Z-shell aka zsh is my shell of choice.


I only consider Bash and Fish to be its only real competitors. Bash may be a more established and common alternative, but it’s pretty stripped-down by default and harder to augment compared to zsh. Fish is the exact opposite in that sense: it’s highly advanced right out-of-the-box, featuring autosuggestions “as you type” and completions based on man pages (like, wow); but it’s still rather scarce in the wild.

So why zsh? It’s sort of a middle-ground between the two. It’s not as widespread as Bash, but it has a massive community that has produced plugins for what feels like everything.

That said, I might switch to Fish when I invest time into reconsidering my shell choice.


My zsh in action

  • Highlight zsh command syntax as I type, most notably highlighting available executables in green and unrecognized in red
  • Display a prefix-matching command from history that I probably want right ahead of the cursor, completing at the press of a key
  • Notify me of commands that ran for long enough that I probably switched to doing something else (TODO fix this after transition to WSL2)
  • Show a wealth of information alongside the prompt, some of which can even stay after the command was run, for historical purposes:
    • clock (when was the prompt shown, which is usually roughly around the time when the command was started)
    • time taken by the last command, if it was 3+ seconds, otherwise I probably don’t care
    • status of the last command (it looks a bit confusing in history because it does not refer to the command next to which it’s rendered, but rather the one before it)
    • number of pending tasks in taskwarrior (this was a random find, I didn’t even set it up; and I’m not sure I’ll stick with taskwarrior)
    • git status of the directory that I’m in

Possible improvements:

  • Fish-esque man page-based completions: https://github.com/nevesnunes/sh-manpage-completions

Current state

I no longer use the entirety of oh-my-zsh, because it has grown to a less than a decent size, so I prever to cherry-pick just the things that I need instead. Which is when I started using plugin managers, and at the moment I’m using Antigen.

My theme these days is powerlevel10k, which is, no way to put milder, insanely powerful (hence the name, I guess!), it handles all the information display that does not change according to input (and the docs say that it can show some more that does depend on input, such as information about software in commands I’m about to run, e. g. version of Ruby in bundler, or current context in kubectl).


In the “my first Linux distro” days, Bash was everywhere, and I only heard about zsh after a few years.

What hooked me up was oh-my-zsh. That was a taste of “shell power” I was never exposed to before, and I was very impressed.

I also tried to give Fish a chance, but found that support for it is rather limited and zsh is much easier to find help with. As far as I know this is still the case.

Table of contents

Notes mentioning this note

💬 Got something to say about any of this? Get in touch!

🗺 You are here: