Use Tab Autocomplete In The Linux Terminal

Today’s article isn’t all that complex or anything, we’ll just cover how to use tab autocomplete in the Linux terminal. It’s a pretty handy tool to have in your Linux toolbox. It’s especially handy if you spend a lot of time in the terminal.

It seems to me that tab autocomplete is easier to do than it is to explain. It’s a great concept. I asked ChatGPT to explain it on my behalf and it did a fairly good job. It’s the middle of the night and I almost forgot to do an article. I got distracted, ended up elsewhere in the house, and fell asleep.

Fortunately, I already had the headline written. (Coming up with ideas is often more time-consuming than writing some articles.) That was a good thing. Otherwise, I’d have gone back to sleep and just written this tomorrow.

Anyhow, tab autocomplete is a tool that WILL save you some time. If you were local to me, it’d take like 2 minutes to show you how autocomplete works. It’s gonna take a bit longer to explain it with text!

I suppose that’s an adequate intro. Let’s see how AI does at explaining tab autocomplete and then try to make it more clear below that:

Use Tab Autocomplete In The Linux Terminal:

Linux terminal tab autocomplete is a feature that allows users to quickly and efficiently navigate through the file system and execute commands without typing out the entire file or command name. It works by automatically completing a partially typed file or command name when the user presses the “Tab” key.

To use tab autocomplete, the user needs to start typing the file or command name in the terminal window and then press the “Tab” key. If there is only one file or command that matches the typed characters, the system will automatically complete the name. If there are multiple matches, the system will display a list of possible options. The user can then continue typing until the desired file or command is highlighted and press “Tab” again to complete the name.

Tab autocomplete can be used for a variety of tasks, such as navigating the file system, running programs, and passing arguments to commands. For example, if the user wants to navigate to a directory called “Documents” in their home directory, they can type “cd Doc” and press “Tab.” The system will automatically complete the name to “cd Documents/”. This can save the user time and effort compared to typing out the full path.

Tab autocomplete also supports wildcards, which can be used to match multiple files or commands with similar names. For example, if the user types “ls *.txt” and presses “Tab,” the system will show a list of all the files in the current directory that end in “.txt”.

In summary, Linux terminal tab autocomplete is a powerful feature that allows users to quickly and efficiently navigate the file system and execute commands without typing out the entire name. It saves time and effort and can be used for a wide range of tasks.

Additional Tab Autocomplete Stuff:

So, to put that information to use, we can open a terminal. You can do so now just by pressing CTRL + ALT + T.

With your terminal now open, try the following command:

Now, press the TAB key on your keyboard (you may need to press the tab key twice). You’ll see something like this:

use tab autocomplete in the Linux terminal
You can probably figure it out from here. Once you understand it, you’ll appreciate it.

As you can see, it was not able to autocomplete because there were two available choices. If there are no choices it will show nothing. In this case, if you want to change to the Downloads directory, you’d enter the following:

Press the TAB key (probably twice), of course. For most of you, that’ll be enough. If it’s not, you should be able to figure out the minimum number of characters needed for autocomplete to work.

This also works on commands, but you need to have narrowed it down or it needs to not start with the more common letters. How to explain it?

If you type ‘l’ and hit tab, nothing will autocomplete.

If you type ‘ali’ and hit tab, it will spot autocomplete to ‘alias’. Additionally, it works for your installed applications. If you just enter ‘l’ and press the tab key (twice, if once doesn’t work) it will offer to display a bunch of commands starting with the letter ‘l’. For many of you, you should be able to just type ‘pav’ and then press the tab key to have it autocomplete to ‘pavucontrol’. That should make it reasonably clear.


See? It’s not hard to do. It’s easier to do than it is to explain. I’ve never really needed to properly explain tab autocomplete in text format before. It’s much easier just to physically show folks than it is to explain it in text. Hmm… Now I can go back to bed. Dunno if I’ll sleep again, but I might as well try.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

Last Updated on May 13, 2023 by KGIII

Smash a button!
[Total: 3 Average: 5]
Subscribe to Newsletter!
Get notified when new articles are published!
We promise to never share your email!

Author: KGIII

Retired mathematician, residing in the mountains of Maine. I may be old and wise, but I am not infallible. Please point out any errors. And, as always, thanks again for reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Zoom to top!