created_at2023-02-12 20:16:46.895546
updated_at2023-04-01 18:06:38.470364
descriptionpxh is a fast, flexible shell history mining tool. It indexes all of your shell history to give you total recall across one of your most valuable reservoirs of knowledge, your shell history.
Chip Turner (chipturner)





Portable, extensible history manager for interactive shells and other REPL tools (pxh for short).

pxh's job is to be a reliable and unobtrusive the persistence and search engine for tracking one of the most valuable knowledge vaults you have -- your shell histories. pxh can import your existing history files to give you a head start and provides consistent, on-demand synchronizing across computers.

Key features:

  • pxh is fast and unobtrusive; once installed, you should never notice it except when you want to conduct a search.
  • pxh tags history commands with additional context such as the directory, host, and user which lets you store all of your history, not just your primary computer's. It also tracks exit codes and durations.
  • pxh supports flexible searching to quickly surface relevant and useful entries such as all commands run in a specific directory or commands issued in a given shell session.
  • pxh provides easy, on-demand synchronization across computers to allow for an "eventually consistent" global view of your interactive shell history.

Quick links:

Currently pxh supports bash and zsh.

Basic Usage

The pxh workflow involves searching history. pxh aims to provide better performance and ergonomics than history | grep SOME_COMMAND in addition to ensuring it never misses a history entry. To search history, use pxh show REGEX or pxh s REGEX.

Use case: remembering complex commands

ffmpeg is a great tool but I never quite remember how to use it. Fortunately my shell history does:

$ pxh s ffmpeg
 2022-06-04 07:54:04  ffmpeg -encoders | grep '^ V'
 2022-06-07 23:17:33  ffmpeg -y -r 30 -f concat -safe 0 -i <(sed 's/^/file /' /tmp/files) -c:v libx264rgb -preset veryslow -crf 21 -vf fps=30 /tmp/combined.mp4
 2022-08-03 10:39:11  ffmpeg -i cropped.mp4 -vf "pad=width=430:height=430:x=215:y=0:color=black" cropped.gif

Use case: seeing examples of history grepping pxh can simplify

Since pxh was created to simplify history searching, if you tended to perform sequences of history | grep ... it may be useful to map those solutions to pxh invocations:

$ pxh s -v history grep
 Start                Command
 2011-08-24 14:51:48  history | grep port | grep install
 2012-11-04 09:52:24  history | tail -50 | grep rm
 2013-02-02 23:45:06  history | grep ec2-descr
 2013-03-27 17:00:42  history | grep qemu
 2020-04-02 10:12:52  history | grep gphotos-sync | grep pip
 2021-03-29 09:14:34  history | grep squashfuse | grep -i release

Use case: exploring project-relative history commands

Since pxh tracks the directory you issue a command in, and since directories often are a bit of localized context (i.e. when you are working on an open source project), filtering by directory can sometimes be useful. For instance, commands run while hacking on pxh:

$ pxh s --here
 Start                Command
 2023-02-06 22:43:16  cargo test
 2023-02-06 22:43:21  cargo build --release
 2023-02-06 22:43:25  pxh sync ~/Dropbox/pxh/
 2023-02-06 22:44:28  git diff
 2023-02-06 22:44:36  cargo clippy
 2023-02-06 22:44:42  git commit -a -m 'clippy fixes'
 2023-02-06 22:44:44  git push

Use case: seeing more details such as execution time

You can view additional details such as the host, directory, duration, and exit code with the -v flag

$ pxh s -v cargo build
 Start                Duration  Session       Context                                           Command
 2023-02-06 22:10:20  1s        116ef63fc226  .                                                 cargo build --release
 2023-02-06 22:28:00  2s        116ef63fc226  .                                                 cargo build --release
 2023-02-07 05:50:02  0s        ee6e1989f3da  /home/chip                                        cargo build --release
 2023-02-07 06:32:04  37s       ee6e1989f3da  .                                                 cargo build --release

Use case: ergonomic, intuitive search

pxh does the intuitive thing when given multiple search filters: it finds results that match each filter in consecutive order as separate words (basically creating a regex by joining the supplied patterns with .*\s.*, which is a bit unwieldy to type):

