Hakeem Almidan

Stop Arrowing Up So Much In Terminal; Search Instead! (Linux/Unix)


Do you ever NOT feel like re-writing a command that you wrote some N commands ago? I do!

Arrowing up and focusing until you reach what you want can be annoying for an efficient programmer. Although it usually only takes a couple of seconds, it still adds up. Plus, you don’t want to waste your brainpower on such a task (unless you like doing it).

One of the best pieces of advice I heard when I first started programming is:

“Always improve/automate tasks that you know you’re going to continuously repeat in the future”

So let’s do that. Let’s improve this situation.



This does a ‘reverse-i-search’ or ‘bck-i-search’, which finds the most recent closest match.

Ctrl+r again to go to next match (further back in history).

Ctrl+r keyboard shortcut example use

Ctrl+r keyboard shortcut example use

It searches through an environment variable called $HISTFILE. The number of commands that this file remembers depends on your $HISTSIZE.

I believe the default $HISTSIZE in Unix/Linux is around 500. You can check yours by running:

$ echo $HISTSIZE

Alternative approach

$ history 0
  0 echo 'example command 0'
  1 echo 'example command 1'
  2 echo 'example command 2'
  3 echo 'example command 3'

This displays your history from 0 to $HISTSIZE.

You can either scroll or Cmd+f to find your command. To execute the command, run:

$ !<command-number>

… where command-number is the number displayed leftmost to your selected command.

'history 0' command example use

‘history 0’ command example use

Happy coding!

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