Images of shells by the sea

10 Best Free and Open Source Shells

The shell is a program that takes commands from the keyboard and gives them to the operating system to perform. This environment lets users run commands, programs, and shell scripts. The shell is both an interactive command language and a scripting language, and is used by the operating system to control the execution of the system using shell scripts.

The first Unix shell was the Thompson shell, sh, written by Ken Thompson at Bell Labs back in the early 1970s. Nowadays, on many Linux systems, bash (which stands for Bourne Again SHell) acts as the shell program. It was first released in 1989, and implements the POSIX standard plus many extensions.

But there are lots of other free and open source shells available for Linux. We spotlight our recommended free and open source shells.

Ratings chart for free and open source shells

Let’s explore the 10 shells in more detail. For each program we have compiled its own portal page, a full description with an in-depth analysis of its features, together with links to relevant resources.

Shells
zshAdvanced and programmable command interpreter
NushellAdopts the Unix philosophy of shells where pipes connect command together
bashsh-compatible command language interpreter
fishSmart and user-friendly command line shell
DASHPOSIX-compliant implementation of sh that aims to be as small as possible
duneA shell by the beach
ElvshExpressive programming language and a versatile interactive shell
OilBilled as an upgrade to bash. Written in Python.
tcshC shell with file name completion and command line editing
xonshPython-powered, cross-platform shell language and command prompt

Memory consumption as reported by ps_mem

Best Free and Open Source SoftwareRead our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.

The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.

There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.

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