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Unix / Linux: Display Color Man Pages

How do I add a bit of color to my man pages under Linux / FreeBSD / Apple OS X / Unix like operating systems?

You can install a page called most. It is a paging program that displays, one windowful at a time, the contents of a file on a terminal.

It pauses after each windowful and prints on the window status line the screen the file name, current line number, and the percentage of the file so far displayed.

How Do I Install most Under FreeBSD?

To install the port, enter:
# cd /usr/ports/sysutils/most/
# make install clean

Alternatively, you can add the binary package called most using the the following command:
# pkg_add -r most

How Do I Install most Under Debian / Ubuntu Linux?

Type the following command:
# apt-get install most

How Do I Install most Under Fedora / RHEL / SL / CentOS Linux?

Make sure RPMForge repo is configured. Type the following command to install the same:
# yum install most

How Do I Use most Command?

Type the following command to set PAGER bash shell variable, enter:

export PAGER="most"


export PAGER="/usr/bin/most -s"

I recommend that you modify and setup environment variable called PAGER in ~/.bashrc file.

A Note About CSH / TCSH Shell Users

CSH / tcsh shell users, type the following command:

setenv PAGER /usr/local/bin/most

Try viewing man for any command. To view the man page of Linux date command, enter:
$ man date
Sample outputs:

Unix / Linux: View Colour Man Pages

Fig.: Unix / Linux: Color man pages with most command

most Command Summary

  Q                      Quit MOST.
  :N,:n                  Quit this file and view next.
                            (Use UP/DOWN arrow keys to select next file.)
  SPACE, D              *Scroll down one Screen.
  U, DELETE             *Scroll Up one screen.
  RETURN, DOWN          *Move Down one line.
  UP                    *Move Up one line.
  T                      Goto Top of File.
  B                      Goto Bottom of file.
  > , TAB                Scroll Window right
  <                      Scroll Window left
  RIGHT                  Scroll Window left by 1 column
  LEFT                   Scroll Window right by 1 column
  J, G                   Goto line.
  %                      Goto percent.
Window Commands:
  Ctrl-X 2, Ctrl-W 2     Split window.
  Ctrl-X 1, Ctrl-W 1     Make only one window.
  O, Ctrl-X O            Move to other window.
  Ctrl-X 0               Delete Window.
  S, f, /               *Search forward
  ?                     *Search Backward
  N                     *Find next in current search direction.
  W                      Toggle width between 80 and 132 char mode.
  Ctrl-X Ctrl-F          Read a file from disk
  R, Ctrl-R              Redraw Screen.
  F                      Simulate tail -f mode
  :o                     Toggle options:  b-binary, w-wrap, t-tab
  E                      Edit file.  Uses MOST_EDITOR and EDITOR
                           environment variables.
*Note:  This command may be repeated `n' times By entering a number then
        the command key, e.g.,  '5 SPACE' moves 5 screens forward.

External links

  • Download most paging program for Unix, VMS, MSDOS, and win32 systems.
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This entry is 1 of 2 in the Linux / UNIX Colorful Man Pages Tutorial series. Keep reading the rest of the series:
  1. Unix / Linux: Display Color Man Pages
  2. Linux / Unix: Colored Man Pages With less Command

{ 10 comments… add one }

  • Bill Carroll April 9, 2012, 2:33 pm

    On Mac OSX there are some interesting options. I use zsh as my shell and I use homebrew instead of macports for installing stuff like “most”.

    If you have homebrew you can open terminal and:
    “brew install most”

    Then with “most” installed you can pipe man to most:
    “man date | most”

    I also found out today you can pipe man to preview:
    “man -t most | open -f -a /Applications/Preview.app”

    This creates a PDF, although it’s not colored.

    • nixCraft April 9, 2012, 3:08 pm

      Thanks for the sharing OS X specific info.

  • Stefan Lasiewski April 10, 2012, 12:59 am

    I use Termcap to add color to manpages.

    1. Add the following to ~/.LESS_TERMCAP

    export LESS_TERMCAP_mb=$(tput bold; tput setaf 2) # green
    export LESS_TERMCAP_md=$(tput bold; tput setaf 6) # cyan
    export LESS_TERMCAP_me=$(tput sgr0)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_so=$(tput bold; tput setaf 3; tput setab 4) # yellow on blue
    export LESS_TERMCAP_se=$(tput rmso; tput sgr0)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_us=$(tput smul; tput bold; tput setaf 7) # white
    export LESS_TERMCAP_ue=$(tput rmul; tput sgr0)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_mr=$(tput rev)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_mh=$(tput dim)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_ZN=$(tput ssubm)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_ZV=$(tput rsubm)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_ZO=$(tput ssupm)
    export LESS_TERMCAP_ZW=$(tput rsupm)

    2. Source this file from .bashrc :

            # Use colors for less, man, etc.
            [[ -f ~/.LESS_TERMCAP ]] && . ~/.LESS_TERMCAP

    More details at http://unix.stackexchange.com/a/147/4

  • angelblade April 10, 2012, 11:07 pm

    Archlinux has same package , vía pacman

  • tangram April 11, 2012, 9:29 am

    I like most however I’m too used to use J and K to scroll in less.
    If there was a way to bind J and K to scroll up/down I’d be sold.

  • Andy Paton April 12, 2012, 8:43 am

    On CENTOS/RED HAT you can change the pager for MAN pages only from “less” to “most”.

    Edit the setting for PAGER setting in /etc/man.config
    PAGER /usr/bin/less -is
    PAGER /usr/bin/most -s

  • Matt Doar July 18, 2012, 8:34 pm

    Built fine from source on OSX. First download slang from the same site.
    ./configure, make, sudo make install
    I couldn’t get most to build with an uninstalled version of slang
    Then the same thing for most

  • Alex October 18, 2013, 4:23 pm

    i also use “most” but what i dislike about it is that it does not do search highlight. When searching using “/” it scrolls to the location but the found word is not highlighted … annoying somewhat as you have to read around the page to figure out where exactly it found it.

    I’ll try the LESS_TERMCAP tip from Stefan, thanks!

  • GT August 12, 2015, 4:50 pm

    most is a standard part of Fedora without RPMforge, and has been for some time. You can install it with:

    yum install most

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