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I'm trying to set up a bash prompt for - hostname(screen#):directory$ which is coloured green if the last command completed successfully, red if not. This is what I have so far, which actually does the job but seems to cause display problems if the command wraps a line:

 PS1="\[\`if [[ \$? = "0" ]]; then echo '\e[32m'; else echo '\e[31m' ; fi\` - \h(${WINDOW}):\W$\e[00m "

Googling the issue I found this helpful SO post with a comment that mentions wrapping nonprinting characters in \\[ and \\] to avoid this issue. Therefore I tried the following, but it did not solve the issue, and furthermore breaks the colour change:

PS1="\[\`if [[ \$? = "0" ]]; then echo '\e[32m'; else echo '\e[31m' ; fi\`\] - \h(${WINDOW}):\W$\[\e[00m\] "

How can I keep the structure of this prompt, with colours, but fix it so that long commands are displayed properly?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I have a fancy prompt with colors, and now bash doesn't seem to know how wide my terminal is. Lines wrap around incorrectly.

I have another proper way to do this, put this code in your ~/.bashrc or create a new file and source file :



    RED=$(tput setaf 1)
    GREEN=$(tput setaf 2)
    STOP=$(tput sgr0)

    # arithmetic using bash parameter expansion on a array
    if (($retval + ${PIPESTATUS[@]/%/+} + 0)); then
        PS1="\[$RED\]\u@\h:\w$ \[$STOP\]"
        PS1="\[$GREEN\]\u@\h:\w$ \[$STOP\]"

That will do the trick =)

Bash will run the code inside PROMPT_COMMAND for each commands.

If you have copy/paste problem, you can download the script



  • (( )) is arithmetic in bash, see http://wiki.bash-hackers.org/syntax/arith_expr
  • PROMPT_COMMAND : if set, the value is executed as a command prior to issuing each primary prompt. See man bash | less +/PROMPT_COMMAND
  • tput is better than hard coding ANSI escape codes. See http://wiki.bash-hackers.org/scripting/terminalcodes
  • PIPESTATUS : An array variable containing a list of exit status values from the processes in the most-recently-executed foreground pipeline (which may contain only a single command). See man bash | less +/PIPESTATUS
  • cat<<-'EOF' is a special here doc : the - character means I can indent code, and the single quotes on 'EOF' means to not interpolate variables
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Added doc link about your problem –  stArdustͲ Nov 20 '12 at 21:15
Thanks. I am getting an unexpected EOF while looking for matching `)' on the line that defines the function. Near as I can tell it seems that bash thinks that there is an unclosed ( in the do line, but I really don't see how that could be. –  dotancohen Nov 20 '12 at 22:07
This is a copy & paste problem, this will disappear if you reindent. –  stArdustͲ Nov 20 '12 at 22:16
Actually, I did reindent, with tabs. Everything inside the function got one tab save for the lines that begin PS1, which got two tabs. –  dotancohen Nov 20 '12 at 22:26
Try copy & paste again, there was some mistakes. –  stArdustͲ Nov 20 '12 at 22:31

Not \\[, just \[. You also have an extra \[ at the start.

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Thanks, I updated the question. In fact, I had already taken care of the `\\` issue before I posted. –  dotancohen Nov 20 '12 at 19:12

I have a 2-line prompt, so the potentially long stuff won't affect the command line:

glennj@homebase ~/tmp
2219 $ set | grep PS1=
PS1='\n\u@\h \w\n\! \$ '
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