Linux / Unix: Colored Man Pages With less Command

Posted on in Categories , , last updated May 3, 2017

How do I see colored man pages with standard Unix or Linux less command without installing most paging program for Unix / Linux like operating system?

You can use less command, which is a program similar to more), but which allows backward movement in the file as well as forward movement. Edit ~/.bashrc file using a text editor such as vim / vi, enter:
$ vi ~/.bashrc
Append the following code to get coloured manual pages with less command:

man() {
	env \
		LESS_TERMCAP_mb=$(printf "\e[1;31m") \
		LESS_TERMCAP_md=$(printf "\e[1;31m") \
		LESS_TERMCAP_me=$(printf "\e[0m") \
		LESS_TERMCAP_se=$(printf "\e[0m") \
		LESS_TERMCAP_so=$(printf "\e[1;44;33m") \
		LESS_TERMCAP_ue=$(printf "\e[0m") \
		LESS_TERMCAP_us=$(printf "\e[1;32m") \
			man "[email protected]"
}

(Source: Man page from the Arch Linux wiki)

Save and close the file.

A Note About Colored Man Pages On xterm or rxvt-unicode

If you are using xterm/uxterm or rxvt-unicode edit the ~/.Xresources or ~/.Xdefaults file, enter:
$ vi ~/.Xresources
OR
$ vi ~/.Xdefaults
Xterm user add:

*VT100.colorBDMode:     true
*VT100.colorBD:         red
*VT100.colorULMode:     true
*VT100.colorUL:         cyan

rxvt-unicode user add:

URxvt.colorIT:      #87af5f
URxvt.colorBD:      #d7d7d7
URxvt.colorUL:      #87afd7

Save and close the file. Type the following command:
$ xrdb -load ~/.Xresources
OR
$ xrdb -load ~/.Xdefaults
To view the man page of grep command, enter:
$ man grep
Sample outputs:

Configure Less To Display Colored Man Page under Linux / Unix / Apple OS X
Fig.01: Colored man page

This entry is 2 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

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. He has worked with global clients and in various industries, including IT, education, defense and space research, and the nonprofit sector. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+.

5 comment

  1. Thanks for the article.

    Just tried it on my home CentOS system through SSH using Putty. It works like a charm under this conditions.
    When I get home I’ll try the suggestions under X.

    Any chances of having this working under other shells such as tcsh and zsh?

    Regards.

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