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Ax Zsh

Modular configuration system for the Z shell (ZSH)

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AX-ZSH: Alex' Modular ZSH Configuration

AX-ZSH is a modular configuration system for the Z shell (ZSH). It provides sane defaults and is extendable by plugins.

AX-ZSH integrates well with Powerlevel10k and other extensions, even plugins of OhMyZsh, see below.


To install AX-ZSH, either download a source archive or use Git to clone it. Afterwards use the script inside of the source directory to set up the ~/.axzsh directory.

The homepage of AX-ZSH can be found at GitHub:


  • ZSH – obviously ;-)
  • Git (optional but recommended!)

Installing AX-ZSH is a two-step process:

  1. Clone or copy the source files into ~/.axzsh,
  2. Run the ~/.axzsh/ script.

The script creates symbolic links for ~/.zprofile, ~/.zshrc, ~/.zlogin, and ~/.zlogout (don't worry, already existing files are backed up).

Then close all running ZSH sessions and restart them to activate AX-ZSH. And maybe change your default shell to ZSH if you haven't already?

For example like this:

# Set new default shell
chsh -s $(command -v zsh)

# Replace running shell with a ZSH login shell
exec $(command -v zsh) -l

Installation using Git

When using Git, the preferred method, it is best to directly clone the AX-ZSH repository into the ~/.axzsh directory and call from this location:

git clone ~/.axzsh

Installation without Git

Note: If you do not install AX-ZSH with Git, you will not be able to upgrade itself afterwards with the integrated axzsh upgrade command! Therefore this method is not recommended for normal use!

curl -Lo
mv ax-zsh-master ~/.axzsh


When you used Git to install AX-ZSH (and/or plugins), you can use the axzshctl command to upgrade AX-ZSH itself and external plugins like this:

axzshctl upgrade


AX-ZSH comes with a hopefully sane default configuration and can be extended using plugins. Different types of plugins are supported:

  • Plugins shipped with AX-ZSH.
  • Themes shipped with AX-ZSH.
  • 3rd-party plugins:
  • installed manually into $AXZSH/custom_plugins
  • stand-alone plugins stored on GitHub
  • plugins of OhMyZsh from its GitHub repository
  • 3rd-party themes:
  • installed manually into $AXZSH/custom_themes
  • some stand-alone themes stored on GitHub

Check whether all locally available "useful" plug-ins are activated

Most plugins can be enabled even when the commands they work with aren't available and won't do any harm. But to keep ZSH startup times low, you should only enable plugins that are useable on your local system and which you actually plan to use.

You can use the following command to let AX-ZSH scan the status of all locally available plugins:

axzshctl check-plugins

It will summarize the status of all enabled plugins, and suggest to enable plugins which seem to make sense on the system and to disable enabled plugins that seem not to be supported (for example because of missing dependencies).

List enabled plugins

Run the following command to list all currently enabled plugins:

axzshctl list-enabled

Enable plugins

AX-ZSH comes with a sane "core ZSH configuration", but it can show its true strengths when enabling additional plugins for additional tools and commands that are available on your system and you want to use.

Different types of plugins are supported (see the introduction to the section "usage" above) which are differentiated by their identifier:

You can enable one or more plugins like this:

axzshctl enable-plugin <identifier> [<identifier> […]]

Hint: Tab-completion works for sub-commands and already locally available plugin names!

Some examples:

# Enable some plugins bundled with AX-ZSH:
axzshctl enable-plugin editor_select git ssh_autoadd

# Enable the Powerlevel10k "theme plugin" from GitHub, see
# <>:
axzshctl enable-plugin romkatv/powerlevel10k

# Enable the "fast-syntax-highlighting" plugin from GitHub, see
# <>:
axzshctl enable-plugin zdharma-continuum/fast-syntax-highlighting

# Enable the Git and tmux plugins of OhMyZsh:
axzshctl enable-plugin @ohmyzsh/git @ohmyzsh/tmux

Custom local plugins

You can link custom plugins stored in arbitrary directories using axzshctl by specifying the complete path name. Or you can place additional plugins into the $AXZSH/custom_plugins folder which is searched by the axzshctl tool by default.

In addition you can set the AXZSH_PLUGIN_D variable (and ZSH_CUSTOM like OhMyZsh) to specify additional plugin search directories.

Disable plugins

Run the following command to disable a currently enabled plugin:

axzshctl disable-plugin <identifier> [<identifier> […]]

Hint: Tab-completion works for sub-commands and plugin names!

Update plugin cache

AX-ZSH uses a "plugin cache" to speedup ZSH start times. This cache is automatically updated when using the axzshctl sub-commands, for example when enabling or disabling plugins, or when upgrading the AX-ZSH installation and all plugins.

But you have to update the cache when manually installing plugins or during development of a own local plugin after updating its code!

Run the following command to update the AX-ZSH cache:

axzshctl update-caches

Other axzshctl sub-commands

Please run axzshctl --help to get a full list of a available sub-commands:

axzshctl --help

Integration with other projects


AX-ZSH supports Powerlevel10k out of the box, you just have to install it as a plugin:

axzshctl enable-plugin romkatv/powerlevel10k

Hint: Once the Powerlevel10k plugin theme is installed, you can use the regular axzshctl set-theme command to enable it, like for any other installed theme: axzshctl set-theme powerlevel10k.

AX-ZSH & local ZSH configuration

Don't modify ~/.zprofile, ~/.zshrc, ~/.zlogin, or ~/.zlogout! These are links to "AX-ZSH"-private files that can become overwritten when updating.

You can use the following files for local ZSH configuration:

  1. AX-ZSH doesn't use ~/.zshenv in any way. So you can use this file for your own purposes (for example, to set up some environment variables that AX-ZSH relies on).

  2. AX-ZSH reads the optional files ~/.zprofile.local, ~/.zshrc.local, ~/.zlogin.local, and ~/.zlogout.local after its own core initialization files when present.

Environment variables

Expected to be already set:

  • HOME

Validated and/or set up by core plugins:

  • AXZSH – AX-ZSH installation directory
  • HOST
  • HOSTNAME (same as HOST, deprecated)
  • PS1
  • TERM
  • TMPDIR (set and always ends with a "/")

AX-ZSH Copyright (c) 2015-2021 Alexander Barton