3 ways to pimp your BASH console

Yo dawg, I heard you like grays with your blacks

If you spend a lot of time around a linux console, you’re familiar with the vast color emptiness that is BASH. The default color scheme and text layouts for BASH can be pretty lame. Luckily the terminal is pretty customizable and you can do some modding to improve the experience.

There is no need to toil away in gray and black for eternity, here are 3 way to pimp your BASH terminal.

1. Upgrade your color scheme


The first and most obvious way to improve your BASH experience is to ditch the default color scheme in favor of a more helpful and vibrant one.

A quick way to get up and running with a nicely styled console is to use the ArchLinux generalized theme.

Edit your /etc/bash.bashrc file to the following script:

# /etc/bash.bashrc
# https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Color_Bash_Prompt
# This file is sourced by all *interactive* bash shells on startup,
# including some apparently interactive shells such as scp and rcp
# that can't tolerate any output. So make sure this doesn't display
# anything or bad things will happen !

# Test for an interactive shell. There is no need to set anything
# past this point for scp and rcp, and it's important to refrain from
# outputting anything in those cases.

# If not running interactively, don't do anything!
[[ $- != *i* ]] && return

# Bash won't get SIGWINCH if another process is in the foreground.
# Enable checkwinsize so that bash will check the terminal size when
# it regains control.
# http://cnswww.cns.cwru.edu/~chet/bash/FAQ (E11)
shopt -s checkwinsize

# Enable history appending instead of overwriting.
shopt -s histappend

case ${TERM} in
		PROMPT_COMMAND=${PROMPT_COMMAND:+$PROMPT_COMMAND; }'printf "\033]0;%s@%s:%s\007" "${USER}" "${HOSTNAME%%.*}" "${PWD/#$HOME/~}"'
		PROMPT_COMMAND=${PROMPT_COMMAND:+$PROMPT_COMMAND; }'printf "\033_%s@%s:%s\033\\" "${USER}" "${HOSTNAME%%.*}" "${PWD/#$HOME/~}"'

# fortune is a simple program that displays a pseudorandom message
# from a database of quotations at logon and/or logout.
# If you wish to use it, please install "fortune-mod" from the
# official repositories, then uncomment the following line:

# [[ "$PS1" ]] && /usr/bin/fortune

# Set colorful PS1 only on colorful terminals.
# dircolors --print-database uses its own built-in database
# instead of using /etc/DIR_COLORS. Try to use the external file
# first to take advantage of user additions. Use internal bash
# globbing instead of external grep binary.

# sanitize TERM:

[[ -f ~/.dir_colors ]] && match_lhs="${match_lhs}$(<~/.dir_colors)"
[[ -f /etc/DIR_COLORS ]] && match_lhs="${match_lhs}$(</etc/DIR_COLORS)"
[[ -z ${match_lhs} ]] \
	&& type -P dircolors >/dev/null \
	&& match_lhs=$(dircolors --print-database)

if [[ $'\n'${match_lhs} == *$'\n'"TERM "${safe_term}* ]] ; then
	# we have colors :-)

	# Enable colors for ls, etc. Prefer ~/.dir_colors
	if type -P dircolors >/dev/null ; then
		if [[ -f ~/.dir_colors ]] ; then
			eval $(dircolors -b ~/.dir_colors)
		elif [[ -f /etc/DIR_COLORS ]] ; then
			eval $(dircolors -b /etc/DIR_COLORS)

	PS1="$(if [[ ${EUID} == 0 ]]; then echo '\[\033[01;31m\]\h'; else echo '\[\033[01;32m\]\u@\h'; fi)\[\033[01;34m\] \w \$([[ \$? != 0 ]] && echo \"\[\033[01;31m\]:(\[\033[01;34m\] \")\\$\[\033[00m\] "

	# Use this other PS1 string if you want \W for root and \w for all other users:
	# PS1="$(if [[ ${EUID} == 0 ]]; then echo '\[\033[01;31m\]\h\[\033[01;34m\] \W'; else echo '\[\033[01;32m\]\u@\h\[\033[01;34m\] \w'; fi) \$([[ \$? != 0 ]] && echo \"\[\033[01;31m\]:(\[\033[01;34m\] \")\\$\[\033[00m\] "

	alias ls="ls --color=auto"
	alias dir="dir --color=auto"
	alias grep="grep --color=auto"
	alias dmesg='dmesg --color'

	# Uncomment the "Color" line in /etc/pacman.conf instead of uncommenting the following line...!

	# alias pacman="pacman --color=auto"


	# show root@ when we do not have colors

	PS1="\u@\h \w \$([[ \$? != 0 ]] && echo \":( \")\$ "

