The new apt command, present in Ubuntu since 14.04, seems to be a really useful intersection of functionality between apt-get and apt-cache but the current version of bash-completion doesn't know about it... Which makes it a lot harder to use.

Is there a quick way to add this functionality to Bash to make the apt command easy to use?


2 Answers 2


This is an omission in the bash-complete package, not apt. It just seems a completion doesn't exist yet, so I've scrapped together what I can for the apt command (it's not the best documented command that's ever existed!)

The following is an adaptation from the existing apt-get completion (with elements stripped out and bits added from apt-cache's completion). Run sudoedit /usr/share/bash-completion/completions/apt and paste in the following:

# Debian apt(8) completion                             -*- shell-script -*-

    local cur prev words cword
    _init_completion || return

    local special i
    for (( i=0; i < ${#words[@]}-1; i++ )); do
        if [[ ${words[i]} == @(list|search|show|update|install|remove|upgrade|full-upgrade|edit-sources|dist-upgrade|purge) ]]; then

    if [[ -n $special ]]; then
        case $special in
                if [[ -f /etc/debian_version ]]; then
                    # Debian system
                    COMPREPLY=( $( \
                        _xfunc dpkg _comp_dpkg_installed_packages $cur ) )
                    # assume RPM based
                    _xfunc rpm _rpm_installed_packages
                return 0
                COMPREPLY=( $( apt-cache --no-generate pkgnames "$cur" \
                    2> /dev/null ) )
                return 0

    case $prev in
             return 0
             COMPREPLY=( $( apt-cache policy | \
                 command grep "release.o=Debian,a=$cur" | \
                 sed -e "s/.*a=\(\w*\).*/\1/" | uniq 2> /dev/null) )
             return 0

    if [[ "$cur" == -* ]]; then
        COMPREPLY=( $( compgen -W '-d -f -h -v -m -q -s -y -u -t -b -c -o
            --download-only --fix-broken --help --version --ignore-missing
            --fix-missing --no-download --quiet --simulate --just-print
            --dry-run --recon --no-act --yes --assume-yes --show-upgraded
            --only-source --compile --build --ignore-hold --target-release
            --no-upgrade --force-yes --print-uris --purge --reinstall
            --list-cleanup --default-release --trivial-only --no-remove
            --diff-only --no-install-recommends --tar-only --config-file
            --option --auto-remove' -- "$cur" ) )
        COMPREPLY=( $( compgen -W 'list search show update install 
            remove upgrade full-upgrade edit-sources dist-upgrade 
            purge' -- "$cur" ) )

    return 0
} &&
complete -F _apt apt

# ex: ts=4 sw=4 et filetype=sh

Then run source ~/.bashrc to load the completion. Then apt show firef + Tab should complete.

This may offer you options that just don't exist any more. I think I've nailed the main commands (which might change in time) but at the very least it'll help you with the common commands: list search show update install remove upgrade full-upgrade edit-sources dist-upgrade purge.

Obviously, if a bash-completion maintainer wants to nab the above, you're welcome to it under GPL (though I'd be tempted to start from fresh once apt is documented!)

  • 8
    Open a bug and submit this as a patch! Apr 10, 2014 at 18:04
  • Do you have any idea on how to use this answer with zsh? Jun 11, 2014 at 10:43
  • any word on where to "me too" this on launchpad?
    – Mateo
    May 2, 2015 at 17:14

Why not use the original bash-completion?

Try this script. It will download and install the bash-completion on ~/tmp/bash-completion.

echo -en "\e]2;Updating bash completion...\a"


if [ ! -d "$katalog" ]; then
   mkdir -p $katalog
   cd $katalog
   cd ..
   git clone git://git.debian.org/git/bash-completion/bash-completion.git
   cd $katalog
   autoreconf -i
   sudo make install
   cd $katalog
   if [ `git log --pretty=%H ...refs/heads/master^` != `git ls-remote origin -h refs/heads/master |cut -f1` ]; then
      git pull
      autoreconf -i
      sudo make install
      echo "Bash-completion is already up to date!"

You start using it with command . ~/tmp/bash-completion/bash_completion.sh, which can be put into ~/.bashrc file, or - better yet - symlink it into some file in the /etc/profile.d/ directory. Uninstall the original bash-completion, so you wouldn't end up loading both at the same time.

  • I hadn't thought of this but they also don't seem to have an apt completion yet
    – Oli
    Apr 11, 2014 at 11:13
  • 1
    @Oli Well, I guess they do. There are files aptitude, apt-get and apt-cache. What exactly do you mean by apt completion? Apr 11, 2014 at 20:57
  • 3
    Per my opening question, apt is a brand new(ish) command that's in Trusty. It has some of apt-get, some of apt-cache... All with a little bit of extra flourish in one place.
    – Oli
    Apr 14, 2014 at 17:50
  • @Oli Oh, you are right! I didn't know about it. And - bash-completion doesn't support it out of the box so far. Fortunately it wouldn't be that difficult to write a plugin, so you can expect one soon. Chances are, that using my script you would be among the first, who can use it. Apr 14, 2014 at 19:05

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