How to make a python, command-line program autocomplete arbitrary things NOT interpreter

I am aware of how to setup autocompletion of python objects in the python interpreter (on unix).

  • Google shows many hits for explanations on how to do this.
  • Unfortunately, there are so many references to that it is difficult to find what I need to do, which is slightly different.

I need to know how to enable, tab/auto completion of arbitrary items in a command-line program written in python.

My specific use case is a command-line python program that needs to send emails. I want to be able to autocomplete email addresses (I have the addresses on disk) when the user types part of it (and optionally presses the TAB key).

I do not need it to work on windows or mac, just linux.

Here is Solutions:

We have many solutions to this problem, But we recommend you to use the first solution because it is tested & true solution that will 100% work for you.

Solution 1

Use Python’s readline bindings. For example,

import readline

def completer(text, state):
    options = [i for i in commands if i.startswith(text)]
    if state < len(options):
        return options[state]
        return None

readline.parse_and_bind("tab: complete")

The official module docs aren’t much more detailed, see the readline docs for more info.

Solution 2

Follow the cmd documentation and you’ll be fine

import cmd

addresses = [
    '[email protected]',
    '[email protected]',
    '[email protected]',

class MyCmd(cmd.Cmd):
    def do_send(self, line):

    def complete_send(self, text, line, start_index, end_index):
        if text:
            return [
                address for address in addresses
                if address.startswith(text)
            return addresses

if __name__ == '__main__':
    my_cmd = MyCmd()

Output for tab -> tab -> send -> tab -> tab -> f -> tab

help  send
(Cmd) send
[email protected]            [email protected]         [email protected]
(Cmd) send [email protected]

Solution 3

Since you say “NOT interpreter” in your question, I guess you don’t want answers involving python readline and suchlike. (edit: in hindsight, that’s obviously not the case. Ho hum. I think this info is interesting anyway, so I’ll leave it here.)

I think you might be after this.

It’s about adding shell-level completion to arbitrary commands, extending bash’s own tab-completion.

In a nutshell, you’ll create a file containing a shell-function that will generate possible completions, save it into /etc/bash_completion.d/ and register it with the command complete. Here’s a snippet from the linked page:

    local cur prev opts
    opts="--help --verbose --version"

    if [[ ${cur} == -* ]] ; then
        COMPREPLY=( $(compgen -W "${opts}" -- ${cur}) )
        return 0
complete -F _foo foo

In this case, the typing foo --[TAB] will give you the values in the variable opts, i.e. --help, --verbose and --version. For your purposes, you’ll essentially want to customise the values that are put into opts.

Do have a look at the example on the linked page, it’s all pretty straightforward.

Solution 4

I am surprised that nobody has mentioned argcomplete, here is an example from the docs:

from argcomplete.completers import ChoicesCompleter

parser.add_argument("--protocol", choices=('http', 'https', 'ssh', 'rsync', 'wss'))
parser.add_argument("--proto").completer=ChoicesCompleter(('http', 'https', 'ssh', 'rsync', 'wss'))

Solution 5

Here is a full-working version of the code that was very supplied by ephemient here (thank you).

import readline

addrs = ['[email protected]', '[email protected]', '[email protected]']

def completer(text, state):
    options = [x for x in addrs if x.startswith(text)]
        return options[state]
    except IndexError:
        return None

readline.parse_and_bind("tab: complete")

while 1:
    a = raw_input("> ")
    print "You entered", a

Solution 6

# ~/.pythonrc
import rlcompleter, readline

# ~/.bashrc
export PYTHONSTARTUP=~/.pythonrc

Solution 7

You can try using the Python Prompt Toolkit, a library for building interactive command line applications in Python.

The library makes it easy to add interactive autocomplete functionality, allowing the user to use the Tab key to visually cycle through the available choices. The library is cross-platform (Linux, OS X, FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Windows). Example:

pgcli - Python Prompt Toolkit

(Image source: pcgli)

Solution 8

The posted answers work fine but I have open sourced an autocomplete library that I wrote at work. We have been using it for a while in production and it is fast, stable and easy to use. It even has a demo mode so you can quickly test what you would get as you type words.

To install it, simply run: pip install fast-autocomplete

Here is an example:

>>> from fast_autocomplete import AutoComplete
>>> words = {'book': {}, 'burrito': {}, 'pizza': {}, 'pasta':{}}
>>> autocomplete = AutoComplete(words=words)
>>>'b', max_cost=3, size=3)
[['book'], ['burrito']]
>>>'bu', max_cost=3, size=3)
>>>'barrito', max_cost=3, size=3)  # mis-spelling

Checkout: for the source code.

And here is an explanation of how it works:

It deals with mis-spellings and optionally sorting by the weight of the word. (let’s say burrito is more important than book, then you give burrito a higher "count" and it will show up first before book in the results.

Words is a dictionary and each word can have a context. For example the "count", how to display the word, some other context around the word etc. In this example words didn’t have any context.

Solution 9

This works well.


import readline
readline.parse_and_bind("tab: complete")

def complete(text,state):
    volcab = ['dog','cat','rabbit','bird','slug','snail']
    results = [x for x in volcab if x.startswith(text)] + [None]
    return results[state]


line = input('prompt> ')

Note: Use and implement solution 1 because this method fully tested our system.
Thank you 🙂

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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