Skip to content


Subversion checkout URL

You can clone with
Download ZIP
Browse files

users/18271 plus further tweaks: FAQ entry for pattern exclusions

  • Loading branch information...
1 parent a6be223 commit 8e09373bbe244ddb5dddb5b0c44a5f90f80b4069 Peter Stephenson committed
Showing with 138 additions and 8 deletions.
  1. +3 −0  ChangeLog
  2. +135 −8 Etc/FAQ.yo
3  ChangeLog
@@ -1,5 +1,8 @@
2014-01-03 Peter Stephenson <>
+ * users/18271 plus some additional rewriting: Etc/FAQ.yo: add
+ FAQ entry to explain pattern exclusions.
* unposted: README, Etc/FAQ.yo: update source documentation for
143 Etc/FAQ.yo
@@ -122,6 +122,7 @@ Chapter 3: How to get various things to work
3.24. What's wrong with cut and paste on my xterm?
3.25. How do I get coloured prompts on my colour xterm?
3.26. Why is my output duplicated with `tt(foo 2>&1 >foo.out | bar)'?
+3.27. What are these `^' and `~' pattern characters, anyway?
Chapter 4: The mysteries of completion
4.1. What is completion?
@@ -545,14 +546,8 @@ tt(EXTENDED_GLOB).
option tt(KSH_GLOB) is in effect; for previous versions you
must use the table above.
- [1] Note that mytt(~) is the only globbing operator to have a lower
- precedence than mytt(/). For example, mytt(**/foo~*bar*) matches any
- file in a subdirectory called mytt(foo), except where mytt(bar)
- occurred somewhere in the path (e.g. mytt(users/barstaff/foo) will
- be excluded by the mytt(~) operator). As the mytt(**) operator cannot
- be grouped (inside parentheses it is treated as mytt(*)), this is
- one way to exclude some subdirectories from matching a mytt(**).
- The form (^foo/)# also works.
+ [1] See question link(3.27)(327) for more on the mysteries of
+ mytt(~) and mytt(^).
it() Unquoted assignments do file expansion after mytt(:)s (intended for
it()* mytt(typeset) and mytt(integer) have special behaviour for
@@ -1452,6 +1447,8 @@ sect(Why does mytt(bindkey ^a command-name) or mytt(stty intr ^-) do something f
are metacharacters. tt(^a) matches any file except one called tt(a), so the
line is interpreted as bindkey followed by a list of files. Quote the
tt(^) with a backslash or put quotation marks around tt(^a).
+ See link(3.27)(327) if you want to know more about the pattern
+ character mytt(^).
sect(Why can't I bind tt(\C-s) and tt(\C-q) any more?)
@@ -1668,6 +1665,7 @@ sect(How do I prevent the prompt overwriting output when there is no newline?)
One final alternative is to put a newline in your prompt -- see question
link(3.13)(313) for that.
sect(What's wrong with cut and paste on my xterm?)
On the majority of modern UNIX systems, cutting text from one window and
@@ -1700,6 +1698,7 @@ sect(What's wrong with cut and paste on my xterm?)
fixes referred to above in order to be reliable).
sect(How do I get coloured prompts on my colour xterm?)
(Or `color xterm', if you're reading this in black and white.)
@@ -1743,6 +1742,7 @@ sect(How do I get coloured prompts on my colour xterm?)
`mytt(<ESC>[0m)' puts printing back to normal so that the rest of the line
is unchanged.
sect(Why is my output duplicated with `tt(foo 2>&1 >foo.out | bar)'?)
This is a slightly unexpected effect of the option tt(MULTIOS), which is
@@ -1780,6 +1780,133 @@ sect(Why is my output duplicated with `tt(foo 2>&1 >foo.out | bar)'?)
to unset the option mytt(MULTIOS).
+sect(What are these `^' and `~' pattern characters, anyway?)
+ The characters mytt(^) and mytt(~) are active when the option
+ tt(EXTENDED_GLOB) is set. Both are used to exclude patterns, i.e. to
+ say `match something other than ...'. There are some confusing
+ differences, however. Here are the descriptions for mytt(^) and mytt(~).
+ mytt(^) means `anything except the pattern that follows'. You can
+ think of the combination tt(^)em(pat) as being like a tt(*) except
+ that it doesn't match em(pat). So, for example, mytt(myfile^.txt)
+ matches anything that begins with tt(myfile) except tt(myfile.txt).
+ Because it works with patterns, not just strings, mytt(myfile^*.c)
+ matches anything that begins with tt(myfile) unless it ends with
+ tt(.c), whatever comes in the middle --- so it matches tt(myfile1.h)
+ but not tt(myfile1.c).
+ Also like mytt(*), mytt(^) doesn't match across directories if you're
+ matching files when `globbing', i.e. when you use an unquoted pattern
+ in an ordinary command line to generate file names. So
+ mytt(^dir1/^file1) matches any subdirectory of the current directory
+ except one called tt(dir1), and within any directory it matches it
+ picks any file except one called tt(file1). So the overall pattern
+ matches tt(dir2/file2) but not tt(dir1/file1) nor tt(dir1/file2) nor
+ tt(dir2/file1). (The rule that all the different bits of the pattern
+ must match is exactly the same as for any other pattern character,
+ it's just a little confusing that what em(does) match in each bit is
+ found by telling the shell em(not) to match something or other.)
+ As with any other pattern, a mytt(^) expression doesn't treat the
+ character `tt(/)' specially if it's not matching files, for example
+ when pattern matching in a command like mytt([[ $string = ^pat1/pat2 ]]).
+ Here the whole string tt(pat1/pat2) is treated as the argument that
+ follows the mytt(^). So anything matches but that one string
+ tt(pat1/pat1).
+ It's not obvious what something like mytt([[ $string = ^pat1^pat2 ]])
+ means. You won't often have cause to use it, but the rule is that
