Skip to main content

☑️ General Overview

This overview will cover the basics for:

  1. Oh-My-Zsh & Prezto
  2. Completions
  3. Turbo mode
  4. Ice modifiers

Plugin and snippet loading

zi load z-shell/H-S-MWzi light zsh-users/zsh-syntax-highlighting

The above commands show two ways of basic plugin loading. If you want to source local or remote files (using a direct URL), you can do so with a snippet.

zi snippet <URL>

Such lines should be added to .zshrc. Snippets are cached locally, use the -f option to download a fresh version of a snippet, or zi update {URL}. Use zi update --all to update all snippets and plugins.

Using load causes reporting to be enabled – you can track what the plugin does, view the information with zi report {plugin-name}, and then also unload the plugin with zi unload {plugin-name}.

Using light is a faster loading without tracking and reporting about the plugin but also withdrawing the ability to unload it.

Using load or light:

zi load  <repo/plugin> # Load with reporting/investigating.zi light <repo/plugin> # Load without reporting/investigating.

Plugin history-search-multi-word loaded with investigating:

zi load z-shell/H-S-MW

Two regular plugins loaded without investigating:

zi light zsh-users/zsh-autosuggestionszi light z-shell/F-Sy-H


zi snippet

In turbo mode loading, the slowdown by plugin tracking is done in the background and does not affect the user experience, i.e., loading with zi light and zi load has the same effect.

Oh-My-Zsh, Prezto

To load Oh-My-Zsh and Prezto plugins, use the snippet feature. Snippets are single files downloaded by curl, wget, etc., automatic detection of the download tool is being performed, directly from the URL:

zi snippet ''zi snippet ''

Also, for Oh-My-Zsh and Prezto, you can use OMZ:: and PZT:: shorthands:

zi snippet OMZ::plugins/git/git.plugin.zshzi snippet PZT::modules/helper/init.zsh

Moreover, GitHub supports the Subversion protocol for snippets. This allows loading snippets that are multi-file (for example, a Prezto module can consist of two or more files, e.g. init.zsh and alias.zsh).

Default files that will be sourced are: *.plugin.zsh, init.zsh, *.zsh-theme:

URL points to a directory:

zi ice svnzi snippet PZT::modules/docker

Snippets and Performance

Using curl, wget, etc. along with Subversion allows us to almost completely avoid code dedicated to Oh-My-Zsh and Prezto, and also to other frameworks. It delivers better performance as has a low footprint on memory and shorter loading times.

Ice Modifiers

The command zi ice provides ice modifiers for the single Zi command, i.e., zi ice <some-ice-modifier>; zi load some/plugin, after loading some/plugin the ice-modifier has to be set again.

The logic is that "ice" is something that’s added, e.g. to a drink or a coffee, and in the Zi sense this means that ice is a modifier added to the next Zi command, and also something that melts, so it doesn’t last long, – and in the Zi use it means that the modifier lasts for only single next Zi command.

Using one other ice modifier "pick" users can explicitly select the file to source:

zi ice svn pick"init.zsh"zi snippet PZT::modules/git

The content of the ice-modifier is simply put into "…", '…', $'…'. No need for ":" after the ice-modifier name (although it's allowed: as the equal sign =, e.g. pick="init.zsh" or pick=init.zsh).

This way editors like vim and emacs and also zsh-users/zsh-syntax-highlighting and z-shell/F-Sy-H will highlight the contents of ice-modifiers.

About as"program"

A plugin might not be a file for sourcing, but a command to be added to $PATH. To obtain this effect, use ice-modifier as with value program (or an alias value command).

zi ice as"program" cp" -> httpstat" pick"httpstat"zi light b4b4r07/httpstat

The above command will add plugin directory to $PATH, copy file into httpstat and add execution rights (+x) to the file selected with pick, i.e. to httpstat. Another ice-mod exists, mv, which works like cp but moves a file instead of copying it. mv is run before cp.


The cp and mv ices (and also some other ones, like atclone) are being run when the plugin or snippet is being installed. To test them again first delete the plugin or snippet (example: zi delete PZT::modules/osx).

