Bash history synchronization

Bash is my go to shell. I've tried fish; I've heard about zsh; but Bash is my go to.

I really like command history (pressing up arrow or Ctrl+R) and there are a few specific behaviors that I want in my history:

  1. If I have multiple terminals open, I want history shared across them.
  2. If I run the same command multiple times, it should be in my history once.
  3. My history should stick around forever.
  4. The last command, I entered should be the first thing I see when I press up arrow.
  5. Race conditions of long-running commands shouldn't erase history entries.

Turns out all of this is a little tricky with bash, but I've mostly managed it:

Updated: 2018-04-20

I've been finding cases where my original solution lost commands, which is very not good in my book. As such, I've reverted back to a simpler, safer, synchronization scheme that doesn't always get the order right but seems to lose stuff less often:

export HISTCONTROL=ignoredups:erasedups
export HISTSIZE=100000
export HISTFILESIZE=100000
shopt -s extglob
shopt -s histappend
export PROMPT_COMMAND="history -n; history -w; history -c; history -r; $PROMPT_COMMAND"


shopt -s histappend
shopt -s cmdhist
alias histsync='history -a && history -c && history -r && history | sort -k2 -k1nr | uniq -f1 | sort -n | tr -s " " | cut -d " " -f3- > ~/.tmp$$ && history -c && history -r ~/.tmp$$ && history -w && rm ~/.tmp$$'

Here's how it (mostly) works:

First we just set up some basic configuration:

  1. Keep all of history forever

  2. Append history instead of overwriting

    shopt -s histappend
  3. Store multi-line commands as a single history entry

    shopt -s cmdhist
  4. Create a command that synchronizes history:

    1. Append anything new to the history file, clear and reread

      history -a && history -c && history -r
    2. Get the history, sorted by when things were added with duplicates removed

      history | sort -k2 -k1nr | uniq -f1 | sort -n | tr -s " " | cut -d " " -f3-
    3. Write to temp file, clear history, read from temp file, write to ~/.bash_history, remove temp file

      > ~/.tmp$$ && history -c && history -r ~/.tmp$$ && history -w && rm ~/.tmp$$
  5. Use the sync command as a part of the PROMPT_COMMAND


There might be better ways, but it works.

P.S. I keep my .bashrc on GitHub (along with the rest of my core dotfiles).