Tiny Code

Tiny Code

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Changing your shell prompt

I find it useful to use a colorful prompt on all the Unix or Unix-like machines I have accounts on.  It makes it much easier to scroll back to find the start of output of previously issued commands.  Otherwise you're wading through a sea of similarly colored text trying to find something which looks like your shell prompt.  That may not seem difficult but when you're dealing with makefiles which can output hundreds of lines of output, you need all the help you can get.

Look at the prompt in the following snippet from my terminal window.  It's very obvious where the prompt is and the date and time stamp in the prompt prove useful quite often.  Note that it's the date and time stamp of the prompt which follows the command output which provides an approximate time of command execution.

Another thing I like to do is to color code my prompts with the level of privileges associated with the account.  Admin accounts get a red background while user level accounts get a nice soothing blue.  You can never have too many reminders of the fact that you're using an admin account.

There are a couple ways to create a prompt like this.  The easiest is to use a handy web site like the .bashrc generator to help you configure your prompt.

I prefer having greater control over my prompt than most tools like the bashrc generator provide and I find too much information in a prompt distracting.  So the following snippet from my .bashrc file does the trick nicely.  You may need this ANSI escape sequence reference to figure out what my prompt is doing.  There are two main parts.  First I'm overriding the text in the terminal window's title bar with "Rods Terminal" followed by the working directory.  Then we jump back into the actual window, change foreground and background colors, and print our prompt.  Finally, we change back to some subdued colors for normal command output.

# Attribute codes:
# 00=none 01=bold 04=underscore 05=blink 07=reverse 08=concealed
# Text color codes:
# 30=black 31=red 32=green 33=yellow 34=blue 35=magenta 36=cyan 37=white
# Background color codes:
# 40=black 41=red 42=green 43=yellow 44=blue 45=magenta 46=cyan 47=white

PS1='\n\[\e]1;Term ${$} \a\e]2;Rods Terminal ${PWD}\a\
[\D{%m-%d} \t] eh? \[\e[m\] \n'

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