Customizing your text colors on the Linux command line



Customizing your text colors on the Linux command line

Fabio

(CC BY-SA 2.0)

One way to get a big dose of data showing how these colors are assigned is to run the dircolors command. It will show you something like this:

$ dircolors
LS_COLORS='rs=0:di=01;34:ln=01;36:mh=00:pi=40;33:so=01;35:do
=01;35:bd=40;33;01:cd=40;33;01:or=40;31;01:mi=00:su=37;41:sg
=30;43:ca=30;41:tw=30;42:ow=34;42:st=37;44:ex=01;32:*.tar=01
;31:*.tgz=01;31:*.arc=01;31:*.arj=01;31:*.taz=01;31:*.lha=01
;31:*.lz4=01;31:*.lzh=01;31:*.lzma=01;31:*.tlz=01;31:*.txz=0
1;31:*.tzo=01;31:*.t7z=01;31:*.zip=01;31:*.z=01;31:*.Z=01;31
:*.dz=01;31:*.gz=01;31:*.lrz=01;31:*.lz=01;31:*.lzo=01;31:*.
xz=01;31:*.zst=01;31:*.tzst=01;31:*.bz2=01;31:*.bz=01;31:*.t
bz=01;31:*.tbz2=01;31:*.tz=01;31:*.deb=01;31:*.rpm=01;31:*.j
ar=01;31:*.war=01;31:*.ear=01;31:*.sar=01;31:*.rar=01;31:*.a
lz=01;31:*.ace=01;31:*.zoo=01;31:*.cpio=01;31:*.7z=01;31:*.r
z=01;31:*.cab=01;31:*.jpg=01;35:*.jpeg=01;35:*.mjpg=01;35:*.
mjpeg=01;35:*.gif=01;35:*.bmp=01;35:*.pbm=01;35:*.pgm=01;35:
*.ppm=01;35:*.tga=01;35:*.xbm=01;35:*.xpm=01;35:*.tif=01;35:
*.tiff=01;35:*.png=01;35:*.svg=01;35:*.svgz=01;35:*.mng=01;3
5:*.pcx=01;35:*.mov=01;35:*.mpg=01;35:*.mpeg=01;35:*.m2v=01;
35:*.mkv=01;35:*.webm=01;35:*.ogm=01;35:*.mp4=01;35:*.m4v=01
;35:*.mp4v=01;35:*.vob=01;35:*.qt=01;35:*.nuv=01;35:*.wmv=01
;35:*.asf=01;35:*.rm=01;35:*.rmvb=01;35:*.flc=01;35:*.avi=01
;35:*.fli=01;35:*.flv=01;35:*.gl=01;35:*.dl=01;35:*.xcf=01;3
5:*.xwd=01;35:*.yuv=01;35:*.cgm=01;35:*.emf=01;35:*.ogv=01;3
5:*.ogx=01;35:*.aac=00;36:*.au=00;36:*.flac=00;36:*.m4a=00;3
6:*.mid=00;36:*.midi=00;36:*.mka=00;36:*.mp3=00;36:*.mpc=00;
36:*.ogg=00;36:*.ra=00;36:*.wav=00;36:*.oga=00;36:*.opus=00;
36:*.spx=00;36:*.xspf=00;36:';
export LS_COLORS

If you’re good at parsing, you probably noticed that there’s a pattern to this listing. Break it on the colons, and you’ll see something like this:

$ dircolors | tr ":" "\n" | head -10
LS_COLORS='rs=0
di=01;34
ln=01;36
mh=00
pi=40;33
so=01;35
do=01;35
bd=40;33;01
cd=40;33;01
or=40;31;01

OK, so we have a pattern here — a series of definitions that have one to three numeric components. Let’s hone in on one of definition.

pi=40;33

The first question someone is likely to ask is “What is pi?” We’re working with colors and file types here, so this clearly isn’t the intriguing number that starts with 3.14. No, this “pi” stands for “pipe” — a particular type of file on Linux systems that makes it possible to send data from one program to another. So, let’s set one up.

$ mknod /tmp/mypipe p
$ ls -l /tmp/mypipe
prw-rw-r-- 1 shs shs 0 May  1 14:00 /tmp/mypipe

When we look at our pipe and a couple other files in a terminal window, the color differences are quite obvious.

font colors Sandra Henry-Stocker

The “40” in the definition of pi (shown above) makes the file show up in the terminal (or PuTTY) window with a black background. The 31 makes the font color red. Pipes are special files, and this special handling makes them stand out in a directory listing.

If you want your modified text colors to be permanent, you would need to add your modified LS_COLORS definition to one of your startup files (e.g., .bashrc).

More on command line text

You can find additional information on text colors in this November 2016 post on NetworkWorld.

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