Enable tab-completion in Python Shell

  1. Create the file ~/.pyrc with the following content:

    $ cat .pyrc
    # ~/.pyrc
    # enable syntax completion
        import readline
    except ImportError:
        print "Module readline not available."
        import rlcompleter
        readline.parse_and_bind("tab: complete")

If you are only using it on Linux, this try is not really necessary. I put it around the import readline, as it uses the GNU readline library, which may have some issues outside of Linux.

  1. Export the variable read every time a Python shell is opened (use full path with /home/user):

    julio@julio-acer ~> export PYTHONSTARTUP="/home/julio/.pyrc"
  2. Insert the same line in the .bashrc and .zshrc files, so the variable is always initialized. In csh, variable assignment is different. Add the following line to ~/.cshrc:

    setenv PYTHONSTARTUP ~/.pythonrc"
  3. Ready! Press the TAB key to display the list of possible completions:

    $ python
    Python 3.2.2 (default, Sep  5 2011, 04:52:19)
    [GCC 4.6.1 20110819 (prerelease)] on linux2
    Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
    >>> import re
    >>> re.
    re.A                  re.__eq__(            re._compile(
    re.ASCII              re.__file__           re._compile_repl(
    re.DEBUG              re.__format__(        re._compile_typed(
    re.DOTALL             re.__ge__(            re._expand(
    re.I                  re.__getattribute__(  re._pattern_type(
    re.IGNORECASE         re.__gt__(            re._pickle(
    re.L                  re.__hash__(          re._subx(
    re.LOCALE             re.__init__(          re.compile(
    re.M                  re.__le__(            re.copyreg
    re.MULTILINE          re.__lt__(            re.error(
    re.S                  re.__name__           re.escape(
    re.Scanner(           re.__ne__(            re.findall(
    re.T                  re.__new__(           re.finditer(
    re.TEMPLATE           re.__package__        re.functools
    re.U                  re.__reduce__(        re.match(
    re.UNICODE            re.__reduce_ex__(     re.purge(
    re.VERBOSE            re.__repr__(          re.search(
    re.X                  re.__setattr__(       re.split(
    re.__all__            re.__sizeof__(        re.sre_compile
    re.__cached__         re.__str__(           re.sre_parse
    re.__class__(         re.__subclasshook__(  re.sub(
    re.__delattr__(       re.__version__        re.subn(
    re.__dict__           re._alphanum_bytes    re.sys
    re.__doc__            re._alphanum_str      re.template(


There are enhanced Python Shells, such as iPython. It is quite simple, interactive, and contains several interesting features, including autocompletion.

The official wiki suggests some others.

Julio Batista Silva
Julio Batista Silva
Data Engineer

I’m a computer engineer passionate about science, technology, photography, and languages. Currently working as a Data Engineer in Germany.

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