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⚙️ Navigation Tools

Zsh Navigation Tools

The available tools

  • n-aliases - browses aliases, relegates editing to vared
  • n-cd - browses dirstack and bookmarked directories, allows to enter selected directory
  • n-functions - browses functions, relegates editing to zed or vared
  • n-history - browses history, allows to edit and run commands from it
  • n-kill - browses processes list, allows to send signal to selected process
  • n-env - browses environment, relegates editing to vared
  • n-options - browses options, allows to toggle their state
  • n-panelize - loads output of given command into the list for browsing

All tools support horizontal scroll with <,>, {,}, h,l or left and right cursors. Other keys are:

  • H, ? (from n-history) - run n-help
  • Ctrl-R - start n-history, the incremental, multi-keyword history searcher (Zsh binding)
  • Ctrl-A - rotate entered words (1+2+3 -> 3+1+2)
  • Ctrl-F - fix mode (approximate matching)
  • Ctrl-L - redraw of whole display
  • Ctrl-T - browse themes (next theme)
  • Ctrl-G - browse themes (previous theme)
  • Ctrl-U - half page up
  • Ctrl-D - half page down
  • Ctrl-P - previous element (also done with vim's k)
  • Ctrl-N - next element (also done with vim's j)
  • [, ] - jump directory bookmarks in n-cd and typical signals in n-kill
  • g, G - beginning and end of the list
  • / - show incremental search
  • F3 - show/hide incremental search
  • Esc - exit incremental search, clearing filter
  • Ctrl-W (in incremental search) - delete whole word
  • Ctrl-K (in incremental search) - delete whole line
  • Ctrl-O, o - enter uniq mode (no duplicate lines)
  • Ctrl-E, e - edit private history (when in private history view)
  • F1 - (in n-history) - switch view
  • F2, Ctrl-X, Ctrl-/ - search predefined keywords (defined in config files)

Set of tools like n-history – multi-word history searcher, n-cd – directory bookmark manager, n-kill – htop like kill utility, and more.

Based on n-list, a tool generating selectable curses-based list of elements that has access to current Zsh session, i.e. has broad capabilities to work together with it.

Feature highlights include incremental multi-word searching, approximate matching, ANSI coloring, themes, unique mode, horizontal scroll, grepping, advanced history management and various integrations with Zsh.

Install ZNT

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"

To update run the command again.

ZNT will be installed at ~/.config/znt/zsh-navigation-tools, config files will be copied to ~/.config/znt. .zshrc will be updated with only 8 lines of code, which will be added at the bottom.

After installing and reloading shell give ZNT a quick try with Ctrl-R – this keyboard shortcut will open n-history.

With ZI

Add zi load z-shell/zsh-navigation-tools to .zshrc. The config files will be in ~/.config/znt.

Installation With Zgen

Add zgen load z-shell/zsh-navigation-tools to .zshrc and issue a zgen reset (this assumes that there is a proper zgen save construct in .zshrc).

The config files will be available in ~/.config/znt.

With Antigen

Add antigen bundle z-shell/zsh-navigation-tools to .zshrc. There also should be antigen apply.

The config files will be in ~/.config/znt.

Single File Manual Installation

Running script doc/generate_single_file will create single-file version of ZNT. It can be sourced from .zshrc.

Don't forget about configuration files as described above.

Manual Installation

After extracting ZNT to {some-directory} add following two lines to ~/.zshrc:

fpath+=( {some-directory} )source "{some-directory}/zsh-navigation-tools.plugin.zsh"

As you can see, no plugin manager is needed to use the *.plugin.zsh file.

The above two lines of code are all that almost all plugin managers do. In fact, what's actually needed is only:

source "{some-directory}/zsh-navigation-tools.plugin.zsh"

because ZNT detects if it is used by any plugin manager and can handle $fpath update by itself.

Truly Manual Installation

Copy (or link) all n-* and znt-* files to /usr/share/zsh/site-functions/ (or /usr/local/share/zsh/site-functions/, check with echo $fpath[1]) and then add:

autoload n-list n-cd n-env n-kill n-panelize n-options n-aliases n-functions n-history n-help to ~/.zshrc.

Create aliases to avoid typing of the minus sign "-":

alias naliases=n-aliases ncd=n-cd nenv=n-env nfunctions=n-functions nhistory=n-historyalias nkill=n-kill noptions=n-options npanelize=n-panelize nhelp=n-help

Don't forget to copy configuration files.

They should go to ~/.config/znt. Moreover, n-cd works together with option AUTO_PUSHD and you should have:


in .zshrc (also recommend PUSHD_IGNORE_DUPS). Without the option n-cd will just work as incremental searcher of directory bookmarks.

