I am using the dialog tool (based on ncurses) to create small windows for a limited UI.

However, I can't get colors. Whate ever I do doesn't change the default colors of the terminal.

I create after boot a dialogrc file that I put in /etc or in $HOME. Here is my dialogrc:

            # Run-time configuration file for dialog
            # Automatically generated by "dialog --create-rc <file>"
            # Types of values:
            # Number     -  <number>
            # String     -  "string"
            # Boolean    -  <ON|OFF>
            # Attribute  -  (foreground,background,highlight?)

            # Set aspect-ration.
            aspect = 0

            # Set separator (for multiple widgets output).
            separate_widget = ""

            # Set tab-length (for textbox tab-conversion).
            tab_len = 0

            # Make tab-traversal for checklist, etc., include the list.
            visit_items = OFF

            # Shadow dialog boxes? This also turns on color.
            use_shadow = ON

            # Turn color support ON or OFF
            use_colors = ON

            # Screen color
            screen_color = (RED,BLACK,ON)

            # Shadow color
            shadow_color = (BLACK,BLACK,ON)

            # Dialog box color
            dialog_color = (BLACK,WHITE,OFF)

            # Dialog box title color
            title_color = (BLUE,WHITE,ON)

            # Dialog box border color
            border_color = (WHITE,WHITE,ON)

            # Active button color
            button_active_color = (WHITE,BLUE,ON)

            # Inactive button color
            button_inactive_color = dialog_color

            # Active button key color
            button_key_active_color = button_active_color

            # Inactive button key color
            button_key_inactive_color = (RED,WHITE,OFF)

            # Active button label color
            button_label_active_color = (YELLOW,BLUE,ON)

            # Inactive button label color
            button_label_inactive_color = (BLACK,WHITE,ON)

            # Input box color
            inputbox_color = dialog_color

            # Input box border color
            inputbox_border_color = dialog_color

            # Search box color
            searchbox_color = dialog_color

            # Search box title color
            searchbox_title_color = title_color

            # Search box border color
            searchbox_border_color = border_color

            # File position indicator color
            position_indicator_color = title_color

            # Menu box color
            menubox_color = dialog_color

            # Menu box border color
            menubox_border_color = border_color

            # Item color
            item_color = dialog_color

            # Selected item color
            item_selected_color = button_active_color

            # Tag color
            tag_color = title_color

            # Selected tag color
            tag_selected_color = button_label_active_color

            # Tag key color
            tag_key_color = button_key_inactive_color

            # Selected tag key color
            tag_key_selected_color = (RED,BLUE,ON)

            # Check box color
            check_color = dialog_color

            # Selected check box color
            check_selected_color = button_active_color

            # Up arrow color
            uarrow_color = (GREEN,WHITE,ON)

            # Down arrow color
            darrow_color = uarrow_color

            # Item help-text color
            itemhelp_color = (WHITE,BLACK,OFF)

            # Active form text color
            form_active_text_color = button_active_color

            # Form text color
            form_text_color = (WHITE,CYAN,ON)

            # Readonly form item color
            form_item_readonly_color = (CYAN,WHITE,ON)

            # Dialog box gauge color
            gauge_color = title_color

            # Dialog box border2 color
            border2_color = dialog_color

            # Input box border2 color
            inputbox_border2_color = dialog_color

            # Search box border2 color
            searchbox_border2_color = dialog_color

            # Menu box border2 color
            menubox_border2_color = dialog_color

Then, I try this script, just to test my setup:

dialog --colors --title 'Message' --msgbox "\Zb\Z3HELLO\Z2 WORLD" 5 20

I expect to get a window with at least some colors in the words but I only get the black text. Howver, the text is bold.

I am using buildroot (so I compiled dialog and added the --use-ncurse-colrs option) and I am testing with QEMU.

EDIT: echo $TERM shows vt100, and I am using sh which for buildroot is ash, but I tried with bash and the problem persists.

Did I forgot something ?

Thanks for any help :)

  • Given a terminal (and matching description) that does color, the text is colored. You didn't mention what TERM (terminal description) and actual terminal which is used. Apr 12, 2018 at 0:13
  • Thank you for your answer :) I edited my question with more info.
    – moria
    Apr 12, 2018 at 5:51

1 Answer 1


Thanks to Thomas Dickey, I found the solution. Setting the TERM variable to "linux" instead of "vt100".

This link, helped understand more abou this variable and what it does: http://tldp.org/HOWTO/Keyboard-and-Console-HOWTO-11.html

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