	# Use this other PS1 string if you want \W for root and \w for all other users:
	# PS1="\u@\h $(if [[ ${EUID} == 0 ]]; then echo '\W'; else echo '\w'; fi) \$([[ \$? != 0 ]] && echo \":( \")\$ "


PS2="> "
PS3="> "
PS4="+ "

# Try to keep environment pollution down, EPA loves us.
unset safe_term match_lhs

# Try to enable the auto-completion (type: "pacman -S bash-completion" to install it).
[ -r /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion ] && . /usr/share/bash-completion/bash_completion

# Try to enable the "Command not found" hook ("pacman -S pkgfile" to install it).
# See also: https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Bash#The_.22command_not_found.22_hook
[ -r /usr/share/doc/pkgfile/command-not-found.bash ] && . /usr/share/doc/pkgfile/command-not-found.bash

Next, create a file /etc/DIR_COLORS and set the contents to:

# Configuration file for the color ls utility
# This file goes in the /etc directory, and must be world readable.
# You can copy this file to .dir_colors in your $HOME directory to override
# the system defaults.

# COLOR needs one of these arguments: 'tty' colorizes output to ttys, but not
# pipes. 'all' adds color characters to all output. 'none' shuts colorization
# off.

# Extra command line options for ls go here.
# Basically these ones are:
#  -F = show '/' for dirs, '*' for executables, etc.
#  -T 0 = don't trust tab spacing when formatting ls output.

# Below, there should be one TERM entry for each termtype that is colorizable
TERM linux
TERM console
TERM con132x25
TERM con132x30
TERM con132x43
TERM con132x60
TERM con80x25
TERM con80x28
TERM con80x30
TERM con80x43
TERM con80x50
TERM con80x60
TERM xterm
TERM xterm-color
TERM vt100
TERM rxvt
TERM rxvt-256color
TERM rxvt-cygwin
TERM rxvt-cygwin-native
TERM rxvt-unicode
TERM rxvt-unicode-256color
TERM rxvt-unicode256
TERM screen

# EIGHTBIT, followed by '1' for on, '0' for off. (8-bit output)

# Below are the color init strings for the basic file types. A color init
# string consists of one or more of the following numeric codes:
# 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
NORMAL 00	# global default, although everything should be something.
FILE 00 	# normal file
DIR 01;34 	# directory
LINK 01;36 	# symbolic link
FIFO 40;33	# pipe
SOCK 01;35	# socket
BLK 40;33;01	# block device driver
CHR 40;33;01 	# character device driver

# This is for files with execute permission:
EXEC 01;32 

# List any file extensions like '.gz' or '.tar' that you would like ls
# to colorize below. Put the extension, a space, and the color init string.
# (and any comments you want to add after a '#')
.cmd 01;32 # executables (bright green)
.exe 01;32
.com 01;32
.btm 01;32
.bat 01;32
.tar 01;31 # archives or compressed (bright red)
.tgz 01;31
.arj 01;31
.taz 01;31
.lzh 01;31
.zip 01;31
.z   01;31
.Z   01;31
.gz  01;31
.jpg 01;35 # image formats
.gif 01;35
.bmp 01;35
.xbm 01;35
.xpm 01;35
.tif 01;35

2. Install a Login HUD


Another cool feature to add to your BASH terminal is system information which appears when you login to the console. Archey and Screenfetch are the most common tools for the job. The main difference between the two is that Archey uses Python while Screenfetch is written purely in BASH. I usually opt for Archey since Python is almost always available in my environments.

To install Archey run the following:

sudo apt-get install lsb-release scrot
wget http://github.com/downloads/djmelik/archey/archey-0.2.8.deb
sudo dpkg -i archey-0.2.8.deb

After you run those commands you can type “archey” to start the program. To get it to run each time you log in, edit the file ~/.bash_profile and type the word “archey” without the quotes at the top and save.

3. Improve the process monitor


You’re probably familiar with the ‘top’ command to view running processes and cpu information. Unfortunately the interface and abilities of the program are kind of lame. To give your process monitoring a quick boost and to make it more useful, consider installing htop.

Under the Debian flavor of linux it’s as simple as running:

apt-get install htop

Then, just type htop to launch the process monitor.


Your installation milage may vary depending on the flavor of linux you’re running, so when in doubt, look up the specific distribution instructions for the package you’re installing. Got any other tips for improving the BASH experience?

Read more of Matthew Mombrea's ByteStream blog and follow Matt on Twitter (@mombrea) and Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

This story, "3 ways to pimp your BASH console" was originally published by ITworld.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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