$ pxh s git pull
 Start                Command
 2023-01-31 11:11:36  git pull --rebase
 2023-02-03 08:18:34  fd -t d -d 1 -x git -C {} pull --rebase
 2023-02-03 10:44:02  git pull --rebase

Use case: synchronizing across computers

Finally, sharing history across time and space is easy. Using a shared storage system like Dropbox or CIFS is easiest, but a directory you rsync around can work as well. On each computer, just run pxh sync $DIR:

First computer (nomad):

$ pxh sync ~/Dropbox/pxh/
Syncing from /home/chip/Dropbox/pxh/homebase.db...done, considered 314181 rows and added 5
Saved merged database to /home/chip/Dropbox/pxh/nomad.db

Second computer (homebase):

$ pxh sync ~/Dropbox/pxh/
Syncing from /Users/chip/Dropbox/pxh/nomad.db...done, considered 314236 rows and added 55
Saved merged database to /Users/chip/Dropbox/pxh/homebase.db

Note this can also act as a backup method (as can cp on the pxh database file).

More advanced usage and flags can be explored via pxh help.

Getting Started

  • Install the bxh binary
  • Install the pxh shell helper: pxh install YOUR_SHELL_NAME (e.g. zsh).
    • pxh will be active on future shells. To activate for this an existing session, run source <(pxh shell-config YOUR_SHELLNAME)
  • Import your history:
    • zsh: pxh import --shellname zsh --histfile ~/.zsh_histfile
    • bash: pxh import --shellname bash --histfile ~/.bash_history
    • Optional: pull from another computer: pxh import --shellname zsh --hostname HOST --username root --histfile <(ssh root@HOST cat /root/.zsh_histfile)
  • Periodically synchronize with databases from other systems with a simple workflow via shared storage such as NextCloud, Dropbox, CIFS, etc:
    • pxh sync ~/Dropbox/pxh/ which merges from all db files in that directory and writes a new file with the merged output

How it Works

pxh uses SQLite to make your history easily searchable you can quickly find useful commands, even from years ago. SQLite is fast, and pxh attempts to use it as efficiently as possible. It is unacceptable if pxh adds noticeable latency to interactive shells and searching for simple cases should be instantaneous.

pxh works using shell helpers to call it before and after every command to log the command, time, exit status, and other useful context. The database is updated in real-time and remains consistent across multiple concurrent shells thanks to SQLite.

The database file is stored, by default, in ~/.pxh/pxh.db. You can cp this file and examine it with the sqlite3 command line tool.

Credits, Inspiration, and Similar Tools

This tool was originally inspired by bash-history-sqlite and zsh-histdb. These tools, and similar ones, are excellent, but I found myself wanting to extend the concepts further:

  • It seems redundant to build a tool per shell; pxh is meant to be a solution for all shells (as well as shell-like REPL environments that track history like mysql, python, etc).
  • Those tools rely on shell invocation of the sqlite CLI. This works... until it doesn't. It requires precision in quoting and, unfortunately, is somewhat prone to race conditions when shells start in close proximity.
  • I wanted highly efficient tooling that was easy to extend. By going with a native language like Rust, the per-command invocation overhead is very small, and it is easier to build portable, performant complex tooling such as TUIs, complex search, analytics, etc.

This tool embeds the very useful Bash-Preexec utility which provides very zsh-like extensions for Bash to track when commands begin and end.

TODO / Ideas

Usability / UX

  • P1: expose column names as a show option to control output fields and order
  • P2: colorize output? parts where regex matches in addition to columns
  • P3: special handling of ctrl-z when displaying shell history... annoying, need signal number, find a crate?
  • P3: optional pretty ncurses-style interface?

Core Features

  • P1: Add more complex filtering to show to select history entries restricted to the host, user, etc.
  • P3: stats subcommand to show some interesting data


  • P2: more shell support
    • P2: and then non-shells like mysql, python, gdb, sqlite_history ...
  • P3: explore using pxh for interactive shell incremental history search
  • P3: create and document workflow for incremental updates, particularly for shells that don't support updating real-time (e.g. backfill from mysql history periodically)


  • P2: better code documentation, particularly around helper classes
  • P2: document architecture and implementation details
  • P3: some way to expunge things like passwords accidentally in history files w/o resorting to sqlite? also prevent re-importing somehow?
Commit count: 92

cargo fmt