Ice modifier: atpull'…'

Copying file is safe for doing later updates – original files of the repository are unmodified and Git will report no conflicts. However, mv also can be used, if a proper atpull, an ice-modifier ran at update of the plugin:

zi ice as"program" mv" -> httpstat" \  pick"httpstat" atpull'!git reset --hard'zi light b4b4r07/httpstat

If atpull starts with an exclamation mark, then it will be run before git pull, and before mv. Nevertheless, atpull, mv, and cp are run only if new commits are to be fetched.

So in summary, when the user runs zi update b4b4r07/httpstat to update this plugin, and there are new commits, what happens first is that git reset --hard is run – and it restores original, then git pull is ran and it downloads new commits (doing fast-forward), then mv is running again so that the command is httpstat not

This way the mv ice can be used to induce permanent changes into the plugin's contents without blocking the ability to update it with git or with subversion in the case of snippets.


For exclamation marks to not be expanded by Zsh an interactive session, use '…' not "…" to enclose contents of atpull ice-modifier.

Ice modifier: subscribe'…'

Ice modifier defers the loading of a plugin while checking the modification time of the given file(s), and when it changes, it then triggers the loading of the plugin or a snippet.

Copy and paste the example below to the terminal or add it to the .zshrc file and reload the shell with exec zsh.

zi ice subscribe'{~/files-*,/tmp/files-*}' id-as'z-sub' lucid \  atload'+zi-message "{profile}I have been loaded{nl}\  {auto}\`Zi Rocks ♥\`"' notify"Yes that is cool ♥ "zi load z-shell/0

Update file as subscribed above to test the ice modifier:

touch ~/files-1

The plugin or snippet will be sourced as many times as the file gets updated.

Snippets as'…' program

Commands can also be added to $PATH using snippets:

zi ice mv" -> httpstat" \  pick"httpstat" as"program"zi snippet

Snippets also support atpull, e.g. atpull'!svn revert'. There’s also an atinit ice-modifier, executed before each loading of plugin or snippet.

Snippets as'…' completion

By using the as'…' ice modifier with the value completion you can point the snippet subcommand directly to a completion file:

zi ice as"completion"zi snippet

The completion management

Zi allows disabling and enabling each completion in every plugin. Try installing a popular plugin that provides completions:

zi ice blockfzi light zsh-users/zsh-completions

The first command, the blockf ice, will block the traditional method of adding completions. Zi uses this method, based on symlinks instead of adding several directories to $fpath. Zi will automatically install completions of a newly downloaded plugin.

To uninstall and install completions:


zi cuninstall zsh-users/zsh-completions


zi creinstall zsh-users/zsh-completions

Listing available completions

To see what completions all plugins provide, in tabular formatting and with the name of each plugin:

zi clist

This command is adapted for plugins like zsh-users/zsh-completions, which provide many completions – listing will have 3 completions per line, and a smaller number of terminal pages can be occupied like this:

To show more completions per line by providing an argument to clist, e.g.: zi clist 6, will show:

Enabling / disabling - completions

Completions can be disabled and other completion will be used, e.g. Zsh builtin. The commands are very basic, they only need completion name:

Disable cmake completion:

zi cdisable cmake

Enable cmake completion:

zi cenable cmake

Command zi csearch will search all plugin directories for available completions:

The subversion for subdirectories

In general, to use subdirectories of Github projects as snippets add /trunk/{path-to-dir} to the URL:

zi ice svnzi snippet

For Oh-My-Zsh and Prezto, the OMZ:: and PZT:: prefixes work without the need to add the /trunk/ infix, however, the path should point to a directory, not to a file.

zi ice svnzi snippet PZT::modules/docker

Turbo Mode (Zsh >= 5.3)

The ice-modifier wait allows the user to postpone the loading of a plugin to the moment when the processing of .zshrc is finished and the first prompt is shown.

