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Zsh vs Bash: What's the Difference?

shell, zsh, bash2 min read

What is a Shell?

A shell is a command-line interface that allows users to interact with their operating system. It is a program that takes user input and sends it to the operating system to be executed. Two of the most popular shells in use today are Zsh and Bash. In this post, we will discuss the differences between these two shells and when you should choose one over the other.

What is Zsh?

Zsh (Z shell) is an extended version of the Bash shell with additional features and improvements. It was developed in the 1990s and is now the default shell for many operating systems, including macOS. Zsh has many features that make it more user-friendly than Bash, such as tab completion and syntax highlighting.

What is Bash?

Bash (Bourne-Again SHell) is the default shell for most Linux distributions and macOS. It was developed in the 1980s as a free software replacement for the original Bourne shell (sh). Bash has a large number of built-in features and utilities that make it a powerful tool for developers and system administrators.

Differences between Zsh and Bash

There are several differences between Zsh and Bash. Here are some of the key differences:

Tab completion

Zsh provides more advanced tab completion features than Bash. For example, Zsh can autocomplete file names based on the context, such as completing only executable files when the user types ./.

Syntax highlighting

Zsh has built-in syntax highlighting that makes it easier to read and write code. Bash does not have this feature.

Startup time

Zsh has a longer startup time than Bash. This is because Zsh loads more modules and plugins than Bash by default.


Bash is more widely used than Zsh and is more compatible with many scripts and tools. This is because many scripts and tools are written with Bash in mind.

When to Choose Zsh over Bash

Zsh is a good choice for developers and power users who want a more user-friendly and customizable shell. If you work with complex command-line tasks and need advanced tab completion and syntax highlighting features, then Zsh is the way to go.

When to Choose Bash over Zsh

Bash is a good choice for system administrators and users who need a shell that is widely supported and compatible with many scripts and tools. If you work with scripts and tools that are written specifically for Bash, then it is best to use Bash to ensure compatibility.


Both Zsh and Bash are powerful shells that offer unique features and advantages. Ultimately, the choice between the two depends on your personal preference and the specific use case. If you need a user-friendly and customizable shell, then Zsh is the way to go. If you need a widely supported and compatible shell, then Bash is the better choice.

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