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Can I get less not to monochrome its output?

E.g., the output from git diff is colored, but git diff | less is not.

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possibly the same on superuser: superuser.com/questions/117841/… – Ciro Santilli 巴拿馬文件 六四事件 法轮功 Sep 19 '14 at 8:08
Related but not identical isssue. The link is about less only. – Abel Cheung Jul 4 '15 at 16:11
up vote 152 down vote accepted


git diff --color=always | less -r

--color=always is there to tell git to output color codes even if the output is a pipe (not a tty). And -r is there to tell less to interpret those color codes and other escape sequences. Use -R for ANSI color codes only.

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Excellent! Can I translate this to a "git config --global" command? – ripper234 Aug 24 '11 at 12:23
@ripper234. With recent gits, git config color.ui true should be enough to obtain colored output, and to automatically run a pager for long outputs. – Stéphane Gimenez Aug 24 '11 at 12:48
True enough, I was actually using something similar but not quite like it. Thanks anyway for the great answer. – ripper234 Aug 24 '11 at 13:20
In parallel to this Q/A, watch --color 'git diff --cached --color=always' and its friends can bring you some additional awesomeness. – Alois Mahdal Jul 26 '13 at 9:19
Isn't using less -R better (or export LESS=R in /etc/profile)? Why would you allow it to display anything but ANSI "color" escape sequences? Also, the man page says Warning: when the -r option is used, less cannot keep track of the actual appearance of the screen (since this depends on how the screen responds to each type of control character). Thus, various display problems may result, such as long lines being split in the wrong place. – x-yuri Jun 10 '14 at 12:57

Another option would be to enable colors and use 'less -r' as your pager.

git config --global color.ui true
git config --global core.pager 'less -r'

This results in

    ui = true
    pager = less -r

in your ~/.gitconfig

For more information see the Pro Git book.

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Use -r (--raw-control-chars) option to less, or also -R (only ANSI escape sequences).

I have an alias for this in ~/.bashrc

alias rless='less -r'
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Actually I just did alias less='less -r'. Any reason not to? – ripper234 Aug 24 '11 at 12:25
@ripper234: I vaguely remember there could be cases when using -r when not needed can lead to visualization problem. – enzotib Aug 24 '11 at 12:29
For instance, when you pipe ack with less -r you lose a carriage return – New Alexandria Jan 14 '13 at 15:58
You can just use \less if visualization messes up. – Brian Peterson Oct 26 '13 at 0:41

Also tree has an option to force colors on:

tree -C | less -r

And so on for ls:

ls -lR --color | less -r
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Just to add another version on the "use less -r":

use the environment variable LESS with the value r (or add r to whatever it already is)

eg, as I use it in my .bashrc

  export LESS=-Xr

(The X stops the screen from clearing when exiting less)

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