+ each mytt(^) takes em(everything) that follows as an argument (unless
+ it's already inside parentheses --- I'll explain this below). To see
+ this more clearly, put those arguments in parentheses: the pattern is
+ equivalent to mytt(^(pat1^(pat2))). where now you can see exactly what
+ each mytt(^) takes as its argument. I'll leave it as an exercise for
+ you to work out what this does and doesn't match.
+ mytt(~) is always used between two patterns --- never right at the
+ beginning or right at the end. Note that the other special meaning of
+ mytt(~), at the start of a filename to refer to your home directory or
+ to another named directory, doesn't require the option
+ tt(EXTENDED_GLOB) to be set. (At the end of an argument mytt(~) is
+ never special at all. This is useful if you have Emacs backup files.)
+ It means `match what's in front of the tilde, but only if it doesn't
+ match what's after the tilde'. So mytt(*.c~f*) matches any file
+ ending in tt(.c) except one that begins with tt(f). You'll see that,
+ unlike mytt(^), the parts before and after the mytt(~) both refer
+ separately to the entire test string.
+ For matching files by globbing, mytt(~) is the only globbing operator
+ to have a lower precedence than mytt(/). In other words, when you
+ have mytt(/a/path/to/match~/a/path/not/to/match) the mytt(~) considers
+ what's before as a complete path to a file name, and what's after as a
+ pattern to match against that file. You can put any other pattern
+ characters in the expressions before and after the mytt(~), but as I
+ said the pattern after the tt(~) is really just a single pattern to
+ match against the name of every file found rather than a pattern to
+ generate a file. That means, for example, that a tt(*) after the
+ tt(~) em(will) match a tt(/). If that's confusing, you can think of
+ how mytt(~) works like this: take the pattern on the left, use it as
+ normal to make a list of files, then for each file found see if it
+ matches the pattern on the right and if it does take that file out of
+ the list. Note, however, that this removal of files happens
+ immediately, before anything else happens to the file list --- before
+ any glob qualifiers are applied, for example.
+ One rule that is common to both mytt(^) and mytt(~) is that they can
+ be put inside parentheses and the arguments to them don't extend past
+ the parentheses. So mytt((^README).txt) matches any file ending in
+ tt(.txt) unless the string before that was tt(README), the same as
+ mytt(*.txt~README.txt) or mytt((*~README).txt). In fact, you can
+ always turn mytt(^something) into mytt((*~something)), where
+ mytt(something) mustn't contain tt(/) if the pattern is being used for
+ globbing.
+ Likewise, mytt(abc(<->~<10-100>).txt) matches a file consisting of
+ tt(abc), then some digits, then tt(.txt), unless the digits happen to
+ match a number from 10 to 100 inclusive (remember the handy mytt(<->)
+ pattern for matching integers with optional limits to the range). So
+ this pattern matches tt(abc1.txt) or tt(abc200.txt) but not
+ tt(abc20.txt) nor tt(abc100.txt) nor even tt(abc0030.txt). However,
+ if you're matching files by globbing note you can't put mytt(/)s
+ inside the parentheses since the groups can't stretch across multiple
+ directories. (You can do that, of course, whenever the character
+ mytt(/) isn't special.) This means that you need to take care when
+ using exclusions across multiple directories; see some examples below.
+ You may like to know that from zsh 5.0.3 you can disable any pattern
+ character separately. So if you find mytt(^) gets in your way and
+ you're happy using mytt(~), put mytt(disable -p "^") in tt(~/.zshrc).
+ You still need to turn on tt(EXTENDED_GLOB); the tt(disable) command
+ only deactivates things that would otherwise be active, you can't
+ specially enable something not allowed by the syntax options in effect.
+ Here are some examples with files to illustrate the points. We'll
+ assume the option tt(EXTENDED_GLOB) is set and none of the pattern
+ characters is disabled.
+ enumerate(
+ myeit() mytt(**/foo~*bar*) matches any file called mytt(foo) in any
+ subdirectory, except where mytt(bar) occurred somewhere in the path.
+ For example, mytt(users/barstaff/foo) will be excluded by the mytt(~)
+ operator. As the mytt(**) operator cannot be grouped (inside
+ parentheses it is treated as mytt(*)), this is one way to exclude some
+ subdirectories from matching a mytt(**). Note that this can be quite
+ inefficent because the shell performs a complete search for
+ mytt(**/foo) before it uses the pattern after the mytt(~) to exclude
+ files from the match. The file is excluded if mytt(bar) occurs
+ em(anywhere), in any directory segment or the final file name.
+ myeit() The form mytt((^foo/)#) can be used to match any hierarchy of
+ directories where none of the path components is tt(foo). For
+ example, mytt((^CVS/)#) selects all subdirectories to any depth
+ except where one component is named mytt(CVS). (The form
+ mytt((pat/)#) is very useful in other cases; for example,
+ mytt((../)#.cvsignore) finds the file tt(.cvsignore) if it exists
+ in the current directory or any parent.)
+ )
chapter(The mysteries of completion)

0 comments on commit 8e09373

Please sign in to comment.
Something went wrong with that request. Please try again.