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Bash Line Editor -- a Bash configuration with bash syntax highlighting, auto suggestions, vim modes, etc. in interactive sessions
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Bash Line Editor ( is a command line editor written in pure Bash scripts which replaces the default GNU Readline.

  • Syntax highlighting: Highlight command lines input by users as in fish and zsh-syntax-highlighting. Unlike the simple highlighting in zsh-syntax-highlighting, performs syntactic analysis to enable the correct highlighting of complex structures such as nested command substitutions, multiple here documents, etc.
  • Enhanced completion: Support syntax-aware completion, completion with quotes and parameter expansions in prefix texts, ambiguous candidate generation, etc. Also menu-complete supports selection of candidates in menu (candidate list) by cursor keys, TAB and S-TAB. The feature auto-complete supports the automatic suggestion of completed texts as in fish and zsh-autosuggestions (with Bash 4.0+). The feature menu-filter integrates automatic filtering of candidates into menu completion (with Bash 4.0+). There are other functionalities such as dabbrev and sabbrev like zsh-abbreviations.
  • Vim editing mode: Enhance readline's vi editing mode available with set -o vi. Vim editing mode supports various vim modes such as char/line/block visual/select mode, replace mode, command mode, operator pending mode as well as insert mode and normal mode. Vim editing mode supports various operators, text objects, registers, keyboard macros, marks, etc. It also provides vim-surround as an option.

This script supports Bash 3.0 or later although we recommend to use with Bash 4.0 or later.

Currently, only UTF-8 encoding is supported for non-ASCII characters.

This script is provided under the BSD License (3-clause BSD license).

Demo demo gif

Note: does not provide a specific settings for the prompt, aliases, functions, etc. provides a more fundamental infrastructure so that users can set up their own settings for prompts, aliases, etc. Of course can be used in combination with other Bash configurations such as bash-it and oh-my-bash.

1 Usage

Generate from source (version ble-0.4 devel)

To generate, gawk (GNU awk) and gmake (GNU make) is required. The file can be generated using the following commands. If you have GNU make installed on gmake, please use gmake instead of make.

$ git clone
$ cd
$ make

A script file will be generated in the directory Then, load using the source command:

$ source out/

If you want to install in a specified directory, use the following command (if INSDIR is not specified, the default location ${XDG_DATA_HOME:-$HOME/.local/share}/blesh is used):

$ make INSDIR=/path/to/blesh install

Or, download (version ble-0.3 201902)

With wget:

$ wget
$ tar xJf ble-0.3.2.tar.xz
$ source ble-0.3.2/

With curl:

$ curl -LO
$ tar xJf ble-0.3.2.tar.xz
$ source ble-0.3.2/

If you want to place in a specific directory, just copy the directory:

$ cp -r ble-0.3.2 /path/to/blesh

Setup .bashrc

If you want to load by default in interactive sessions of bash, add the following codes to your .bashrc file:

# bashrc

# Add this lines at the top of .bashrc:
[[ $- == *i* ]] && source /path/to/blesh/ --noattach

# your bashrc settings come here...

# Add this line at the end of .bashrc:
((_ble_bash)) && ble-attach


You need Git (git), GNU awk (gawk) and GNU make (make). For ble-0.3+, run ble-update in the session with loaded:

$ ble-update

You can instead download the latest version by git pull and install it:

cd   # <-- enter the git repository you already have
git pull
make INSDIR="$HOME/.local/share/blesh" install

User settings ~/.blerc

User settings can be placed in the init script ~/.blerc (or ~/.config/blesh/ if ~/.blerc is not available) whose template is available as the file blerc in the repository. The init script is a Bash script which will be sourced during the load of, so any shell commands can be used in ~/.blerc. If you want to change the default path of the init script, you can add the option --rcfile INITFILE to source as the following example:

# in bashrc

# Example 1: ~/.blerc will be used by default
[[ $- == *i* ]] && source /path/to/blesh/ --noattach

# Example 2: /path/to/your/blerc will be used
[[ $- == *i* ]] && source /path/to/blesh/ --noattach --rcfile /path/to/your/blerc

2 Basic settings

Here some of the settings for ~/.blerc are picked up. For more settings please check the template blerc. For detailed explanations please refer to Manual.

