Tab completion in Windows

This content is 17 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Many people will be familiar with the command line tab completion functionality that can be used to complete folder and filenames in recent versions of Windows, but what I wasn’t aware of (until I just used it, following some instructions from Microsoft in a hands-on lab training manual) was that wildcards like *.reg <tab> can be used to tab-complete filenames. This technique can even be used as arguments to a longer command, e.g. notepad *.reg <tab>.

Dustin L makes a good point in his comment on the Lifehacker article that discusses command line tab completion – Unix admins will already be familiar with the concept but there are a couple of differences between the Windows and Unix/Linux CLI tab completion implementations:

  • “In the Windows command line, if there is more than one match for what you’ve typed, successive presses will cycle through all of the matches rather than just display a list of the matches.
  • Windows will not complete commands, only files and directories.”

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