Okay a college of mine just showed me that you could do

sudo apt-get install <type first letters of package> <TAB>

That it auto-completes the name of the package. Just for an example...

sudo apt-get install ged<TAB> results in sudo apt-get install gedit

Now I tried to do this but this does not work for me.

How can I solve this? Do I have to install a package? My college told me that he didn't install anything extra for it.

  • No because auto completion still works for commands and folders etc... Just not for packages.
    – WG-
    Oct 30 '12 at 20:56
  • That's exactly what that question is about? Maybe the answer isn't to your liking, but that is another thing. The question linked is about autocompletion of packages..
    – Nanne
    Oct 30 '12 at 21:15
  • @WG- Sorry, I misunderstood what you were saying. Jan 29 '13 at 13:40

Bash does support some more kinds of autocompletion, not only filename completion.

In the file /etc/bash.bashrc, you will find a paragraph, like this or similiar to this:

# enable bash completion in interactive shells
#if ! shopt -oq posix; then
#  if [ -f /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion ]; then
#    . /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion
#  elif [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
#    . /etc/bash_completion
#  fi

(this example is from debian, but is probably identical to the Ubuntu version)

By removing the # character in the beginning of each line you put a lot of additional completion rules into effect. (Don't remove the # on the first line... thats really a comment ;-)

I believe apt-get completions are among those enabled with this. If not you could think about switching to zsh. I know they support it ;-)

  • What other autocompletions are supported?
    – nanofarad
    Nov 8 '12 at 22:47
  • @obsessivesso: that is customizable and extendable. See for example github.com/revans/bash-it/tree/master/completion/available
    – knb
    Nov 22 '12 at 14:55
  • I had to restart my server before this would work for me. Now I can tab complete package names. Note that I also enabled these lines in the .bashrc file of my user's home directory. /home/user/.bashrc
    – iyrin
    Jan 6 '14 at 10:02
  • You should only need to restart the terminal (bash) not the whole server. Also, this seems to be disable on Mint 18 for unknown reasons where it was uncommented on previous versions. Anyway, great answer, saves a ton of misery!
    – Nick
    Feb 18 '17 at 2:23
  • Just had to do this on Ubuntu 20.04 server version to get apt completion. The bash-completion package was already installed.
    – Geekman
    Nov 26 '20 at 1:14

I found that on mine this was happening because bash-completion was not installed for some reason. So this fixed it (12.04):

sudo apt-get install bash-completion
  • 1
    The change will not take effect immediately after installing the package. The shell needs to be restarted, or its settings reloaded, for the new tab-completions to be loaded. Feb 17 '15 at 19:50
  • 1
    do ". ~/.bashrc" it is "<DOT><SPACE><tilde><forwad-slash><DOT><bashrc>" This will reload the config file. No need to restart the shell. Feb 23 '16 at 10:50

I had the same problem after installing Ubuntu 15.10.
Reinstalling bash-completion worked for me :

sudo apt-get install --reinstall bash-completion
  • 1
    This worked for me in Debian Jessie 8.4 as well. May 16 '16 at 9:04

In Ubuntu it started to irritate me too, so I just did (in terminal):

gksu gedit /etc/bash.bashrc

and changed

# enable bash completion in interactive shells
#if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ] && ! shopt -oq posix; then
#    . /etc/bash_completion


# enable bash completion in interactive shells
if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ] && ! shopt -oq posix; then
    . /etc/bash_completion

now it works like I want it to again... HTH :)

It is different from the example Paul Hänsch gave, mine came from ubuntu 12.04. I am not sure what Pauls version would do exactly, maybe he could elaborate on that a bit?


Another issue can be a failed apt-get update. After removing the wrong sources, and running apt-get update, I got my autocomplete restored.

  • Indeed, none of the other answers solved this problem for me, but this one did for Ubuntu 14.04.2 LTS Raspberry version. Thanks you for sharing. Jun 9 '15 at 1:52

Open a Terminal and

sudo apt-get install bash-completion

After I installed bash-completion, this issue is fixed in my side.


this happens to me when either:

  1. I use my university pc where I can't use the autocomplete because am not a super user.

  2. The ppa of the package that you are trying to download is not in your source.list. So the terminal can't recognize the package that you are trying to download.

NOTE: This may not apply to everyone. Am just sharing my experience

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.