Vim mode

For the vi/vim mode, check the Wiki page.

Configure auto-complete

The feature auto-complete is available for Bash 4.0+ and enabled by default. If you want to turn off auto-complete, please put the following line in your ~/.blerc.

bleopt complete_auto_complete=

Instead of completely turning off auto-complete, you can set a delay for auto-complete.

# Set the delay of the auto-complete to 300 milliseconds
bleopt complete_auto_delay=300

auto-complete candidates based on the bash command history can be turned off by the following line.

bleopt complete_auto_history=

CJK Width

The option char_width_mode controls the width of the Unicode characters with East_Asian_Width=A (Ambiguous characters). Currently four values emacs, west, east, and auto are supported. With the value emacs, the default width in emacs is used. With west all the ambiguous characters have width 1 (Hankaku). With east all the ambiguous characters have width 2 (Zenkaku). With auto the width mode west or east is automatically chosen based on the terminal behavior. The default value is auto. Appropriate value should be chosen in accordance with your terminal behavior. For example, the value can be changed to west as:

bleopt char_width_mode='west'

Input Encoding

The option input_encoding controls the encoding scheme used in the decode of input. Currently UTF-8 and C are available. With the value C, byte values are directly interpreted as character codes. The default value is UTF-8. For example, the value can be changed to C as:

bleopt input_encoding='C'


The options edit_abell and edit_vbell control the behavior of the edit function bell. If edit_abell is a non-empty string, audible bell is enabled, i.e. ASCII Control Character BEL (0x07) will be written to stderr. If edit_vbell is a non-empty string, visual bell is enabled. By default, the audible bell is enabled while the visual bell is disabled.

The option vbell_default_message specifies the message shown as the visual bell. The default value is ' Wuff, -- Wuff!! '. The option vbell_duration specifies the display duration of the visual-bell message. The unit is millisecond. The default value is 2000.

For example, the visual bell can be enabled as:

bleopt edit_vbell=1 vbell_default_message=' BEL ' vbell_duration=3000

For another instance, the audible bell is disabled as:

bleopt edit_abell=

Highlight Colors

The colors and attributes used in the syntax highlighting are controlled by ble-color-setface function. The following code reproduces the default configuration:

# highlighting related to editing
ble-color-setface region                    bg=60,fg=white
ble-color-setface region_target             bg=153,fg=black
ble-color-setface region_match              bg=55,fg=white
ble-color-setface region_insert             fg=12,bg=252
ble-color-setface disabled                  fg=242
ble-color-setface overwrite_mode            fg=black,bg=51
ble-color-setface auto_complete             fg=238,bg=254
ble-color-setface menu_filter_fixed         bold
ble-color-setface menu_filter_input         fg=16,bg=229
ble-color-setface vbell                     reverse
ble-color-setface vbell_erase               bg=252
ble-color-setface vbell_flash               fg=green,reverse

