I would like to be able to switch between a light and dark color scheme in an existing rxvt-unicode terminal window, in the same vein as switching profiles in gnome-terminal.

Would the best way to do this be to define the colors in a script outside of .Xresources?

  • 1
    Have you looked at the xrdb command? Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 0:57
  • @StephenHarris, very cool! I was not familiar with this command. Loading new settings through xrdb only seem to take effect once I open a new instance of rxvt, though.
    – coffeecola
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 1:07
  • Right; it modifies the resource database that's read when new processes start up. It won't affect existing processes. Sorry, it wasn't clear to me you wanted to modify existing windows. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 1:11

2 Answers 2


I added the following to my ~/.Xresources file to change to colors on the fly pressing Ctrl and 7 or 8 or 9.

! change to red background
URxvt.keysym.C-7: command:\033]11;#ff0000\007

! change to light background
URxvt.keysym.C-8: command:\033]11;#ffffff\007

! change to dark gray background
URxvt.keysym.C-9: command:\033]11;#777777\007

If you want to set foreground and background color at the same time, just concatenate the commands (some colors are defined by names):

! change to red background
URxvt.keysym.C-7: command:\033]11;#ff0000\007\033]10;yellow\007

You can test your colors with a simple echo command, like this one:

echo -e '\033]11;#ff0000\007\033]10;yellow\007'   # changes to red background and yellow foreground


I used code 11 for background color and code 10 for foreground color. The definitions for Urxvt cited by Thomas Dickey indicate to use 49 and 39 instead (which I tested and also work).


If you want to switch profiles just like gnome-terminal (or konsole), that is making changes to a running terminal. xrdb will not do that.

If you want to change the foreground/background default colors, you can use the xterm dynamic colors escape sequences (which rxvt-unicode implements, as I noted in Urxvt: change background color on the fly).

  • I am surprised I did not find that question before posting this one, as this is surely a duplicate. Just to clarify, the best way to switch colors would be to have a bash scripts with a printf for each color by number?
    – coffeecola
    Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 1:30
  • yes, you can change the default foreground/background colors using a script. "ANSI" colors override that. Commented Jul 16, 2016 at 1:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .