Configuring OSX Terminal Prompt

Filed under: programming

Now that I’m spending more time working with the terminal, it became important to customize the look for a more pleasing computing experience. While entering numerous commands for brew, pip, git, etc. it was difficult to see where my cursor is so I wanted to bold the command prompt.

My first go to information source was google search engine, which yielded some links about terminal themes and the terminal settings ‘CLICOLORS’ and ‘LSCOLORS’. There’s even an LSCOLOR generator.

CLICOLOR turns on the feature for customizing colors. Value of 1 turns it on. LCOLORS lets you set specific properties.

# Modify Terminal Colors in ~/.bash_profile

To customize the command prompt itself, the PS1 values must be configured. Your current value can be seen with

 echo PS1

The output would have some of the following characters: \u: Display the current username . \h: Display the hostname \W: Print the base of current working directory. : Display # (indicates root user) if the effective UID is 0, otherwise display a .

Settings can be edited in ~/.bash_profile

export PS1="\e[0;31m[\u@\h \W]\ \e[m"

The basics include foreground and background colors.

Color   Code
Black   0;30
Blue    0;34
Green   0;32
Cyan    0;36
Red     0;31
Purple  0;35

Coincidentally I was sitting with some commandline gurus who overheard me fiddling around with PS1 settings and pointed me to something called the ‘the sexy bash prompt’. This requires adding a ~/.bash_prompt file to your directory [/Users/yourfolder/.bash_prompt].

Screenshot of my sexy bash prompt


  • Be specific with your search query… i.e., use words ‘bash prompt’ rather than generic terms of ‘terminal customization’.

  • You can place these settings in any of ~/.bash_profile, ~/.bashrc, ~/.bash_prompt but only one. Also, have one central file that calls on the others to keep things tidy.