Z shell

The Z shell (Zsh) is a Unix shell that can be used as an interactive login shell and as a command interpreter for shell scripting. Zsh is an extended Bourne shell with many improvements, including some features of Bash, ksh, and tcsh.

Z shell
Screenshot of a Zsh session
Original author(s)Paul Falstad[1]
Developer(s)Peter Stephenson, et al.[1]
Initial release1990 (1990)
Stable release
5.7.1 / February 3, 2019 (2019-02-03)[2]
Written inC
Operating systemVarious
TypeUnix shell

In June 2019, Apple announced that the forthcoming macOS Catalina (10.15) would adopt Zsh as the default shell, replacing Bash.[4][5]


Paul Falstad wrote the first version of Zsh in 1990[6] while a student at Princeton University.[7] The name zsh derives from the name of Yale professor Zhong Shao (then a teaching assistant at Princeton University) — Paul Falstad regarded Shao's login-id, "zsh", as a good name for a shell.[8][9]


Features include:

  • Programmable command-line completion that can help the user type both options and arguments for most used commands, with out-of-the-box support for several hundred commands
  • Sharing of command history among all running shells
  • Extended file globbing allows file specification without needing to run an external program such as find
  • Improved variable/array handling
  • Editing of multi-line commands in a single buffer
  • Spelling correction
  • Various compatibility modes, e.g. Zsh can pretend to be a Bourne shell when run as /bin/sh
  • Themeable prompts, including the ability to put prompt information on the right side of the screen and have it auto-hide when typing a long command
  • Loadable modules, providing among other things: full TCP and Unix domain socket controls, an FTP client, and extended math functions.
  • The built-in where command. Works like the which command but shows all locations of the target command in the directories specified in $PATH rather than only the one that will be used.
  • Named directories. This allows the user to set up shortcuts such as ~mydir, which then behave the way ~ and ~user do.

Oh My Zsh

A user community website called "Oh My Zsh" collects third-party plug-ins and themes for the Z shell.[10] As of 2019, their GitHub repository has over 1,350 contributors, over 250 plug-ins, and over 140 themes, of varying quality. It also comes with an auto-update tool that makes it easier to keep installed plug-ins and themes updated.[11]

See also


  1. "The Z Shell Manual" (Version 5.0.0). Sourceforge.net. July 21, 2012. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  2. "unposted: Release 5.7.1". sourceforge.net. February 3, 2019. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  3. "zsh / Code / [281031] /LICENCE". Paul Falstad. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  4. "Use zsh as the default shell on your Mac - Apple Support". Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  5. Warren, Tom (June 4, 2019). "Apple replaces bash with zsh as the default shell in macOS Catalina". The Verge. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  6. "zsh - a ksh/tcsh-like shell (part 1 of 8)". alt.sources. December 14, 1990. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  7. "Z-Shell Frequently-Asked Questions". Sourceforge.net. February 15, 2010. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  8. "The Z-Shell (ZSH) Lovers' Page". Guckes.net. c. 2004. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  9. "Zsh Mailing List Archive". Zsh.org. August 8, 2005. Retrieved October 2, 2012.
  10. "Oh My ZSH - Community driven framework with 150+ plugins and 100+ themes". Retrieved May 7, 2014.
  11. "robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh". A delightful community-driven (with 1,000+ contributors) framework for managing your zsh configuration. Includes 200+ optional plugins (rails, git, OSX, hub, capistrano, brew, ant, php, python, etc), over 140 themes to spice up your morning, and an auto-update tool so that makes it easy to keep up with the latest updates from the community.
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