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Dec 25, 2014


A lightweight plugin manager for Zsh inspired by Antigen. Keep your .zshrc clean and simple.

Zgen provides you a few simple commands for managing plugins. It installs your plugins and generates a static init script that will source them for you every time you run the shell. We do this to save some startup time by not having to execute time consuming logic (plugin checking, updates, etc). This means that you have to manually check for updates (zgen update) and reset the init script (zgen reset) whenever you add or remove plugins.

The motive for creating zgen was to have plugins quickly installed on a new machine without getting the startup lag that Antigen used to give me.


Clone the zgen repository

git clone "${HOME}/.zgen"

Edit your .zshrc file to load zgen

# load zgen
source "${HOME}/.zgen/zgen.zsh"

Place the following code after the one above to load oh-my-zsh for example, see Usage for more details

# if the init script doesn't exist
if ! zgen saved; then

  # specify plugins here
  zgen oh-my-zsh

  # generate the init script from plugins above
  zgen save



This is a handy shortcut for installing oh-my-zsh plugins. They can be loaded using zgen load too with a significantly longer format.

Load oh-my-zsh base

It's a good idea to load the base components before specifying any plugins.

zgen oh-my-zsh

Load oh-my-zsh plugins

zgen oh-my-zsh <location>


zgen oh-my-zsh
zgen oh-my-zsh plugins/git
zgen oh-my-zsh plugins/sudo
zgen oh-my-zsh plugins/command-not-found
zgen oh-my-zsh themes/arrow


Load Prezto

zgen prezto

This will create a symlink in the ZSHDOT or HOME directory. This is needed by prezto.

Load prezto plugins

zgen prezto <modulename>

This uses the Prezto method for loading modules.

Load a repo as Prezto plugins

zgen pmodule <reponame> <branch>

This uses the Prezto method for loading the module. It creates a symlink and calls pmodule.

Set prezto options

zgen prezto <modulename> <option> <value(s)>

This must be used before the module is loaded. Or if the default modules should be loaded (default) these settings must be done before the zgen prezto command. module is prepended if the name does not start with module, prezto or a *, prezto is prepended if it does not start with prezto.

General zgen functions

Load plugins and completions

zgen load <repo> [location] [branch]

Zgen tries to source any scripts from location using a "very smart matching logic". If it fails to find any, it will appends location to $fpath.

  • repo
    • github user/repository or path to a repository
    • currently supported formats for a repository path:
      • any local repository
      • git://*
      • https://*
      • http://*
      • ssh://*
      • git@*:*/*
  • location
    • relative path to a script/folder
    • useful for repositories that don't have proper plugin support like zsh-users/zsh-completions
  • branch
    • specifies the git branch to use

Bulk load plugins

zgen loadall <plugins>

Please see example .zshrc for usage.

Generate init script

zgen save

It is recommended to save the plugin sourcing part to a static init script so we don't have to go through the time consuming installing/updating part every time we start the shell (or source .zshrc)

Remove init script

zgen reset

Removes the init script so it will be created next time you start the shell. You must run this every time you add or remove plugins to trigger the changes.

This will not remove the plugins physically from disk.

Check for an init script

zgen saved

Returns 0 if an init script exists.

Update all plugins and reset

zgen update

Pulls updates on every plugin repository and removes the init script.

Update zgen

zgen selfupdate

Watch files for modifications

You can automate the process of running zgen reset by specifying a list of files to ZGEN_RESET_ON_CHANGE. These files will be checked and if a change is detected zgen reset is called.

ZGEN_RESET_ON_CHANGE=(${HOME}/.zshrc ${HOME}/.zshrc.local)


Be aware that zgen tries to handle compinit for you to allow for the fastest possible initialization times. However, this functionality will be disabled if you've already called compinit yourself before sourcing zgen.zsh. Alternatively, you can disable it yourself by disabling $ZGEN_AUTOLOAD_COMPINIT.

Example .zshrc

# load zgen
source "${HOME}/.zgen/zgen.zsh"

# if the init scipt doesn't exist
if ! zgen saved; then
    echo "Creating a zgen save"

    zgen oh-my-zsh

    # plugins
    zgen oh-my-zsh plugins/git
    zgen oh-my-zsh plugins/sudo
    zgen oh-my-zsh plugins/command-not-found
    zgen load zsh-users/zsh-syntax-highlighting
    zgen load /path/to/super-secret-private-plugin

    # bulk load
    zgen loadall <<EOPLUGINS
    # ^ can't indent this EOPLUGINS

    # completions
    zgen load zsh-users/zsh-completions src

    # theme
    zgen oh-my-zsh themes/arrow

    # save all to init script
    zgen save

Example .zshrc for prezto use

Here is a partial example how to work with prezto

    echo "Creating a zgen save"

    # prezto options
    zgen prezto editor key-bindings 'emacs'
    zgen prezto prompt theme 'sorin'

    # prezto and modules
    zgen prezto
    zgen prezto git
    zgen prezto command-not-found
    zgen prezto syntax-highlighting

    # plugins
    zgen load /path/to/super-secret-private-plugin

Other resources

The awesome-zsh-plugins list contains many zgen-compatible zsh plugins & themes that you may find useful.

There's a quickstart kit for using zsh and zgen at zsh-quickstart-kit that guides you through setting up zgen and includes a sampler of useful plugins.

The autoupdate-zgen plugin will enable your zgen to periodically update itself and your list of plugins.


  • antigen - popular and mature
  • zplug - well performing and has a fancy UI


A lightweight and simple plugin manager for ZSH







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