However,  for
              special  effects, such as inserting a backquoted expression from a completion array
              (-k) so that the expression will not  be  evaluated  until  the  complete  line  is
              executed, this option must be used.

       -P prefix
              The  prefix  is inserted just before the completed string; any initial part already
              typed will be completed and the whole prefix ignored for completion purposes.   For

                     compctl -j -P "%" kill

              inserts a `%' after the kill command and then completes job names.

       -S suffix
              When  a  completion is found the suffix is inserted after the completed string.  In
              the case of menu completion the suffix is inserted immediately,  but  it  is  still
              possible  to  cycle  through the list of completions by repeatedly hitting the same

       -W file-prefix
              With directory file-prefix:  for command, file, directory and  globbing  completion
              (options  -c,  -f,  -/,  -g),  the  file prefix is implicitly added in front of the
              completion.  For example,

                     compctl -/ -W ~/Mail maildirs

              completes any subdirectories to any depth beneath the  directory  ~/Mail,  although
              that  prefix  does  not appear on the command line.  The file-prefix may also be of
              the form accepted by the -k flag, i.e. the name of an array or a  literal  list  in
              parenthesis.  In  this  case  all  the directories in the list will be searched for
              possible completions.

       -q     If used with a suffix as specified by the -S option, this causes the suffix  to  be
              removed  if  the  next character typed is a blank or does not insert anything or if
              the suffix consists of only one character and the next character typed is the  same
              character; this the same rule used for the AUTO_REMOVE_SLASH option.  The option is
              most useful for list separators (comma, colon, etc.).

       -l cmd This option restricts the range of command line words that  are  considered  to  be
              arguments.   If  combined  with  one  of the extended completion patterns `p[...]',
              `r[...]', or `R[...]'  (see the section `Extended Completion' below) the  range  is
              restricted to the range of arguments specified in the brackets.  Completion is then
              performed as if these had been given as arguments to  the  cmd  supplied  with  the
              option.  If the cmd string is empty the first word in the range is instead taken as
              the command name, and command name completion performed on the first  word  in  the
              range.  For example,

                     compctl -x 'r[-exec,;]' -l '' -- find

              completes  arguments  between  `-exec'  and  the  following  `;' (or the end of the
              command line if there is no such string) as if they were a separate command line.

       -h cmd Normally zsh completes quoted strings as a whole. With this option, completion  can
              be  done separately on different parts of such strings. It works like the -l option
              but makes the completion code work on the  parts  of  the  current  word  that  are
              separated  by  spaces.  These  parts are completed as if they were arguments to the
              given cmd. If cmd is the empty string, the first part is  completed  as  a  command
              name, as with -l.

       -U     Use  the whole list of possible completions, whether or not they actually match the
              word on the command line.  The word typed so far will be  deleted.   This  is  most
              useful  with  a  function  (given  by  the  -K  option)  which can examine the word
              components passed to it (or via the read builtin's -c and -l flags) and use its own
              criteria  to  decide what matches.  If there is no completion, the original word is
              retained.  Since the produced possible completions seldom have  interesting  common
              prefixes  and  suffixes, menu completion is started immediately if AUTO_MENU is set
              and this flag is used.

       -y func-or-var
              The list provided by func-or-var is displayed instead of the  list  of  completions
              whenever  a  listing  is  required;  the  actual completions to be inserted are not
              affected.  It can be provided in two ways. Firstly, if func-or-var begins with a  $
              it  defines  a  variable,  or if it begins with a left parenthesis a literal array,
              which contains the list.  A variable may have been set by  a  call  to  a  function
              using  the  -K  option.  Otherwise it contains the name of a function which will be
              executed to create the list.  The function will be passed as an argument  list  all
              matching  completions, including prefixes and suffixes expanded in full, and should
              set the array reply to the result.  In both cases, the display list  will  only  be
              retrieved after a complete list of matches has been created.

              Note  that  the  returned  list does not have to correspond, even in length, to the
              original set of matches, and may be passed as a scalar instead  of  an  array.   No
              special  formatting  of  characters  is  performed  on  the output in this case; in
              particular, newlines are printed literally and if they appear output in columns  is

       -X explanation
              Print  explanation  when trying completion on the current set of options. A `%n' in
              this string is replaced  by  the  number  of  matches  that  were  added  for  this
              explanation string.  The explanation only appears if completion was tried and there
              was no unique match, or when  listing  completions.  Explanation  strings  will  be
              listed together with the matches of the group specified together with the -X option
              (using the -J or -V option). If the same explanation string is given to multiple -X
              options,  the  string  appears only once (for each group) and the number of matches
              shown for the `%n' is the total number of all matches for each of  these  uses.  In
              any case, the explanation string will only be shown if there was at least one match
              added for the explanation string.

              The sequences %B, %b, %S, %s, %U, and %u specify output attributes (bold, standout,
              and  underline),  %F,  %f,  %K,  %k  specify foreground and background colours, and
              %{...%} can be used to include literal escape sequences as in prompts.

       -Y explanation
              Identical to -X, except that the explanation first  undergoes  expansion  following
              the  usual  rules  for strings in double quotes.  The expansion will be carried out
              after any functions are called for the -K or  -y  options,  allowing  them  to  set

       -t continue
              The  continue-string  contains  a  character that specifies which set of completion
              flags should be used next.  It is useful:

              (i) With -T, or when trying a list  of  pattern  completions,  when  compctl  would
              usually  continue  with  ordinary  processing  after  finding  matches; this can be
              suppressed with `-tn'.

