The bash-completion Problem

January 21, 2014

The bash-completion package adds a bunch of useful features, but it also limits what happens when you press tab. For example, the “text editor” completion excludes files that probably are not text files:

complete -f -X '*.@(o|so|so.!(conf)|a|[rs]pm|gif|jp?(e)g|mp3|mp?(e)g|avi|asf|ogg|class)' vi vim gvim rvim view rview rgvim rgview gview emacs xemacs sxemacs kate kwrite

And the sqlite3 completion tries to outsmart you:

local dbexts='@(sqlite?(3)|?(s?(3))db)'

It looks only for files with an extension .sqlite, .sqlite3, .s3db, .sdb, .db.

When tab doesn’t do what you expect, you can try to read the source. If you aren’t sure what completions you have, try this:

% complete | head
complete -F _kill kill
complete -F _renice renice
complete -F _postconf postconf
complete -F _ldapwhoami ldapwhoami
complete -F _ldapaddmodify ldapadd
complete -F _java java
complete -F _filedir_xspec oodraw
complete -F _filedir_xspec elinks
complete -F _filedir_xspec freeamp
complete -o default -F _longopt split

The temporary fix: meta-/

But wait … isn’t bash-completion just trying to help?! Isn’t it doing the right thing most of the time?

Tab completion is awesome when it works, but it can drive you crazy when it doesn’t.

If you press tab and nothing happens … try pressing: meta-/ (try: ESC-/ or alt-/) to force file completion.

The permanent fix: complete -r

You can remove a specific completion manually:

% complete -r sqlite3

or you can integrate it after you source bash-completion: (line 4 and 5)

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for dir in /usr/local/etc /etc; do
  if [ -e ${dir}/bash_completion ]; then
    source ${dir}/bash_completion
    complete -r vim
    complete -r sqlite3
    break
  fi
done

if [ -z "$BASH_COMPLETION" ]; then
  echo "no bash-completion"
fi

In the end, whether you fix the problem short-term or long-term depends on how annoying this is to you.

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