Colorful Bash Prompt Generator

Thursday, December 30, 2004.

(A very old post, but I’ve used this prompt ever since.)

Setting your bash prompt is one of those geek machismo things that usually culminates in something like

export PS1='\[\e]0;\w\a\]\n\[\e[32m\]\u@\h \[\e[33m\]\w\n\[\e[0m\]$ '

the idea being that lots of escape sequences = eliteness. (After a while you only see blondes, brunettes, and redheads.) Though, I’d guess most people just copy someone else’s bash prompt and foist it off as their own, rather than learn ansi / xterm / bash escape sequences. Like me initially. :)

However, you can easily make your prompt setup readable by breaking it down. I’ve started doing this in my prompt file.

# ansi color escape sequences

My motivation initially was to avoid beeping console prompts. The xterm escape sequence to set the window title contains a bell character, which was of course interpreted by xterm and friends, but not when I’d sit down at system consoles (where usually TERM=cons25). I needed to set $PS1 according to $TERM.

In the course of things, I discovered the \t bash escape sequence, which gives you the current time in hh:mm:ss form. Nice. By incorporating this into the prompt you can now tell by inspection how long you’ve been sitting with your jaw open trying to remember what you were about to do. Or, how severe one’s random spastic ls-ing has gotten.

For emergencies, there’s also the no-color prompt.

prompt_nocolor='\n\u@\h \w\n$ '

For nostalgia (or out of masochism) there’s the old dos prompt.

Posted by Alan on Thursday, December 30, 2004. (Discuss)

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"After a little while I became possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl itself. I positively felt a wish to explore its depths, even at the sacrifice I was going to make; and my principal grief was that I should never be able to tell my old companions on shore about the mysteries I should see."

Illustration for Edgar Allan Poe's story "Descent into the Maelstrom" by Harry Clarke, published in 1919.