Elvish is an (not POSIX compattible) shell, ie. an alternative to bash etc. Its main attraction is a clean and readable syntax, and a closer integration with structural data, JSON.

It also integrates several popular shell extensions in several modes. (Actually, it provides its own implementation).

Autojump is a way quickly navigate recently and frequently used directories. This is implemented in the Location mode or Ctrl-L.

FZF provides interactive fuzzy search for history and completion. This is used for various modes.

ranger is a file manager, directory browser. This is implemented as a file and directory picker in Navigation mode or Ctrl-N.


There are fedora packages, but the language is still being updated frequently; best install from git.


There is the elvish package manager - epm. But I am not using any packages, except for the built-in ones, for now.

Write code


Highlighting for vim is provided by dmix/elvish.vim

Language server

The elvish shell executable can also be run as a language server:

elvish -lsp


This being a scripting langauge, small scripts (with the .elv extension) can be run without installation.

Elvish plugins directly extending the language are written in Go, and follow the Go packaging guidelines.

Interactive use

Configuration - rc.elv

Use a smallish part of the screen for completion and history

set edit:max-height = 10

Hide the righthand prompt

set edit:rprompt = (constantly '')

Use the external ls command with colors

fn ls {|@a| e:ls --color $@a }

Smart-case and subsequence matching

fn match {|seed|
    var inputs = [(all)]
    var results = []
    for matcher [$edit:match-prefix~ $edit:match-substr~ $edit:match-subseq~] {
        set results = [(put $@inputs | $matcher &smart-case $seed)]
        if (or $@results) {
            put $@results
    put $@results

set edit:completion:matcher[''] = $match~


Insert mode : use readline like keybindings

use readline-binding
set edit:insert:binding[Ctrl-l] = $edit:clear~
set edit:insert:binding[Ctrl-/] = $edit:location:start~
set edit:insert:binding[Ctrl-n] = $edit:navigation:start~
set edit:insert:binding['Ctrl-['] = $edit:command:start~

Command mode : a minimal vi-like normal mode started by pressing escape in insert mode

set edit:command:binding['Enter'] = $edit:smart-enter~
set edit:command:binding[a] = { $edit:move-dot-right~ ; $edit:close-mode~ }
set edit:command:binding[A] = { $edit:move-dot-eol~ ; $edit:close-mode~ }

Completion mode : started by tab in insert mode

set edit:completion:binding = ( $edit:binding-table~ [
  &Tab=   $edit:completion:right~
  &S-Tab= $edit:completion:left~
  &' '=   $edit:completion:accept~
  &Enter= $edit:completion:accept~

Navigation mode : press Ctrl-n

set edit:navigation:binding[Enter]  = $edit:navigation:insert-selected-and-quit~
set edit:navigation:binding[Ctrl-k]  = $edit:navigation:insert-selected~
set edit:navigation:binding[Ctrl-h] = $edit:navigation:left~
set edit:navigation:binding[Ctrl-l] = $edit:navigation:right~

History mode : press Ctrl-r

set edit:history:binding[Ctrl-n] = $edit:history:down~  # dont enter navigation mode from history

Previous command mode : press Alt-,

Issues - vim

Being not POSIX compliant, vim and its plugins do break at some points.

The first issue I ran into was that elvish requires a space before the output redirection (ie. ./program > output.txt), and Bash doesnt. For vim and netrw, this can be fixed by setting the shell redirection variable (note the space at the end):

set shellredir=\ \>\ 

However, more plugins break in unexpected ways. Some careful reading of the documentation offers an easy way out:

set shell=/usr/bin/sh
nmap <C-z> :terminal /home/jiska/go/bin/elvish<CR>

just have vim use a POSIX compliant shell by default, and explicitly use elvish when opening an interactive terminal.

Issues - elvish


At the moment, there is no way to set the colors for the user interface and messages. On the dark colorscheme the messages are unreadable. As a work-around, I hardcoded better colors in the elvish runtime.


There is nothing similar to the bash history command to write the shell’s history to a file.

UPDATE: I found the $edit:command-history~ builtin function.


Tab completion is not perfect yet; tilde expansion prevents automatic selection of single-match completions and starts the completion mode, instead of immediately completing.

UPDATE: carapace provides completion for many commands, distilled from manpages. It has different issues though: it breaks filename completion.

To do

As a shell, I’m quite happy with the status so far. I have not used it much yet as a scripting and programming language. If I start programming in elvish, I would like to fix:

  • Linting
  • Logging
  • Debugging
  • Testing
  • Profiling