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Scott Spence

Fish Shell Introduction

5 min read
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As a developer you spend a lot of time in the terminal so it’s important to be happy and as productive as possible whilst you’re in there.

This is why I’m a big fan of the Fish Shell in particular. The Fish Shell is a user friendly shell with really handy features like auto-suggestions and tab completions that come preconfigured, no need to install additional plugins and mess around with config files. That’s not to say Fish Shell isn’t configurable, there are plugins available.


If you prefer to watch how this is done then skip all the way to the end for a video detailing the process. 🚀

Ok, let’s look at a typical navigation example in bash, if you want to change directory, you have to enter cd followed by the directory name. In Fish you only need to type out the directory name.

Similarly if you want to go back a directory in bash, you need to start with cd in Fish it’s just a case of ../.

# change directories in bash
cd Downloads
cd ../
# change directories in fish


Fish will suggest both directories and commands as you type away, you will see suggestions in grey which you can tab onto to select.

If you want to go through you last yarn (or npm) commands, rather than (like in bash) arrow through all you previously entered commands (I know you can use Ctr+r in bash) or print out the history and look at that.

In Fish if you start typing out your command, let’s say yarn you can then arrow through all commands that have included yarn it doesn’t even have to be the beginning of the command, if you have used a package and want to know what else you installed with it at the time you can use the package name then arrow though all command with that keyword in there.


Aliases are where you’re too lazy to keep typing in the full command again and again so you make a shorter one, for me I have aliased git to g in Fish, (I know, but that extra two characters over time is a lot).

Aliases in shells like bash and zsh you need to open your config file and find a appropriate place to add you alias. In

To make aliases in Fish shell use:

alias yga 'yarn global add'
# remember to save it
funcsave yga


Abbreviations are like having text expander in your terminal, so much like with the aliases I can shorten git to g the difference with abbreviations is that hitting the space bar after that will expand it out to git.

# add yarn global add
abbr -a yga 'yarn global add'
# type yga then space, result is 👇
yarn global add

Install fresh Fish shell

Ok, time to go over an install, this is specifically for Windows Subsystem Linux (WSL) but is the same instructions if you’re on Linux:

sudo apt -y install fish

Depending on what version of Ubuntu you’re on you may need to add the v3 package which consists of adding a PPA:

# check your fish version
fish -v
# if the version isn't v3 add the PPA 👇
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:fish-shell/release-3
sudo apt update && sudo apt install fish -y
fish -v
# fish, version 3.1.2 👍

As a side note, I use fish on my work hardware so for macOS using brew it’s:

brew install fish
curl -L | fish
sudo bash -c 'echo /usr/local/bin/fish >> /etc/shells'
chsh -s /usr/local/bin/fish

Set fish as default shell

At this point I’m still in bash and can change to Fish by entering fish in bash to switch to it.

If I want to default to Fish each time I can use the chsh command:

# if you want to default to fish shell
# use this command in bash
chsh -s $(which fish)
# use this command in fish
chsh -s (which fish)

The bashrc equivalent in Fish

One thing about using WSL is that it always starts the shell in the users folder on the C drive, I’ll change this by defaulting the start location to a folder of my choosing.

# create a repos folder in my home folder
mkdir ~/repos
# edit the fish config
nano ~/.config/fish/
# add the starting directory in there
cd ~/repos

Oh My Fish (OMF)

Oh My Fish is touted as the Fishshell Framework but all I have used it for is the extensive themes available, once you have installed OMF you can list them out in the terminal with: omf theme

There’s previews available on the OMF Themes Markdown doc.

To install OMF:

curl -L | fish

There’s a few things I’ll install with omf:

omf install spacefish nvm

Install nvm

As I’ll need to have node installed I’ll be using nvm to manage my node versions:

curl -o- | bash

Because I installed the nvm package with fish there’s no need to worry about adding the variables output from the nvm install, I can install my required node version:

nvm install 14

Install yarn

Lastly there are projects I work on that use Yarn so I’ll need to install that too, in this case it’s the instructions from the Yarn site.

curl -sS | sudo apt-key add -
echo "deb stable main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/yarn.list
sudo apt update && sudo apt install yarn -y

Video detailing the process

Wrap and recap!

That’s it, I’ve detailed some of the advantages of using the Fish shell and detailed getting set up from a fresh install.

Thanks 👍

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