Terminal setup using ZSH, Prezto and Starship on MacOS

ZSH installation

Starting with Catalina the default shell was changed to zsh. You can verify your current shell using:

 echo $SHELL

If it's not zsh for you, you can install it using Homebrew

brew install zsh

Once installed we need to make zsh the default shell using:

chsh -s /bin/zsh

Prezto installation

Prezto is a configuration framework for zsh. Another well known alternative is Oh My Zsh.

I was using Oh My Zsh previously but it had performance issues and switching to Prezto has helped with the performance issues. Oh My Zsh has a much bigger community and receives regular updates and is bit more beginner friendly.

Before installing make sure to make a back of your .zshrc file if you had one already as Prezto can ve problematic with existing .zshrc files.

Clone the Prezto repo

git clone --recursive https://github.com/sorin-ionescu/prezto.git "${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}/.zprezto"

Link the new zsh config files provided by Prezto to your home directory

for rcfile in "${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}"/.zprezto/runcoms/^README.md(.N); do
  ln -s "$rcfile" "${ZDOTDIR:-$HOME}/.${rcfile:t}"

Once installed you'll find the Prezto configuration in .zpreztorc file in your home directory. The default file looks like this: https://github.com/sorin-ionescu/prezto/blob/master/runcoms/zpreztorc

The list of modules are available here: https://github.com/sorin-ionescu/prezto/blob/master/runcoms/zpreztorc

zstyle ':prezto:load' pmodule \
 'lazy-load' \
 'environment' \
 'terminal' \
 'editor' \
 'history' \
 'directory' \
 'spectrum' \
 'utility' \
 'completion' \
 'osx' \
 'ssh' \
 'git' \
 'python' \
 'node' \
 'syntax-highlighting' \
 'history-substring-search' \
 'prompt' \

Here lazy-load is a 3rd party module to lazily load functions that are time consuming: https://github.com/xcv58/zsh-lazy-load

To install this module if you want, do the following:

cd $HOME/.zprezto
git submodule add https://github.com/xcv58/zsh-lazy-load.git modules/lazy-load

Once that is done 'lazy-load' should be the first item in your modules list as shown above.

In my current .zshrc file I'm using it to lazily load nvm and virtualenvwrapper:

# .zshrc

func load_virtualenv() {
  source path_to_virtualenvwrapper.sh

func load_nvm () {
    source path_to_nvm.sh

# At the end of .zshrc
lazy_load load_virtualenv load_nvm

Selecting theme

Prezto comes with a bunch of themes. To list the themes use prompt -l and to preview one use prompt -p name. Once you've picked a theme open your .zpreztorc file and add it zstyle ':prezto:module:prompt' theme 'pure' (here 'pure' is the prompt theme's name).


Currently, I'm using GitHub's Monaspace font, its Krypton variation. This font supports ligatures.

Other fonts I highly recommend:

  • Nerd font -- great for terminal prompt
  • Fira Code (supports ligatures)
  • Monaco (ships with MacOS and great for code but lacks ligatures). A ligature version is also available but I've not tried it personally. The Powerline mentioned here is a prompt theme.

Font setup in iTerm 2:

Font setup in iTerm 2

Font setup in VS Code:

Font setup in VS Code

Ligatures setup in VS Code

Prompt Customization

I'm using Starship for customizing the prompt. Note that by default it requires Nerd Font.

To install it Homebrew can be used:

brew install starship

Then open your .zshrc file and add the following at the end:

eval "$(starship init zsh)"

To configure Starship you need to create a config file first:

mkdir -p ~/.config && touch ~/.config/starship.toml

Then define the items you'd want:

format = """
add_newline = true

Then for each item you can further make your own modification, for example here's how username, directory and git status looks like for me:

disabled = false
show_always = true
style_user = "white bold"
style_root = "white bold"
format = "[xonix_$user]($style) "

truncation_length = 100  # no truncation
truncate_to_repo = true
format = "[$path]($style) "

## Git settings
style = "bold purple"
truncation_length = 100  # no truncation
truncation_symbol = "..."

command = "echo -n '🍺 '"
when = "true"

The resulting prompt looks like:

Starship configured prompt

The setting available under any such action is in the docs: username, directory, git_branch and custom

Find detailed documentation here: https://starship.rs/config/#prompt

Checking performance

If your shell is taking a while to load then it can be profiled by adding zmodload zsh/zprof at the start of .zshrc file and zprof at the end of the file. In addition individual modules can be timed using time (pmodload '<module_name>').