Linux / Unix Colored Man Pages With less Command

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 the 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:

How to view colored man pages in Linux

Edit the ~/.bashrc, run:
$ vi ~/.bashrc
Append the following code to get coloured manual pages with less command:

man() {
    LESS_TERMCAP_md=$'\e[01;31m' \
    LESS_TERMCAP_me=$'\e[0m' \
    LESS_TERMCAP_se=$'\e[0m' \
    LESS_TERMCAP_so=$'\e[01;44;33m' \
    LESS_TERMCAP_ue=$'\e[0m' \
    LESS_TERMCAP_us=$'\e[01;32m' \
    command man "$@"

Save and close the file. Just load your updated ~/.bashrc with the source command:
$ source ~/.bashrc
Test it:
$ man ls
$ man date
$ man 3 printf

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
$ 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
$ xrdb -load ~/.Xdefaults
To view the man page of grep command, enter:
$ man grep

less command summary

Moving around:

  e  ^E  j  ^N  CR  *  Forward  one line   (or N lines).
  y  ^Y  k  ^K  ^P  *  Backward one line   (or N lines).
  f  ^F  ^V  SPACE  *  Forward  one window (or N lines).
  b  ^B  ESC-v      *  Backward one window (or N lines).
  z                 *  Forward  one window (and set window to N).
  w                 *  Backward one window (and set window to N).
  ESC-SPACE         *  Forward  one window, but don't stop at end-of-file.
  d  ^D             *  Forward  one half-window (and set half-window to N).
  u  ^U             *  Backward one half-window (and set half-window to N).
  ESC-)  RightArrow *  Right one half screen width (or N positions).
  ESC-(  LeftArrow  *  Left  one half screen width (or N positions).
  ESC-}  ^RightArrow   Right to last column displayed.
  ESC-{  ^LeftArrow    Left  to first column.
  F                    Forward forever; like "tail -f".
  ESC-F                Like F but stop when search pattern is found.
  r  ^R  ^L            Repaint screen.
  R                    Repaint screen, discarding buffered input.

Commands marked with * may be preceded by a number, N.

Searching keyboard shortcuts

  /pattern          *  Search forward for (N-th) matching line.
  ?pattern          *  Search backward for (N-th) matching line.
  n                 *  Repeat previous search (for N-th occurrence).
  N                 *  Repeat previous search in reverse direction.
  ESC-n             *  Repeat previous search, spanning files.
  ESC-N             *  Repeat previous search, reverse dir. & spanning files.
  ESC-u                Undo (toggle) search highlighting.
  &pattern          *  Display only matching lines

Jumping around

  g  <  ESC-<       *  Go to first line in file (or line N).
  G  >  ESC->       *  Go to last line in file (or line N).
  p  %              *  Go to beginning of file (or N percent into file).
  t                 *  Go to the (N-th) next tag.
  T                 *  Go to the (N-th) previous tag.
  {  (  [           *  Find close bracket } ) ].
  }  )  ]           *  Find open bracket { ( [.
  ESC-^F <c1> <c2>  *  Find close bracket <c2>.
  ESC-^B <c1> <c2>  *  Find open bracket <c1>

See less command man page or hit the h to activate the help screen while reading man pages:
man less


You learned how to configure less command to display color when using the man command.

This entry is 2 of 2 in the Linux / UNIX Colorful Man Pages Tutorial series. Keep reading the rest of the series:
  1. Display Colored Man Pages in Linux and Unix
  2. Colored Man Pages With less Command

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🐧 5 comments so far... add one

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5 comments… add one
  • tangram Apr 17, 2012 @ 11:01

    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?


  • user23 May 19, 2013 @ 11:56

    i was searching for that. Using most as a pagerviewer is also possible, but i was missing the ‘J’ and ‘K’ key to navigate through the page.

  • Ideophage Jul 10, 2013 @ 12:50

    /etc/conf.conf > /etc/most.conf

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