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Other than viewing the history, is there a way to filter my history?

Say I want to search for a command that started with "ssh"?

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up vote 98 down vote accepted

Press Ctrl+R and type ssh. Ctrl+R will start search from most recent command to old one (reverse-search). If you have more than one command which starts with ssh, Press Ctrl+R again and again until you find the match.

Once you've found the match you can press Enter to execute the command or left / right cursor to just select the text of the command.

There is no default reverse option for Ctrl+R to invert the direction of the search but here you will find some suggestions about it.

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If you just want to search your history, you can just use history | grep ssh, substituting ssh for whatever you want to search.

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I use this method, because I link to see in list every command matching my filter. – Pisu Nov 9 '11 at 14:40

I do a slight variation of the above, works well for me (if you're referring to your bash history

In my home folder I create a file named


Inside goes this

"\e[5~": history-search-backward
"\e[6~": history-search-forward

Note: the above doesn't seem to work anymore in 14.04 so this does the same thing -


Then typing however much of a previous command I wish & using the page up/page dn buttons searchs the history, always starting with page up

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if you have root permisions, you can edit /etc/inputrc soo this will work for all users. – Wolfy Nov 2 '11 at 16:14
@doug, hmm.. I've Ubuntu 15.04. This solution works but mess up Ctrl+LeftArrow / Ctrl+RightArrow keys. Issue looks like with creating .inputrc file and not with entries in it. – Ravi Jul 14 at 11:12

Pressing Ctrl+R will start "reverse-i-search" mode, typing "ssh" would search your history for commands which contain "ssh".

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Here's another method using classic commands (more likely to work across distros). Command history is stored in the file .bash_history in your home directory, so you can do this:

grep "ssh" ~/.bash_history

Don't forget the -i flag if you need case insensitive search.

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I found the following function somewhere on the Internet and have used it to great effect. Put this in your ~/.bashrc:

hgrep () { 
    history | egrep --color=auto --recursive "$@" | egrep --color=auto --recursive -v "hgrep $@"

Now re-load your shell: exec bash. You now have a new command, which you can use like so:

hgrep ssh

It will show you a list of matching commands from your history. To run a command, type ! followed by the command number. Here's an example:

~:$ hgrep scp
  207  tn scp foreign-teachers __HOST__:unity.log __HOST__:compiz.log .
  421  tn scp scott-laptop __HOST__:Scott\ Severance.asc .
  422  tn scp scott-laptop __HOST__:'Scott\ Severance.asc' .
  468  tn scott-desktop scp -r Backgrounds/* __HOST__:Pictures/Backgrounds
  469  tn scott-laptop scp -r Backgrounds/* __HOST__:Pictures/Backgrounds
  470  scp -r Backgrounds/*
~:$ !207

I like this approach better than Ctrl+R because it allows much more flexible searches, and I can see multiple results at once.

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If you use shell in Emacs (M-x shell) you can use M-r (it is equivalent to Ctrl+R in a terminal).

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