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Top 5 Open-Source Shells for Linux

In Linux, a Shell offers an interface for a Unix system that allows you to execute commands or utilities more easily. A shell collects an input from a user and executes a program according to that input. You can use a shell to perform various operations, including copying files, installing applications, restarting a system, and more. Linux command shells are divided into two types:

  • Bourne shell: In a Bourne shell, the “$” character works as a default prompt. Examples of Bourne shells are Bourne shell (sh), POSIX shell (sh), Korn shell (ksh), etc.
  • C shell: In a C shell, the “%” character works as a default prompt. Examples of C shells are TENEX/TOPS C shell (tcsh), C shell (csh), etc.

There are various open-source command shells available, and you can install different shells in a Linux distro. If you are looking for the best open-source shell, then read on for a list of the top five open-source shells available for Linux and select whichever shell best fits your requirements.

Top 5 Open-Source Shells Available for Linux

There are many open-source shells available for Linux, but in this article, we only include the top five shells recommended by the Linux experts.

1. Bash (Bourne-Again Shell)

The full form of the word “Bash” is “Bourne-Again Shell,” and it is one of the best open-source shells available for Linux. Bash is provided as a default shell in multiple Linux distros, such as Arch Linux, Ubuntu, and several other standard Linux distros. Bash also works for reading and executing commands from a specific file format known as a shell script.

Bash is an open-source shell that was developed from the original UNIX Bourne Shell, known as “sh,” and so Bash was designed to be compatible with an old script by combining different enhanced features. Bash can be your long-term shell option, as it comes with ample documentation and is recommended by Linux professionals.

The following is a list of some of the features offered by the Bash command shell:

  • Incredible command-line editing
  • Contains job control mechanisms to deal with Cron jobs specifically.
  • Smoothly performs large series of integer arithmetic; can take from base 2 up to base 64.
  • Unlimited size-indexed arrays and command history.

2. Zsh (Z-Shell)

Zsh or Z-Shell is a modern-day shell designed to be innovative and interactive by offering unique features in addition to the features of other Unix or GNU Linux shells, such as ksh, tcsh, Bash, etc. This open-source shell offers scripting features and is customizable, easy-to-use, and offers command completion, spelling correction, and more. If you want an advanced Linux shell, go for the Zsh shell. The installation procedure for Zsh is also effortless. In Zsh, you can even use open-source frameworks, such as oh-my-zsh customizable plugins and options.

The Zsh shell offers various features for Linux, including:

  • Fantastic auto-completion functionality for files and paths.
  • Command history sharing mechanism.
  • Concept index, functions index, key index, and variable index.
  • Various interactive features, such as smart escaping, spelling correction, recursive globbing, and more.

3. Ksh (Korn Shell)

The full form of Ksh is Korn shell because it was designed by David G. Korn. Ksh is a powerful, interactive command language and high-level programming language that can compete with other Unix shells. The development of the Korn shell was inspired by the interactivity of the C shell interactivity and the productivity of the Bash shell.

The following is a list of some of the features available in the Korn shell:

  • Unique options to improve performance and capability, as shellcode is stored in the memory.
  • Ctrl+Z tweak that can quickly stop a running job, and you can continue to execute your commands if they were initiated with fg (foreground) or bg (background) commands.
  • Contains various advanced features for fast-paced executions.
  • Includes advanced command-line editing features to edit commands more easily.

4. Tcsh (Tenex C Shell)

The full form of Tcsh is Tenex C Shell. This shell is an improved version of the C shell and is used as a shell script command processor and interactive login shell. Tcsh offers multiple options, including a command-line editor, job control, spellcheck support, configurable command-line completion, a modernized history mechanism, and more. This open-source shell for Linux is best for programmers because its syntax is like the C language, so these users can use the scripting features in Tcsh without any knowledge of Bash.

The features offered by Tcsh include the following:

  • Filename completion and programmable words.
  • C-like syntax and a command-line editor.
  • FreeBSD operating system to power up modern servers.
  • Job control and spelling correction features.

5. Fish (Friendly Interactive Shell)

The full form of Fish is Friendly Interactive Shell. Fish was released in 2005 and offers an easy-to-use, user-friendly, open-source shell for Linux. Fish is a great choice for new Linux users, as this shell uses color-coding to help new programmers. Fish includes various options, such as syntax highlighting, fancy tab completion, auto-complete suggestions, and more. As explained previously, Fish was designed to offer a user-friendly shell platform with easy installation.

The following is a list of the features available in Fish:

  • Feature for man page completion.
  • Provides auto-suggestions and web-based configuration.
  • Offers advanced tab completion.
  • Support for X clipboard and searchable command history.


An open-source shell provides an interface for the Unix system that allows a user to run multiple commands at once rather easily. This article provided a detailed description of the top five open-source shells available for Linux. All these shells come highly recommended by Linux experts due to their unique features and capabilities in Linux platforms. You can also read our other articles to learn more about the installation procedures for each shell.

About the author

Prateek Jangid

A passionate Linux user for personal and professional reasons, always exploring what is new in the world of Linux and sharing with my readers.