ZSH – making shells fun

ZSH is a great looking shell that integrates with Git, Docker and other tools using plugins.

Installing ZSH in Ubuntu or Linux Mint

Install ZSH by running the following in your terminal

sudo apt update
sudo apt install zsh

Check ZSH by running zsh --version and checking that a version is shown.

Installing ZSH on Mac

Install Homebrew, then install iTerm2, which allows for further customisation.

brew cask install iterm2

After running iTerm2, install ZSH with

brew install zsh

ZSH first run

Run ZSH with

and you’ll be greated by the first run options. Initialise with the default settings by entering option 2. We’ll customise ZSH in the next step.

Install Oh My Zsh!

Oh My Zsh! is a framework for managing your ZSH configuration, and it comes with a lot of helpful functions, helpers, plugins, and themes.

To install Oh My Zsh!, type:

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/ohmyzsh/ohmyzsh/master/tools/install.sh)"

Oh My Zsh! will offer to change the default shell to ZSH, answer Y, you’ll like it.

Customising Zsh

Install Powerline Fonts

The Agnoster theme you want to use requires a Powerline-patched font for the special characters to show correctly. Install the fonts with

sudo apt-get install fonts-powerline

Set up the Agnoster theme

Run nano ~/.zshrc to open the Oh My Zsh! config file, then find the ZSH_THEME line and change it to


Add plugins for Git, Docker and Ubuntu by changing the plugin= line to

plugins=(git docker ubuntu)

Save the changes. If you want to see the effect straight away, run source ~/.zshrc. Change into a directory with a Git repo to see the plugin effect.

Customise your profile

You may have had items in your ~/.profile or ~/.bashrc file, adding items to your path in BASH. Check this file and transfer any entries that you need to the ~/.zshrc file to maintain these setting in ZSH.

For NVM (Node Version Manager) this might be

export NVM_DIR="$HOME/.nvm"
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/nvm.sh" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/nvm.sh" # This loads nvm
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/bash_completion" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/bash_completion" # This loads nvm bash_completion

For Go this might be

export PATH=/usr/local/go/bin:$HOME/go/bin:$PATH

If you are running ZSH and find something doesn’t work as expected, run /bin/bash to get back to the BASH shell.