Bash Complete

New in version 2.0.

As of Click 2.0, there is built-in support for Bash completion for any Click script. There are certain restrictions on when this completion is available, but for the most part it should just work.


Bash completion is only available if a script has been installed properly, and not executed through the python command. For information about how to do that, see Setuptools Integration. Click currently only supports completion for Bash and Zsh.

What it Completes

Generally, the Bash completion support will complete subcommands, options and any option or argument values where the type is click.Choice. Subcommands and choices are always listed whereas options only if at least a dash has been provided. Example:

$ repo <TAB><TAB>
clone    commit   copy     delete   setuser
$ repo clone -<TAB><TAB>
--deep     --help     --rev      --shallow  -r

Additionally, custom suggestions can be provided for arguments and options with the autocompletion parameter. autocompletion should a callback function that returns a list of strings. This is useful when the suggestions need to be dynamically generated at bash completion time. The callback function will be passed 3 keyword arguments:

  • ctx - The current click context.

  • args - The list of arguments passed in.

  • incomplete - The partial word that is being completed, as a string. May be an empty string '' if no characters have been entered yet.

Here is an example of using a callback function to generate dynamic suggestions:

import os

def get_env_vars(ctx, args, incomplete):
    return [k for k in os.environ.keys() if incomplete in k]

@click.argument("envvar", type=click.STRING, autocompletion=get_env_vars)
def cmd1(envvar):
    click.echo('Environment variable: %s' % envvar)
    click.echo('Value: %s' % os.environ[envvar])

Completion help strings (ZSH only)

ZSH supports showing documentation strings for completions. These are taken from the help parameters of options and subcommands. For dynamically generated completions a help string can be provided by returning a tuple instead of a string. The first element of the tuple is the completion and the second is the help string to display.

Here is an example of using a callback function to generate dynamic suggestions with help strings:

import os

def get_colors(ctx, args, incomplete):
    colors = [('red', 'help string for the color red'),
              ('blue', 'help string for the color blue'),
              ('green', 'help string for the color green')]
    return [c for c in colors if incomplete in c[0]]

@click.argument("color", type=click.STRING, autocompletion=get_colors)
def cmd1(color):
    click.echo('Chosen color is %s' % color)


In order to activate Bash completion, you need to inform Bash that completion is available for your script, and how. Any Click application automatically provides support for that. The general way this works is through a magic environment variable called _<PROG_NAME>_COMPLETE, where <PROG_NAME> is your application executable name in uppercase with dashes replaced by underscores.

If your tool is called foo-bar, then the magic variable is called _FOO_BAR_COMPLETE. By exporting it with the source value it will spit out the activation script which can be trivially activated.

For instance, to enable Bash completion for your foo-bar script, this is what you would need to put into your .bashrc:

eval "$(_FOO_BAR_COMPLETE=source foo-bar)"

For zsh users add this to your .zshrc:

eval "$(_FOO_BAR_COMPLETE=source_zsh foo-bar)"

From this point onwards, your script will have autocompletion enabled.

Activation Script

The above activation example will always invoke your application on startup. This might be slowing down the shell activation time significantly if you have many applications. Alternatively, you could also ship a file with the contents of that, which is what Git and other systems are doing.

This can be easily accomplished:

_FOO_BAR_COMPLETE=source foo-bar >

For zsh:

_FOO_BAR_COMPLETE=source_zsh foo-bar >

And then you would put this into your .bashrc or .zshrc instead:

. /path/to/