I need grep output with context, in color, and blank lines as group separator. In this question, I learned how to define custom group-separator, and I have constructed my grep command like this:

grep --group-separator="" --color=always -A5

but the group separator is actually not empty, instead it still contains the color code (i.e. [[36m[[K[[m[[K). This is because I am using --color=always. But I need color in my grep command, and I need separator to be blank line (for further processing)

How can I combine these two conditions?

  • If you have --color=always the match will print with color, and if you have the --group-separator="" set to the empty string you will get a blank line after your matching group. Please try again leaving the --group-separator="" with the empty string, not a specific color escape, and then explain what is not working.
    – bsd
    Feb 4, 2014 at 21:12
  • @bdowning that's what the OP tried. The code he mentions is not visible in the terminal output. Try passing the output through od -c to see the hidden characters that appear in the blank lines.
    – terdon
    Feb 4, 2014 at 21:20
  • @terdon, I see it with od.
    – bsd
    Feb 4, 2014 at 22:37

2 Answers 2


If you use the GREP_COLORS environment variable you can control specific colors for each type of match. man grep explains the use of the variable.

The following command will print a colored match, but nothing on the line that separates the group, just a blank line. Piped through od you'll see the color escape before and after the match, but only \n\n at the group separation.

GREP_COLORS='ms=01;31:mc=01;31:sl=:cx=:fn=35:ln=32:bn=32:se=' grep --group-separator="" --color=always -A5

Unsetting the se component will suppress the printing of color in the group separator.

Since my example above used all of the default values for GREP_COLORS the following will work as well.

GREP_COLORS='se=' grep --group-separator="" --color=always -A5

If you're not using a bashlike shell, you might need to export GREP_COLORS first.


Personally, I do that using Perl, not grep. I have a little script that will highlight a given pattern in color:

#!/usr/bin/env perl
use Getopt::Std;
use strict;
use Term::ANSIColor; 

my %opts;
    if ($opts{h}){

$0 will highlight the given pattern in color. 



If FILE is ommitted, it reads from STDIN.

-c : comma separated list of colors
-h : print this help and exit
-l : comma separated list of search patterns (can be regular expressions)
-s : makes the search case sensitive


my $case_sensitive=$opts{s}||undef; 
my @color=('bold red','bold blue', 'bold yellow', 'bold green', 
           'bold magenta', 'bold cyan', 'yellow on_magenta', 
           'bright_white on_red', 'bright_yellow on_red', 'white on_black');
## user provided color
if ($opts{c}) {
## read patterns
my @patterns;
    die("Need a pattern to search for (-l)\n");

# Setting $| to non-zero forces a flush right away and after 
# every write or print on the currently selected output channel. 

while (my $line=<>) 
    for (my $c=0; $c<=$#patterns; $c++){
    print STDOUT $line;

If you save that in your path as color, you can get your desired output by running

grep --group-separator="" --color=never -A5 foo | color -l foo

That way, the script is coloring the matches for you and you can tell grep not to use colors and avoid this problem.

  • Please, @terdon add it to a gist, and link it back here, so it will be easier to follow any evolution.
    – Rafareino
    Aug 19, 2015 at 22:40
  • @Rafareino yeah, I'm afraid I don't really use such tools. I do actually have a repository but it is very rarely updated. I keep meaning to set one up and use it properly but I never seem to get round to it.
    – terdon
    Sep 3, 2015 at 12:18
  • So I made a small correction right here, sadly, I needed to include a comment to reach the minimum edit @terdon
    – Rafareino
    Sep 4, 2015 at 14:17

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