# syntax highlighting
ble-color-setface syntax_default            none
ble-color-setface syntax_command            fg=brown
ble-color-setface syntax_quoted             fg=green
ble-color-setface syntax_quotation          fg=green,bold
ble-color-setface syntax_expr               fg=26
ble-color-setface syntax_error              bg=203,fg=231
ble-color-setface syntax_varname            fg=202
ble-color-setface syntax_delimiter          bold
ble-color-setface syntax_param_expansion    fg=purple
ble-color-setface syntax_history_expansion  bg=94,fg=231
ble-color-setface syntax_function_name      fg=92,bold
ble-color-setface syntax_comment            fg=242
ble-color-setface syntax_glob               fg=198,bold
ble-color-setface syntax_brace              fg=37,bold
ble-color-setface syntax_tilde              fg=navy,bold
ble-color-setface syntax_document           fg=94
ble-color-setface syntax_document_begin     fg=94,bold
ble-color-setface command_builtin_dot       fg=red,bold
ble-color-setface command_builtin           fg=red
ble-color-setface command_alias             fg=teal
ble-color-setface command_function          fg=92
ble-color-setface command_file              fg=green
ble-color-setface command_keyword           fg=blue
ble-color-setface command_jobs              fg=red
ble-color-setface command_directory         fg=26,underline
ble-color-setface filename_directory        underline,fg=26
ble-color-setface filename_directory_sticky underline,fg=white,bg=26
ble-color-setface filename_link             underline,fg=teal
ble-color-setface filename_orphan           underline,fg=teal,bg=224
ble-color-setface filename_executable       underline,fg=green
ble-color-setface filename_setuid           underline,fg=black,bg=220
ble-color-setface filename_setgid           underline,fg=black,bg=191
ble-color-setface filename_other            underline
ble-color-setface filename_socket           underline,fg=cyan,bg=black
ble-color-setface filename_pipe             underline,fg=lime,bg=black
ble-color-setface filename_character        underline,fg=white,bg=black
ble-color-setface filename_block            underline,fg=yellow,bg=black
ble-color-setface filename_warning          underline,fg=red
ble-color-setface filename_url              underline,fg=blue
ble-color-setface filename_ls_colors        underline
ble-color-setface varname_array             fg=orange,bold
ble-color-setface varname_empty             fg=31
ble-color-setface varname_export            fg=200,bold
ble-color-setface varname_expr              fg=92,bold
ble-color-setface varname_hash              fg=70,bold
ble-color-setface varname_number            fg=64
ble-color-setface varname_readonly          fg=200
ble-color-setface varname_transform         fg=29,bold
ble-color-setface varname_unset             fg=124

The current list of faces can be obtained by the following command (ble-color-setface without arguments):

$ ble-color-setface

The color codes can be checked in output of the function ble-color-show (defined in

$ ble-color-show

Key Bindings

Key bindings can be controlled with the shell function, ble-bind. For example, with the following setting, "Hello, world!" will be inserted on typing C-x h

ble-bind -f 'C-x h' 'insert-string "Hello, world!"'

For another example, if you want to invoke a command on typing M-c, you can write as follows:

ble-bind -c 'M-c' 'my-command'

Or, if you want to invoke a edit function (designed for Bash bind -x) on typing C-r, you can write as follows:

ble-bind -x 'C-r' 'my-edit-function'

The existing key bindings are shown by the following command:

$ ble-bind -P

The list of widgets is shown by the following command:

$ ble-bind -L

3 Tips

Use multiline mode

When the command line string contains a newline character, enters the MULTILINE mode.

By typing C-v RET or C-q RET, you can insert a newline character in the command line string. In the MULTILINE mode, RET (C-m) causes insertion of a new newline character. In the MULTILINE mode, the command can be executed by typing C-j.

When the shell option shopt -s cmdhist is set (which is the default), RET (C-m) inserts a newline if the current command line string is syntactically incomplete.

Use vim editing mode

If set -o vi is specified in .bashrc or set editing-mode vi is specified in .inputrc, the vim mode is enabled. For details, please check the Wiki page.

Use auto-complete

The feature auto-complete is available in Bash 4.0 or later. auto-complete automatically suggests a possible completion on user input. The suggested contents can be inserted by typing S-RET (when the cursor is at the end of the command line, you can also use right, C-f or end to insert the suggestion). If you want to insert only first word of the suggested contents, you can use M-right or M-f. If you want to accept the suggestion and immediately run the command, you can use C-RET (if your terminal supports this special key combination).

Use sabbrev (static abbrev expansions)

By registering words to sabbrev, the words can be expanded to predefined strings. When the cursor is just after a registered word, typing SP causes sabbrev expansion. For example, with the following settings, when you type SP after the command line command L, the command line will be expanded to command | less.

# blerc
ble-sabbrev L='| less'

4 Special thanks

  • @cmplstofB for testing vim-mode and giving me a lot of suggestions
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