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Using History Interactively

This chapter describes how to use the GNU History Library interactively, from a user's standpoint. It should be considered a user's guide. For information on using the GNU History Library in your own programs, see the GNU Readline Library Manual.

History Interaction

The History library provides a history expansion feature that is similar to the history expansion in csh. The following text describes the syntax used to manipulate the history information.

History expansion takes place in two parts. The first is to determine which line from the previous history should be used during substitution. The second is to select portions of that line for inclusion into the current one. The line selected from the previous history is called the event, and the portions of that line that are acted upon are called words. The line is broken into words in the same fashion that Bash does, so that several English (or Unix) words surrounded by quotes are considered as one word.

Event Designators

An event designator is a reference to a command line entry in the history list.

Start a history substitution, except when followed by a space, tab, the end of the line, = or (.

Refer to the previous command. This is a synonym for !-1.

Refer to command line n.

Refer to the command line n lines back.

Refer to the most recent command starting with string.

Refer to the most recent command containing string.

The entire command line typed so far.

Quick Substitution. Repeat the last command, replacing string1 with string2. Equivalent to !!:s/string1/string2/.

Word Designators

A : separates the event specification from the word designator. It can be omitted if the word designator begins with a ^, $, * or %. Words are numbered from the beginning of the line, with the first word being denoted by a 0 (zero).

0 (zero)
The 0th word. For many applications, this is the command word.

The nth word.

The first argument; that is, word 1.

The last argument.

The word matched by the most recent ?string? search.

A range of words; -y abbreviates 0-y.

All of the words, except the 0th. This is a synonym for 1-$. It is not an error to use * if there is just one word in the event; the empty string is returned in that case.

Abbreviates x-$

Abbreviates x-$ like x*, but omits the last word.


After the optional word designator, you can add a sequence of one or more of the following modifiers, each preceded by a :.

Remove a trailing pathname component, leaving only the head.

Remove a trailing suffix of the form `.'suffix, leaving the basename.

Remove all but the trailing suffix.

Remove all leading pathname components, leaving the tail.

Print the new command but do not execute it.

Quote the substituted words, escaping further substitutions.

Quote the substituted words as with q, but break into words at spaces, tabs, and newlines.

Substitute new for the first occurrence of old in the event line. Any delimiter may be used in place of /. The delimiter may be quoted in old and new with a single backslash. If & appears in new, it is replaced by old. A single backslash will quote the &. The final delimiter is optional if it is the last character on the input line.

Repeat the previous substitution.

Cause changes to be applied over the entire event line. Used in conjunction with s, as in gs/old/new/, or with &.

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