I have two systems with debian squeeze installed. On one system when I type:

service <TAB> 

it shows me all available service (from /etc/init.d)

on the other system it shows me all files from the current directory. Does anyone know which setting changes that behaviour ?


The file /etc/bash_completion.d/service was missing. I copied it from the machine where it is working. If I type complete -p | grep service it shows me:

complete -F _service service

On the machine where it is not working that command shows me nothing. I executed complete -F _service service in the command line, after that, the command service <TAB> shows me:

service -su: completion: function `_service' not found

this function is defined in the service file I recently copied, for some reasons it can't be found ...

  • Do you have /etc/bash_completion.d/service file present? – Janne Pikkarainen Jun 28 '12 at 14:28
  • The file wasn't there, I've added it, but it's still not working. I've seen with complete -p I can display all bindings, on the machine where it is working it shows me a lot of binding, where it's not working it displays nothing. I think it doesn't bind for some reason the files in /etc/bash_completion.d ... – markus Sep 7 '12 at 7:55

First of all check if bash-completion is installed run:

 $ dpkg -l bash-completion | tail -1

it should output something like:

ii  bash-completion  1:1.3-1  programmable completion for the bash shell

If output is empty thus install it with:

aptitude install bash-completion

Then check if it is enabled:

 $ grep -A 2 bash_completion ~/.bashrc /etc/bash.bashrc

Should output something like

~/.bashrc:if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
~/.bashrc:    . /etc/bash_completion

If nothing like this or it is commented (has # after ~/.bashrc:) then add/uncomment

if [ -f /etc/bash_completion ]; then
    . /etc/bash_completion

to ~/.bashrc and reread it with

. ~/.bashrc

After that it should work fine.

  • 1
    bash completion works on both machines, but different. if I type service <TAB> it shows me all services on one machine, on the other one the files of the current directory. – markus Jun 28 '12 at 15:01
  • Are versions of bash-completion the same? – rush Jun 28 '12 at 15:03
  • same debian versions, some bash-completion – markus Jun 28 '12 at 15:06
  • one difference is on server 1 I'm directly on the console, an server 2 I'm connected via ssh. – markus Jun 28 '12 at 15:46
  • 2
    Directory completion is NOT bash_completion, which is an ugly hack perpetrated by Debuntu on the readline library (which is what shells use to ...read...lines). bash_completion is NOT enabled on the second box. – adaptr Jul 5 '12 at 8:46

I was having the same issue, but "tab" only showed two of the many services. Looking at /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion you can see:

    sysvdirs=( )
    [[ -d /etc/rc.d/init.d ]] && sysvdirs+=( /etc/rc.d/init.d )
    [[ -d /etc/init.d ]] && sysvdirs+=( /etc/init.d )
    # Slackware uses /etc/rc.d
    [[ -f /etc/slackware-version ]] && sysvdirs=( /etc/rc.d )

in my case, /etc/rc.d/init.d existed and had only two services. After removing that dir, everything worked fine.

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