I recently switched from using an Ubuntu box for the last 7 years to a Mac. I have read other posts like Switching from Ubuntu to OS X and I'm lost and What is the difference between iTerm2 and Terminal?

Why don't iTerm2 and Terminal complete the arguments for a command?

Eg. If I do gi+Tab, it autocompletes this word to git which is good. When I add a space and try remo+Tab, why don't I get it autocompleted to remote like in Ubuntu. I have to type everything manually after the word git. Same for other commands.

Am I doing something wrong, or missing something?

(Please note that I am not talking about the cmd + ; shortcut which autocompletes previously typed entries in iTerm2.)

  • 2
    Terminal and iTerm2 do not complete the command It is the shell and its add ons which can be the same in Linux and OSX so you need to state what your full setup is in Linux and duplicate that in OSX.
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 22:44
  • You want autocomplete for git - see apple.stackexchange.com/q/55875/24565 Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 11:40

6 Answers 6


The easiest way to get autocompletion on OS X is to switch your shell to zsh.

You can test things by running zsh in iTerm and terminal before making the switch above. If you really want to stick with bash you can start with these two questions:

  • 3
    Sweet! zsh is good! Never bothered to switch from bash :).Update: Using zsh with oh-my-zsh is amazing.
    – rgamber
    Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 4:42
  • ahhh love oh-my-zsh
    – tdc
    Commented Oct 16, 2014 at 19:52
  • For most modern MacOS systems, the default is zsh. Apple switched because bash went to GPL 3. Commented Feb 25, 2023 at 15:16

A solution when switching from ubuntu is to use homebrew, a package manager for Mac OSX. In particular, for git, you will have included a number of additions including bash completion. This will be true for other programs which are faliliar for developpers, like make.

In 2 steps:

  1. install with ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"
  2. Run brew doctor to get your path set up properly
  3. Install git and bash completion: brew install git bash-completion
  4. Add the command return in the previous step in your .bash_profile.
  5. Restart your bash sessions once the new tools and configuration are written to your file system.

More on this howto.


I have two suggestions:

  1. use fish, it's really simple and easy

    a. extend it by using oh-my-fish

  2. zsh with oh-my-zsh. zsh is already installed so you don't need to do much.

    a. chsh -s /bin/zsh

    b. logout and login again

    c. execute this to install oh-my-zsh wget --no-check-certificate https://raw.github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh/master/tools/install.sh -O - | sh more info here: https://github.com/robbyrussell/oh-my-zsh

I use oh-my-zsh but fish is great as well.


This somewhat sidesteps the problem, in case someone wants to keep the Apple-provided version of Git on their system.

You can create aliases in the .gitconfig file in your home directory for shorter git commands. For example, I have git set up so git st runs git status instead.

Example aliases in .gitconfig:

    co = checkout
    ci = commit
    st = status
    br = branch

One option that might help is to use .git-completion.bash for bash git autocompletion.

It lets you type git commands and then have autocomplete for the remote name (e.g. 'origin' or 'heroku') and then (and more significantly) for the repository branch names.

See https://apple.stackexchange.com/a/55886/24565

Your download the file from


For those looking for a command completion solution for bash that's as easy to use as zsh + oh-my-zsh, there's now the bash-it project. Which, in its own words, is "a shameless ripoff of oh-my-zsh" -- nothing wrong with that really!

It sets up a plugin like architecture like oh-my-zsh does, where you can bring things in and out of your environment easily and get new things via sync'ing to their github project.

Installation needs three steps:

  1. Check a clone of this repo: git clone https://github.com/revans/bash-it.git ~/.bash_it
  2. Run ~/.bash_it/install.sh (it automatically backs up your ~/.bash_profile)
  3. Edit your ~/.bash_profile file in order to customize bash-it.

If you're afraid of a full-on switch to zsh, bash-it is a nice middle ground that keeps you on bash but gives you a lot of powerful plugins to extend your environment with.

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