I have this on the command line:

ln -sf $PWD/wine-

and then I hit Tab to complete the filename. In earlier versions of Ubuntu, this worked just fine to complete the wine- filename (and as a side-effect $PWD would be expanded at that time). But now it turns it in to

ln -sf \$PWD/wine-

which isn't what I meant at all and doesn't complete anything as the file does not literally start with $.

How do I get completion back to the less broken behaviour?

set tells me these are my current settings:

  • 3
    If you are affected by this bug please consider voting under the following url (requires login): bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/bash/+bug/778627/… – cripton May 24 '12 at 17:03
  • 1
    "Asked 8 years, 6 months ago". So many years of unintelligent TAB completion. – David Tonhofer May 14 '20 at 9:44
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    How can this still be a there in 2020? If it understands that it's a path variable so that it expands the filename (which it does for me) it should understand to not escape the $ that makes it a path variable... – Jonatan Öström Jun 29 '20 at 22:06
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    As of August 2020, this bug still exists in Ubuntu 20.04, bash 5.0-6ubuntu1.1. – Alish Aug 23 '20 at 5:21

I've found that bash versions >= 4.2.29 have a new direxpand shopt setting. (See man docs/bash.1 if you check out a new bash, or see bash.1 from line 8951)

If one uses Quantal Quetzal 12.10 or otherwise gets hold of (or checks out and builds) a new bash, then:

shopt -s direxpand

Gives me the behavior I want, need and love.

Workaround: In the meantime, Ctrl+Alt+E instead of Tab does what I want too. But is awkward.

BTW, There are several threads called "bash tab variable expansion question?" in gnu.bash.bug. From reading them, I found the info here.

  • 2
    a version of bash with direxpand is making its way into Precise (12.04): See bugs.launchpad.net/bugs/778627 – keturn Mar 31 '13 at 19:48
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    Would be even better if I didn't have my huge path expanded and could continue using an un-escaped variable with completion. – jozxyqk Aug 28 '14 at 6:17
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    @jozxyqk Did you ever find a way to get that no-path-expansion feature? – Ungeheuer Apr 8 '19 at 16:40
  • @Ungeheuer I'm currently using bash 4.4.19 on Ubuntu 18.04 and it just works. Not sure when this changed. – jozxyqk Apr 26 '19 at 22:12
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    user3080602's answer below worked for me - shopt -u progcomp solves the issue without expanding the variable to it's value – Gilthans Nov 27 '19 at 14:14
shopt -u progcomp

This fixed it for me, it also removed a lot of "intelligent" completion options which I have found get in the way by not completing files that I know are there because the stupid thing thinks I don't want them as arguments to a particular command. ARRRGH

  • 1
    This did it for me! It doesn't escape the variable, nor does it expand it. Thanks! – Gilthans Nov 27 '19 at 14:12
  • This (u)nsets the shell option progcomp. See here for more info. – user643722 May 28 '20 at 10:48
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    This works for the paths, but for example when using make seeing the make-targets is quite convenient, which is lost with this setting. – Jonatan Öström Jun 29 '20 at 22:07

search _filedir() in the top level bash_completion script and change the line

compopt -o filenames 2>/dev/null


compopt -o filenames -o noquote 2>/dev/null
  • 1
    In 12.04 GNU bash, version 4.2.25 this suggestion gives the error: compopt: noquote: invalid option name – arielf Nov 14 '15 at 0:28
  • To avoid changing the root-owned script, I'm using this in my .bash_profile: eval $(type -a _filedir | tail -n +2 | sed 's/compopt -o filenames 2>/compopt -o filenames -o noquote 2>/') – Jonathan Wakely Dec 12 '19 at 11:50

For those (like me) with 12.04 can use ~+ instead of $PWD...

for example :

cd /bin
echo ~+/ls

On GNU bash, version 4.2.46(2)-release, the options complete_fullquote and noquote aren't available. The cdable_vars option works on cd only; direxpand expands the variable.

What worked best for me was:

shopt -u progcomp

It worked on other commands, besides cd, preserving the variables instead of expanding them.


Even with the updated bash, I was finding $ still gets escaped.

  • Removing the bash-completion (1:2.1-3.fc20) package
  • or simply not sourcing /etc/bashrc from ~/.bashrc seemed to fix it.

I suspect I'll now be missing some features I'm normally used to but haven't noticed any yet.

Alternative (at least for Fedora 26), add export BASH_COMPLETION_VERSINFO=0 before sourcing /etc/bashrc. This makes the problematic script think its already been sourced.


I encountered the same problem with Bash in Cygwin. I fixed my problem by setting the following option.

shopt -s cdable_vars



Disabling the shell option 'complete_fullquote' does the job:

shopt -u complete_fullquote
  • $ shopt -u complete_fullquote -bash: shopt: complete_fullquote: invalid shell option name – Anton Gorev Sep 5 '19 at 20:34
  • The option is available for me in bash v5.0.17, but setting it results in undesirable behavior. When I tab-complete "vim ~/.ba" it adds a backslash like "vim \~/.bashrc", which seems similar to the issue OP had in the question. – nishanthshanmugham Sep 9 '20 at 12:14

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