              (ii) With a list of alternatives separated by +, when compctl would  normally  stop
              when  one  of the alternatives generates matches.  It can be forced to consider the
              next set of completions by adding `-t+' to the flags of the alternative before  the

              (iii)  In  an  extended  completion  list  (see below), when compctl would normally
              continue until a set  of  conditions  succeeded,  then  use  only  the  immediately
              following  flags.   With  `-t-',  compctl will continue trying extended completions
              after the next `-'; with `-tx' it will attempt completion with the  default  flags,
              in other words those before the `-x'.

       -J name
              This gives the name of the group the matches should be placed in. Groups are listed
              and sorted separately; likewise, menu completion will  offer  the  matches  in  the
              groups  in  the  order  in  which  the  groups  were  defined.  If no group name is
              explicitly given, the matches are stored in a group named default. The first time a
              group  name  is  encountered,  a  group  with  that name is created. After that all
              matches with the same group name are stored in that group.

              This can be useful with non-exclusive alternative completions.  For example, in

                     compctl -f -J files -t+ + -v -J variables foo

              both files and variables are possible completions, as the -t+ forces both  sets  of
              alternatives  before  and  after the + to be considered at once.  Because of the -J
              options, however, all files are listed before all variables.

       -V name
              Like -J, but matches within the group will not be sorted in listings  nor  in  menu
              completion.  These  unsorted  groups  are in a different name space from the sorted
              ones, so groups defined as -J files and -V files are distinct.

       -1     If given together with the -V option, makes  only  consecutive  duplicates  in  the
              group be removed. Note that groups with and without this flag are in different name

       -2     If given together with the -J or -V option, makes all duplicates  be  kept.  Again,
              groups with and without this flag are in different name spaces.

       -M match-spec
              This  defines  additional  matching control specifications that should be used only
              when testing words for the list of flags this flag appears in. The  format  of  the
              match-spec string is described in zshcompwid.


       compctl [ -CDT ] options + options [ + ... ] [ + ] command ...

       The  form  with  `+'  specifies  alternative options. Completion is tried with the options
       before the first `+'. If this produces no matches completion is tried with the flags after
       the `+' and so on. If there are no flags after the last `+' and a match has not been found
       up to that point, default completion is tried.  If the list of flags contains a -t with  a
       + character, the next list of flags is used even if the current list produced matches.

       Additional  options  are  available  that  restrict completion to some part of the command
       line; this is referred to as `extended completion'.


       compctl [ -CDT ] options -x pattern options - ... --
                [ command ... ]
       compctl [ -CDT ] options [ -x pattern options - ... -- ]
                [ + options [ -x ... -- ] ... [+] ] [ command ... ]

       The form with `-x' specifies extended completion for the commands given; as shown, it  may
       be combined with alternative completion using `+'.  Each pattern is examined in turn; when
       a match is found, the corresponding options, as described in the  section  `Option  Flags'
       above,  are  used  to  generate  possible completions.  If no pattern matches, the options
       given before the -x are used.

       Note that each pattern should be supplied as a single argument and  should  be  quoted  to
       prevent expansion of metacharacters by the shell.

       A  pattern  is  built  of  sub-patterns separated by commas; it matches if at least one of
       these sub-patterns matches (they are `or'ed). These sub-patterns are in turn  composed  of
       other  sub-patterns separated by white spaces which match if all of the sub-patterns match
       (they are `and'ed).  An element of the sub-patterns is of the  form  `c[...][...]',  where
       the  pairs  of  brackets  may be repeated as often as necessary, and matches if any of the
       sets of brackets match (an `or').  The example below makes this clearer.

       The elements may be any of the following:

              Matches if the current word on the command line starts  with  one  of  the  strings
              given in brackets.  The string is not removed and is not part of the completion.

              Like s[string] except that the string is part of the completion.

              Matches  if  the number of the current word is between one of the from and to pairs
              inclusive. The comma and to are optional; to defaults to the same  value  as  from.
              The numbers may be negative: -n refers to the n'th last word on the line.

              Matches  if  the  string  matches  the  word offset by offset from the current word
              position.  Usually offset will be negative.

              Like c but using pattern matching instead.

              Matches if the word in position index is equal to the corresponding  string.   Note
              that the word count is made after any alias expansion.

              Like w but using pattern matching instead.

              Matches  if  the  current  word  contains string.  Anything up to and including the
              indexth occurrence of this string will not be considered part  of  the  completion,
              but  the  rest  will.   index may be negative to count from the end: in most cases,
              index will be 1 or -1.  For example,

                     compctl -s '`users`' -x 'n[1,@]' -k hosts -- talk

              will usually complete usernames, but if you insert an @ after the name, names  from
              the  array  hosts  (assumed  to  contain  hostnames, though you must make the array
              yourself) will be completed.  Other commands such as rcp can be handled similarly.

              Like n except that the string will be taken as a character class.  Anything  up  to
              and including the indexth occurrence of any of the characters in string will not be
              considered part of the completion.

              Matches if the total number of words lies between min and max inclusive.

              Matches if the cursor is after a word with prefix str1.  If there is  also  a  word
              with  prefix str2 on the command line after the one matched by str1 it matches only
              if the cursor is before this word. If the comma and str2 are omitted, it matches if
              the cursor is after a word with prefix str1.

              Like r but using pattern matching instead.

              Matches  the  word currently being completed is in single quotes and the str begins
              with the letter `s', or if completion is done in double quotes and str starts  with
              the letter `d', or if completion is done in backticks and str starts with a `b'.


              compctl -u -x 's[+] c[-1,-f],s[-f+]' \
                -g '~/Mail/*(:t)' - 's[-f],c[-1,-f]' -f -- mail

       This is to be interpreted as follows:

       If the current command is mail, then

              if ((the current word begins with + and the previous word is -f)
              or (the current word begins with -f+)), then complete the
              non-directory part (the `:t' glob modifier) of files in the directory
              ~/Mail; else

              if the current word begins with -f or the previous word was -f, then
              complete any file; else

              complete user names.