It is like Windows – during startup, it shows a desktop even though it still loads data in the background. This has drawbacks but is for sure better than a blank screen for 10 minutes. But in Zi, there are no drawbacks of this approach – no lags, freezes, etc. – the command line is fully usable while the plugins are being loaded, for any number of plugins.


Turbo will speed up Zsh startup by 50%–80%. For example, instead of 200 ms, it'll be 40 ms.


Zsh 5.3 or greater is required.

To use turbo mode add wait ice to the target plugin in one of the following ways:

PS1="READY > "zi ice wait'!0'zi load halfo/lambda-mod-zsh-theme

This sets plugin halfo/lambda-mod-zsh-theme to be loaded 0 seconds after .zshrc. It will fire up after c.a. 1 ms of showing the basic prompt READY >.

You probably won't load the prompt in such a way, however, it is a good example in which turbo mode can be observed. The exclamation mark causes Zi to reset the prompt after loading the plugin – commonly needed for themes. The same with Prezto prompts, with a longer delay:

zi ice svn silent wait'!1' atload'prompt smiley'zi snippet PZT::modules/prompt

Using zsh-users/zsh-autosuggestions without any drawbacks:

zi ice wait lucid atload'_zsh_autosuggest_start'zi light zsh-users/zsh-autosuggestions

Turbo mode is the key to the performance

It can be loaded asynchronously, which makes a huge difference when the amount of plugins increases. Usually used as zi ice wait'<SECONDS>'.


The wait is equivalent to wait'0'.

zi ice waitzi load z-shell/history-search-multi-word

Load after 2 seconds:

zi ice wait'2'zi load z-shell/history-search-multi-word

Also can be used in light and snippet:

zi ice waitzi snippet

Turbo mode & lucid

Turbo and lucid are the most used options because turbo mode is verbose and may require an option for quiet and this can be achieved with the lucid.

zi ice wait lucidzi load z-shell/history-search-multi-word

Turbo mode with sophisticated prompts

For some, mostly advanced themes the initialization of the prompt is being done in a precmd-hook, i.e.; in a function that gets called before each prompt. The hook is installed by the add-zsh-hook Zsh function by adding its name to the $precmd_functions array.

To make the prompt fully initialized after turbo mode loading in the middle of the prompt the same situation as with the zsh-autosuggestions plugin, the hook should be called from atload'…' ice.

First, find the name of the hook function by examining the $precmd_functions array. For example, for the robobenklein/zinc theme, they'll be two functions: prompt_zinc_setup and prompt_zinc_precmd:

print $precmd_functions
_zsh_autosuggest_start prompt_zinc_setup prompt_zinc_precmd

Then, add them to the ice list in the atload'…' ice:

zi ice wait'!' lucid nocd \  atload'!prompt_zinc_setup; prompt_zinc_precmd'zi load robobenklein/zinc

The exclamation mark in atload'!…' is to track the functions allowing the plugin to be unloaded, as described here. It might be useful for the multi-prompt setup described next.

Summary of turbo mode

Autosuggestions use the precmd hook, which is being called right after processing .zshrcprecmd hooks are being called right before displaying each prompt.

Turbo mode with the empty wait ice will postpone the loading 1 ms after that, so precmd will not be called at that first prompt. This makes autosuggestions inactive at the first prompt.

However the given atload'…' ice-modifier fixes this, it calls the same function that precmd would, right after loading autosuggestions, resulting in the same behavior of the plugin.

The ice called lucid causes the under-prompt message saying Loaded zsh-users/zsh-autosuggestions that normally appears for every Turbo-loaded plugin to not show.

Automatic condition based - load & unload

Ices load and unload allow defining when you want plugins active or inactive:

Load when in ~/tmp:

zi ice load'![[ $PWD = */tmp* ]]' unload'![[ $PWD != */tmp* ]]' \  atload'!promptinit; prompt sprint3'zi load z-shell/zprompts

Load when NOT in ~/tmp:

zi ice load'![[ $PWD != */tmp* ]]' unload'![[ $PWD = */tmp* ]]'zi load russjohnson/angry-fly-zsh

Two prompts, each active in different directories. This technique can be used to have plugin-sets, e.g. by defining parameter $PLUGINS with possible values like cpp, web, admin and by setting load / unload conditions to activate different plugins on cpp, on web, etc.

