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Previous: 14.8 Quick cds with Aliases Chapter 14
Moving Around in a Hurry
Next: 14.10 Variables Help You Find Directories and Files

14.9 cd by Directory Initials

Here's a handy shell function called c for people who cd all over the filesystem. (I first saw Marc Brumlik's posting of it on Usenet years ago, as a C shell alias. He and I have both made some changes to it since then.) This function is great for shells that don't have filename completion ( 9.8 ) . This function works a bit like filename completion, but it's faster because the "initials" only match directories - and you don't have to press TAB or ESC after each part of the pathname. Instead, you just type the initials (first letter, or more) of each directory in the pathname. Start at the root directory. Put a dot ( . ) after each part.

Here are three examples. The first one shows that there's no subdirectory of root whose name starts with q . The second one matches the directory /usr/include/hsfs and cd s there:


c q.

c: no match for /q*/.

c u.i.h.


In the next example, trying to change to /usr/include/pascal , the abbreviations aren't unique the first time. The function shows me all the matches; the second time, I add another letter ("a") to make the name unique:


c u.i.p.

c: too many matches for u.i.p.:
/usr/include/pascal/. /usr/include/pixrect/. /usr/include/protocols/.

c u.i.pa.


The Bourne shell function is straightforward; it's shown below. The C shell alias needs some trickery, and there are two versions of it on the Power Tools disk: one if you already have an alias for cd and another if you don't. (The C shell if ( 47.3 ) used in the c alias won't work with a cd alias. Although the csh manual page admits it won't work, I'd call that another C shell bug ( 47.2 ) .)




   # Delete dots.  Surround every letter with "/" and "*".
   # Add a final "/." to be sure this only matches a directory:
   dirpat="`echo $dir | sed 's/\([^.]*\)\./\/\1*/g'`/."

   # In case $dirpat is empty, set dummy "x" then shift it away:
   set x $dirpat; shift

   # Do the cd if we got one match, else print error:
   if [ "$1" = "$dirpat" ]; then
      # pattern didn't match (shell didn't expand it)
      echo "c: no match for $dirpat" 1>&2
   elif [ $# = 1 ]; then
      echo "$1"
      cd "$1"
      echo "c: too many matches for $dir:" 1>&2
      ls -d "$@"

   unset dir dirpat

The function starts by building a wildcard pattern to match the directory initials. For example, if you type c u.i.h. , sed makes the pattern /u*/i*/h*/. in $dirpat . Next, the shell expands the wildcards onto its command-line parameters; the trailing dot makes sure the pattern only matches a directory (as in article 21.12 ). If the Bourne shell can't match a wildcard pattern, it leaves the pattern unchanged; the first if test spots that. If there was just one match, there'll be one command-line parameter left, and the shell cd s there. Otherwise, there were too many matches; the function shows them so you can make your pattern longer and more specific.

- JP

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