Incomplete Path Expansion (Completion) For Bash

bash-complete-partial-path enhances the path completion in Bash (on Linux, macOS with gnu-sed, and Windows with MSYS) by adding incomplete path expansion, similar to Zsh. This is useful if you want this time-saving feature in Bash, without having to switch to Zsh.

Here is how this works. When the Tab key is pressed, bash-complete-partial-path assumes each component is incomplete and tries to expand it. Let's say you want to navigate to /usr/share/applications. You can type cd /u/s/app, press Tab, and bash-complete-partial-path should expand it into cd /usr/share/applications. If there are conflicts, only the path without conflicts is completed upon pressing Tab. For instance Ubuntu users should have quite a few folders in /usr/share that begin with "app" so in this case, typing cd /u/s/app will only expand the /usr/share/ part.

Here is another example of deeper incomplete file path expansion. On an Ubuntu system type cd /u/s/f/t/u, press Tab, and it should be automatically expanded to cd /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ubuntu.

Features include:

  • Escapes special characters
  • If the user starts the path with quotes, character escaping is not applied and instead, the quote is closed with a matching character after expending the path
  • Properly expands ~ expressions
  • If bash-completion package is already in use, this code will safely override its _filedir function. No extra configuration is required, just make sure you source this project after the main bash-completion.

Check out the project page for more information and a demo screencast.

Update: bash-complete-partial-path now supports some customization, like optionally completing only directory paths, make completion case insensitive, enable colors, and more. Check out the Custom feature selection section from here.

Install bash-complete-partial-path

The bash-complete-partial-path installation instructions specify downloading the bash_completion script directly. I prefer to grab the Git repository instead, so I can update it with a simple git pull, therefore the instructions below will use this method of installing bash-complete-partial-path. You can use the official instructions if you prefer them.

1. Install Git (needed to clone the bash-complete-partial-path Git repository).

In Debian, Ubuntu, Linux Mint and so on, use this command to install Git:

sudo apt install git

2. Clone the bash-complete-partial-path Git repository in ~/.config/:

cd ~/.config && git clone

3. Source ~/.config/bash-complete-partial-path/bash_completion in your ~/.bashrc file,

Open ~/.bashrc with a text editor. You can use Gedit for example:

gedit ~/.bashrc

At the end of the ~/.bashrc file add the following:

if [ -s "$HOME/.config/bash-complete-partial-path/bash_completion" ]
    . "$HOME/.config/bash-complete-partial-path/bash_completion"
    _bcpp --defaults

I mentioned adding it at the end of the file because this needs to be included below (after) the main bash-completion from your ~/.bashrc file. So make sure you don't add it above the original bash-completion as it will cause issues.

4. Source ~/.bashrc:

. ~/.bashrc

And you're done, bash-complete-partial-path should now be installed and ready to be used.

Bash logo at the top is from Wikipedia.