Note: Before you follow these instructions, see Postscript at the end.

I have a long and twisted relationship with nix shells. My computing history started on 8 bit boxes where the was close to no shell (just Basic) and then transitioned to DOS. I moved to Unix initially in 88 (Sun 3s) and then went to Linux full time in '99 and OSX finally in 2005. And despite all that, I still struggle with *nix shells; my prompt is never right, my shell scripting blows chunks, etc. Sigh. But the one thing I hate, hate, hate, *censored hate is that with Bash, my history is always screwed up. I actually like Bash a bit but I am so damn tired of every Bash session on my machine having a different history and each terminal window racing in a Darwinian competition of "let my history win!".

Just to clarify, in a terminal your history is the list of commands that you executed. And since the types of commands I issue can be frighteningly complex, I want access to all my previous commands - period. I'm absolutely binary on this issue, access to all your commands is a good thing. And commands being lost is a bad thing; a censoreding bad thing.

My good friend Sean and regular pairing partner, Sean Kennedy, told me that Z-Shell solves this and, when I had an opportunity, I was ready for it. Here's the short process:

  1. Close everything.
  2. Install Mojave if you haven't (yes I'm antiquatedly retro in the speed by which I upgrade operating systems; sorry / not sorry).
  3. Install Z Shell with Home Brew
  4. Install Oh My Zsh which makes ZShell so much better
  5. Execute a change shell command
  6. Update Your .zshrc File
  7. Log out and then in on your Mac. Yes this shouldn't be necessary but #$(#$*# Apple.

Steps 3 forward are covered below.

3 - Install Z Shell with Home Brew

Execute this:

brew install zsh

4- Install Oh My Zsh

Execute this command:

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"

5 - Change Your Shell

You may find that installing Oh My Zsh changes your shell. If it doesn't then you need to do this:

chsh -s $(which zsh)

And then a:

ln -s "$ZSH_CUSTOM/themes/spaceship-prompt/spaceship.zsh-theme" "$ZSH_CUSTOM/themes/spaceship.zsh-theme"

6 - Update Your .zshrc

The file .zshrc is your zsh configuration file. Edit it as follows:

  1. Open this file in an editor.
  2. Comment out the robbyrussell theme line by prefixing it with a # character.
  3. Add the following lines after the robbyrussell theme line (change the username csphere to your own).

Here are the changes to make:

# Oh My Zsh
export ZSH=/Users/csphere/.oh-my-zsh
source $ZSH/

A Slack Conversation About This

scott.johnson [9:26 AM]
So I just tried to search my history and am I doing it right:

history | grep ssh
  69* ssh

that’s not showing the ssh line I got from you to get into jenkins which concerns me about the command line history.  Am I doing something wrong?

So I found it by looking in ~/.zsh_history

Sean Kennedy [9:32 AM]
edit your zsh history
edit your zshrc

scott.johnson [9:33 AM]

Sean Kennedy [9:33 AM]
then source it
will probably need to source it in every active terminal

scott.johnson [9:33 AM]
thx man

Sean Kennedy [9:33 AM]


So I just tried to follow this exactly on a new machine and it both worked and didn’t work. It worked in the terminal window where I started but it failed in any new window. I think the issue amounted to:

  • On OSX Mojave after a chsh operation you need to log out and log back in. My guess is that this one thing fixes everything but just in case, follow the next steps.
  • I needed (perhaps) a bootstrap shell script called ~/ which has in it only three lines:

    #!/bin/bash # adjust as needed export ZSH=/Users/sjohnson/.oh-my-zsh source $ZSH/

In the event that this fails for you then here are the links which helped me sort it out:

Note: I’d have solved this more definitively but my machine is rebuilding a 100gig archive of hate speech for data processing and, well, I simply can’t log in and out right now. Sigh.

And I wouldn't have posted this except that it mostly worked and I needed it myself to move forward. Still I hate like hell that it is ambiguous. Sorry.