  • The difference with wait is that load / unload are constantly active, not only till the first activation. Note that for the unloading of a plugin to work the plugin needs to be loaded with tracking, so zi load … and not zi light ….

Tracking causes a slight slowdown, however, this doesn’t influence Zsh startup time when using turbo mode.

A Glance at the prompts


See: multiple prompts or more information. It contains more real-world examples of a multi-prompt setup, which is close to what the author uses in his setup.

This is powerlevel10k, pure, starship sample:

Load powerlevel10k theme:

zi ice depth"1"zi light romkatv/powerlevel10k

Load pure theme:

will pick the async.zsh library and will source it.

zi ice pick"async.zsh" src"pure.zsh"zi light sindresorhus/pure

Load starship theme:

  • pick starship binary as a command, from the GitHub release.
  • setup starship using atclone and create init.zsh and completion.
  • the atpull'…' behavior same as atclone'…' and but is used when running zi update.
  • src will source init.zsh.
zi ice as"command" from"gh-r" \  atclone"./starship init zsh > init.zsh; ./starship completions zsh > _starship" \  atpull"%atclone" src"init.zsh"zi light starship/starship

Updates & upgrades

Self-update & compile:

zi self-update

Update plugins and snippets:

zi update --allzi update --resetzi update --quiet

Update plugins or snippets:

zi update --pluginszi update --snippets

Update specific plugins. Default is GitHub but can specify any with ice from'…':

zi update <user>/<repo>

Plugin parallel update plugins:

zi update --parallel

Increase the number of jobs in a concurrent set to 40

zi update --parallel 40

More examples of common use cases

Load the pure theme, with the zsh-async library that's bundled with it.

zi ice pick"async.zsh" src"pure.zsh"zi light sindresorhus/pure

Binary release in the archive, from GitHub. After automatic unpacking, it provides the program "fzf".

zi ice from"gh-r" as"program"zi light junegunn/fzf

One other binary release needs renaming from docker-compose-Linux-x86_64. This can be done by ice modifier: mv'{from} -> {to}'.

There are multiple packages per single version for OS X, Linux, and Windows – the ice-modifier bpick is utilized to select the Linux package – in this case - not required, Zi will grep operating system name and architecture automatically when there's no bpick.

zi ice from"gh-r" as"program" mv"docker* -> docker-compose" bpick"*linux*"zi load docker/compose

Vim repository on GitHub – a typical source code that needs compilation, Zi can manage the run of ./configure and other make stuff. Ice-modifier pick adds the binary program to $PATH. You could also install the package under the path $ZPFX.

zi ice as"program" atclone"rm -f src/auto/config.cache; ./configure" \  atpull"%atclone" make pick"src/vim"zi light vim/vim

Scripts that are built to install

There's single default make target, "install", and it constructs scripts.

The make'…' ice could also be: make"install PREFIX=$ZPFX", if "install" wouldn't be the only, default target.

zi ice as"program" pick"$ZPFX/bin/git-*" make"PREFIX=$ZPFX"zi light tj/git-extras

Handle completions without loading any plugin, see the clist command. This one is to be run just once, in an interactive session.

zi creinstall %HOME/my_completions

For GNU "ls" the binaries can be gls, gdircolors, but not on OS X when installing the coreutils package from Homebrew.

zi ice atclone"dircolors -b LS_COLORS > c.zsh" \  atpull'%atclone' pick"c.zsh" nocompile'!'zi light trapd00r/LS_COLORS

make'!' -> run make before atclone & atpull.

zi ice as"program" make'!' \  atclone'./direnv hook zsh > zhook.zsh' \  atpull'%atclone' src"zhook.zsh"zi light direnv/direnv

If you are interested to try out more then check out the playground repository where users have uploaded the ~/.zshrc and other Zi configurations. Feel free to submit your ~/.zshrc configuration.

Additional examples: collection.