Scott's Thoughts Pamphlet!

Notes on Zsh and Oh My Zsh

Sooooooo, so, so, so, Zsh is pretty neat, right?

I’ve been a long time fan of the Fish shell, but I recently had to go full on with a Zsh shell and decided to give it a proper go.

The main selling points for Fish shell to me over anything else was not having to prefix directory changes with a cd all the time, just typing out the path you wanted to go to would offer up auto suggest of paths to use.

That was enough to have me sold on it, there’s also abbreviations and aliases all super nice to use and that is pretty much the extent of the sort of perks I like to have.

Oh! I should mention themes, themes in Fish with Oh My Fish were also a great selling point for me!

Oh My Zsh

Zsh has Oh My Zsh which offers up a similar framework for managing your Zsh configuration.

So the majority of the setup I got for my Zsh shell was from following Nicky Meuleman’s guide on Linux on windows WSL2 ZSH Docker.

Nicky’s guide covers getting setup with Zsh and Oh My Fish, but I’ll condense it into the terminal commands here for continuity:

1# I'm on Ubuntu so
2sudo apt install zsh
3# default the shell to Zsh
4chsh -s $(which zsh)
5# one liner to install OMZ
6sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"

Then I can add all the plugins and themes I want, sort of!

Unlike Oh My Fish, it’s not just a case of command line installing themes and plugins like you do with Oh My Fish. With Oh My Zsh there’s some config file you need to edit. Oh My Zsh (which I’m now abbreviating to OMZ) gives you a whopper of a config file (.zshrc) that you use to configure your Zsh.

The file .zshrc is in the home directory so I can pop it open with:

1nano ~/.zshrc

Some plugins come out of the box with OMZ, here’s what I enabled straight away.

2 git
3 node
4 npm
5 npx
6 nvm

And I changed the theme to ZSH_THEME="agnoster", pretty sweet theme out of the box!


One theme I really liked with Fih shell was Spacefish and I spent a lot longer than I should have done looking through the Zsh Wiki Themes before discovering there’s also external themes for Zsh where I found Spaceship ZSH, which looks identical to Spacefish!

I did find powerlevel10k which looked really intriguing and I’m probably going to try once I have finished writing this!


Ok, in Nicky’s guide he details a couple of plugins to use which are what has given it the edge or put it on feature parity with Fish.

Syntax highlighting so you know if you’re entering a valid command and auto suggestions which will bring up historically entered commands and suggest them to you.

Auto suggestions wasn’t working for me initially so I had to add the ZSH_AUTOSUGGEST_HIGHLIGHT_STYLE setting to my .zshrc file.

There’s a couple of options to choose from I settled on foreground colour and standout which is pretty neat.


The plugins need to be added to the plugins config in the .zshrc file, that looks like this now:

2 git
3 node
4 npm
5 npx
6 nvm
7 zsh-syntax-highlighting
8 zsh-autosuggestions

Plugins/themes location?

Plugins and themes, some are really not that helpful (documentation wise) when it comes to installing them.

But hey iT’S OpEn sOuRcE So iF YoU’Re nOt hApPy yOu cAn aLwAyS AsK FoR YoUr mOnEy bAcK, right? 😂

If the instruction is along the lines of, clone the repo then there is a path you can specify when cloning it.

This is the clone location for zsh-syntax-highlighting that can be swapped out with the theme/plugin you’re using, just be sure to swap out plugins with themes if you’re cloning a theme.

1git clone \
2 \
3 ${ZSH_CUSTOM:-~/.oh-my-zsh/custom}/plugins/zsh-syntax-highlighting


One killer feature of Fish is the abbreviations, so you can shorten down things like yarn && yarn develop into yyd hitting enter will expand that out into the full command and run it.

I was quite keen to find something like that in Zsh and I did in the form of a video from gotbletu with accompanying GitHub repo for the code example.

I added that to my .zshrc file, like so:

1#-------- Global Alias {{{
2globalias() {
3 if [[ $LBUFFER =~ '[a-zA-Z0-9]+$' ]]; then
4 zle _expand_alias
5 zle expand-word
6 fi
7 zle self-insert
9zle -N globalias
10bindkey " " globalias # space key to expand globalalias
11# bindkey "^ " magic-space # control-space to bypass completion
12bindkey "^[[Z" magic-space # shift-tab to bypass completion
13bindkey -M isearch " " magic-space # normal space during searches
15. ~/.zsh_aliases

You’ll notice that I have added lower case variables to the if statement from '[A-Z0-9]+$' to '[a-zA-Z0-9]+$' and that I have abstracted out the aliases into their own file .zsh_aliases this is because I have a lot of aliases for things.

If you’re interested in checking out my configuration for Zsh you can see my dotfiles on Github.

What’s next?

That’s it for this, I felt that I should put down what I know now then maybe revisit this after using Zsh for a while.

So far, I like it because I have all the toys I like to play with! 😊

I’ll be having a look at powerlevel10k sometime soon as it looks pretty swish!

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Scott Spence

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