History Widget

To have n-history as the incremental searcher bound to Ctrl-R copy znt-* files into the */site-functions dir (unless you do single file install) and add:

autoload znt-history-widgetzle -N znt-history-widgetbindkey "^R" znt-history-widget

to .zshrc. This is done automatically when using the installer, zgen, antigen or single file install. Two other widgets exist, znt-cd-widget and znt-kill-widget, they too can be assigned to key combinations (autoload is done in .zshrc so no need of it):

zle -N znt-cd-widgetbindkey "^B" znt-cd-widgetzle -N znt-kill-widgetbindkey "^Y" znt-kill-widget


ZNT has configuration files located in ~/.config/znt. The files are:

n - aliases.conf;n - cd.conf;n - env.conf;n - functions.conf;n - history.conf;n - kill.conf;n - list.conf;n - options.conf;n - panelize.conf;

n-list.conf contains main configuration variables:

# Should the list (text, borders) be drawn in boldlocal bold=0# Main color pair (foreground/background)local colorpair="white/black"# Should draw the border?local border=1# Combinations of colors to try out with Ctrl-T and Ctrl-G# The last number is the bold option, 0 or 1local -a themesthemes=( "white/black/1" "green/black/0" "green/black/1" "white/blue/0" "white/blue/1"         "magenta/black/0" "magenta/black/1" )

Read remaining configuration files to see what's in them. Nevertheless, configuration can be also set from zshrc.

There are 5 standard zshrc configuration variables:

znt_history_active_text - underline or reverse - how should be active element highlightedznt_history_nlist_coloring_pattern - pattern that can be used to colorize elementsznt_history_nlist_coloring_color - color with which to colorizeznt_history_nlist_coloring_match_multiple - should multiple matches be colorized (0 or 1)znt_history_keywords (array) - search keywords activated with `Ctrl-X`, `F2` or `Ctrl-/`, e.g. ( "git" "vim" )

Above variables will work for n-history tool. For other tools, change _history_ to e.g. _cd_, for the n-cd tool.

The same works for all 8 tools.

Common configuration of the tools uses variables with _list_ in them:

znt_list_bold - should draw text in bold (0 or 1)znt_list_colorpair - main pair of colors to be used, e.g "green/black"znt_list_border - should draw borders around windows (0 or 1)znt_list_themes (array) - list of themes to try out with Ctrl-T, e.g. ( "white/black/1" "green/black/0" )znt_list_instant_select - should pressing enter in search mode leave tool (0 or 1)

If you used ZNT before v2.1.12, remove old configuration files ~/.config/znt/*.conf so that ZNT can update them to the latest versions that support integration with zshrc.

If you used installer then run it again (after the remove of configuration files).


The function n-list is used as follows:

n-list {element1} [element2] ... [elementN]

This is all that is needed to be done to have the features like ANSI coloring, incremental multi-word search, unique mode, horizontal scroll, non-selectable elements (grepping is done outside n-list, see the tools for how it can be done).

To set up non-selectable entries add their indices into array NLIST_NONSELECTABLE_ELEMENTS:


Result is stored as $reply[REPLY] ($ isn't needed before REPLY because of arithmetic context inside []).

The returned array might be different from input arguments as n-list can process them via incremental search or uniq mode.

$REPLY is the index in that possibly processed array. If $REPLY equals -1 it means that no selection have been made (user quitted via q key).

To set up entries that can be jumped to with [,] keys add their indices to NLIST_HOP_INDEXES array:


n-list can automatically colorize entries according to a Zsh pattern. Following example will colorize all numbers with blue:

local NLIST_COLORING_PATTERN="[0-9]##"local NLIST_COLORING_COLOR=$'\x1b[00;34m'local NLIST_COLORING_END_COLOR=$'\x1b[0m'local NLIST_COLORING_MATCH_MULTIPLE=1n-list "This is a number 123" "This line too has a number: 456"

Blue is the default color, it doesn't have to be set. See zshexpn man page for more information on Zsh patterns.

Briefly, comparing to regular expressions, (#s) is ^, (#e) is $, # is *, ## is +.

Alternative will work when in parenthesis, i.e. (a|b). BTW by using this method you can colorize output of the tools, via their config files (check out e.g. n-cd.conf, it is using this).


ZNT are fastest with Zsh before 5.0.6 and starting from 5.2


Zsh plugins may look scary, as they seem to have some "architecture". In fact, plugin is:

  1. has its directory added to fpath
  2. has any first *.plugin.zsh file sourced

That's it. When one contributes to Oh-My-Zsh or creates a plugin for any plugin manager, he only needs to account for this.

The same with doing any non-typical Zsh Navigation Tools installation.


Be aware of this

Fixing tmux, screen and linux vt

If TERM=screen-256color (often a case for tmux and screen sessions) then ncv terminfo capability will have 2nd bit set.

This in general means that underline won't work. To fix this by creating your own ncv=0-equipped terminfo file, run:

{ infocmp -x screen-256color; printf '\t%s\n' 'ncv@,'; } > /tmp/t && tic -x /tmp/t

A file will be created in directory ~/.terminfo and will be automatically used, tmux and screen will work. Similar is for Linux virtual terminal:

{ infocmp -x linux; printf '\t%s\n' 'ncv@,'; } > /tmp/t && tic -x /tmp/t

It will not display underline properly, but will instead highlight by a color, which is quite nice. The same will not work for FreeBSD's vt, ZNT will detect if that vt is used and will revert to highlighting elements via reverse mode.