Simple zsh quickstart for using zsh and zgen
Latest commit f5e1d17 Feb 6, 2017 @unixorn committed on GitHub Merge pull request #24 from unixorn/fix-ls-aggravation
Use /bin/ls instead of whatever ls got aliased to

ZSH Quickstart Kit

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This quickstart includes the bullet-train zsh theme, which requires a powerline-compatible font in your terminal to display certain status glyphs. Fonts that are powerline-compatible include glyphs used to display the nice branch icon that the theme in this .zshrc uses, among other useful glyphs.

Here are a few good powerline-compatible fonts I've found:

  • Awesome Terminal Fonts - A family of fonts that includes some nice monospaced Icons.
  • Fantasque Awesome Font - A nice monospaced font, patched with Font-Awesome, Octoicons and Powerline-Glyphs.
  • Fira Mono - Mozilla's Fira type family.
  • Hack - Another Powerline-compatible font designed specifically for source code and terminal usage.
  • Input Mono - A family of fonts designed specifically for code. It offers both monospaced and proportional fonts and includes powerline glyphs.
  • Monoid - Monoid is customizable and optimized for coding with bitmap-like sharpness at 15px line-height even on low res displays.
  • Nerd fonts - A collection of over 20 patched fonts (over 1,700 variations) & fontforge font patcher python script for powerline, devicons, and vim-devicons: includes Droid Sans, Meslo, AnonymousPro, ProFont, Inconsolta, and many more.
  • Powerline patched font collection - A collection of a dozen or so fonts patched to include powerline gylphs.
  • spacemono - Google's new original monospace display typeface family.

OS Setup


  1. Download iTerm2 from It is considerably nicer than the stock Terminal application that comes with OS X.
  2. Install the current version of Homebrew from
  3. Install GNU Stow with brew install stow
  4. Homebrew has a newer version of zsh than the one Apple ships, so brew install zsh to install it.
  5. Switch your shell to zsh:
    1. System Preferences -> Users & Groups.
    2. Unlock the preferences
    3. Select your user
    4. Select advanced options
    5. Set your login shell to /bin/zsh (or /usr/local/bin/zsh if you decided to use the newer version packaged by brew)
  6. Install some powerline compatible fonts from one of the links in the Fonts section above.
    1. Install a powerline-compatible font from the Fonts section above.
    2. In iTerm 2, go to Preferences->Profile in your iTerm 2 preferences, then select one of the powerline compatible fonts you just installed.
    3. Make sure you also specify a powerline compatible font for non-ASCII in your iTerm 2 preferences or the prompt separators and branch glyphs will show up garbled.


  1. Switch your shell to zsh with chsh -s /bin/zsh
  2. Install GNU Stow - yum install -y stow on Red Hat / CentOS systems, apt-get -y install stow on Debian / Ubuntu.
  3. Install the patched font in a valid X font path. Valid font paths can be listed with xset q: mv YourChosenPowerlineFont.otf ~/.fonts
  4. Update the font cache for the path the font was installed in (root privileges may be needed for updating font cache for some paths): fc-cache -vf ~/.fonts/

After installing the powerline-compatible font, you will also need to configure your terminal emulator to use the powerline-compatible font. The name of the correct font usually ends with for Powerline.

If the powerline symbols cannot be seen, try closing all instances of the terminal emulator. The X server may also need to be restarted for the new font to correctly load.

If you still can’t see the powerline fonts then double-check that the font has been installed to a valid X font path.

If you get garbled branch glyphs, make sure there isn't a separate font setting for non-ASCII characters in your terminal application that you need to also set to a powerline-compatible font.

Set up Zgen and the starter kit

Now that your fonts and default shell have been set up, install zgen and the dotfiles from this starter kit repository.

  1. Install Zgen
    1. cd ~
    2. git clone
  2. Install the starter kit
    1. cd ~
    2. git clone
  3. Configure zsh by symlinking the .zshrc, .zsh_aliases and .zsh-completions from this repo into your ~.
    1. You can do this with stow by:
      1. cd zsh-quickstart-kit
      2. stow --target=/Users/YourUsername zsh. Replace /Users/YourUsername with /home/YourUsername if you're on Linux.

The .zshrc, .zsh_aliases & .zsh_functions files included in this kit enable:

  • Automatic periodic updates to zgen and your plugins
  • Cross-session shared history so commands typed in one terminal window can be seen and searched in all other windows on the same machine.
  • Deduping your command history
  • Many more tab completions, courtesy of the zsh-users/zsh-completions repository, and periodic updating to tip of master of that repository so you get new completions and updates of old ones.
  • Proper command history search
  • Syntax highlighting at the command line
  • Tab completion of Rakefile targets
  • Using oh-my-zsh compatible plugins and themes (via the zgen framework)
  • Various helper functions for interacting with OS X's clipboard, audio volume, Spotlight and Quicklook.


Functions and Aliases

The .zshrc included in this kit will automatically source any files it finds in ~/.zshrc.d. This is to make it easy for you to add extra functions and aliases without having to maintain a separate fork of this repository. The files will be sourced in alphanumeric order, I suggest you use a naming scheme of 001-onething, 002-something-else etc to ensure they're loaded in the order you expect.


The quickstart kit will check for updates every seven days. If you want to change the interval, set QUICKSTART_KIT_REFRESH_IN_DAYS in a file in ~/.zshrc.d. If you want to disable self updating entirely, add unset QUICKSTART_KIT_REFRESH_IN_DAYS in a file in ~/.zshrc.d.

Changing the zgen plugin list

I've included what I think is a good starter set of zsh plugins in this repository. To make the list easier to customize without having to maintain a separate fork of this kit, if you create a file named ~/.zgen-local-plugins, the .zshrc from this starter kit will source that instead of running the load-starter-plugin-list function defined in ~/.zgen-setup. Note: using ~/.zgen-local-plugins is not additive, it will completely replace the kit-provided list.

Included plugins:

We also have zgen load oh-my-zsh and these plugins:

  • aws
  • brew - only loaded on OS X
  • chruby
  • colored-man
  • git
  • github
  • osx - only loaded on OS X
  • pip
  • python
  • rsync
  • screen
  • sudo
  • vagrant

Other Resources


For a list of other ZSH plugins and themes you can use, check out my awesome-zsh-plugins list.

Dotfiles in general has a lot of great resources for dotfiles - frameworks for managing them, configurations for editors and bootstraps with initial configurations to start from.


If you're using vim, spf13 is an excellent starter configuration and plugin collection.