Bash History: Correct / Repeat The Last Command With a Substitution

by on August 12, 2012 · 5 comments· LAST UPDATED August 12, 2012

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I often type the wrong command as follows under Linux bash shell:
rsync -av dir1 user@server1.cyberciti.biz:/path/to/dir1
OR
cp -av file1*.txt file2*.txt /path/to/dest

I need to correct those command as follows:

rsync -av dir5 user@server1.cyberciti.biz:/path/to/dir1
cp -av delta1*.txt delta2*.txt /path/to/dest

How do I replace dir1 with dir5 or file with delta and repeat the last command under bash shell?

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy
Root privilegesNo
Requirementsbash shell

The bash shell supports both history search and replace operations. The bash (and many other modern) shell provides access to the command history, the list of commands previously typed. The bash shell supports a history expansion feature found in other shell such as csh.

Syntax: Bash history search and replace the command args

The syntax is as follows for quick substitution and repeat the last command, replacing word1 with word2:

 
^WORD1^WORD2^
 

OR

 
!!:s/WORD1/WORD2
 

OR

 
!!:gs/WORD1/WORD2
 

In this example, I'm trying to copy a file called youtube-demo-andriod-app-part1.avi to /backup directory
$ cp youtube-demo-andriod-app-part-102.avi /backup/
To repeat the last command with a substitution:
$ ^102^1002^
OR
$ !!:s/102/1002
Sample outputs:

cp youtube-demo-andriod-app-part-1002.avi /backup/

Please note that this substitutes only applies to the first occurrence. For example:
$ cp -av file1*.txt file2*.txt /path/to/dest
Replace file1 and file2 with delta1 and delta2, enter:
!!:gs/file/delta
Sample outputs:

cp -av delta1*.txt delta2*.txt /path/to/dest

You can also repeat the previous substitution with &:
cp -av file1*.txt file2*.txt /path/to/dest
!!:gs/file/delta-&/

Sample outputs:

cp -av delta-file1*.txt delta-file2*.txt /path/to/dest
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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Zak August 13, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Very useful. Love it!

Reply

2 Marin August 16, 2012 at 3:30 am

I love this kind of tricks, where can I get more of them ?

Thank you!

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3 GeneRickyShaw August 24, 2012 at 4:52 am

Cool! Love it!

Reply

4 loadedmind September 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Good stuff. Thanks for sharing!

Don’t forget if it’s something as simple as replacing the first/last command, you can type CTRL+A to go to the beginning of the line and DEL the characters. CTRL+E goes to the end of the line. CTRL+W removes the last word. CTRL+U removes everything to the left of the cursor.

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5 kingfong October 4, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Why not just enter the following line into your .bash_profile?

set -o vi

Then you can edit history commands on the command line using vi (or emacs if you prefer).

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