Display Colored Man Pages in Linux and Unix

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

You need to install a pager called most to display colored man pages in Linux and Unix. It is a paging program that displays one window full at a time, the contents of a file on a terminal. It pauses after each window full and prints on the window status line, including the file name, current line number, and the percentage of the file so far displayed. This page explains how to view colored man pages in Linux, FreeBSD, and macOS or Unix-like systems.

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How to view or display color in man pages

We are going to install the most package as follows so that we can see a colorful man page on our terminal:
How to View Colored Man Pages in Linux and Unix

FreeBSD install most to display colored man pages in Unix

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
Newer version of FreeBSD user should use the pkg command:
# pkg install most

Debian/Ubuntu Linux install most show colorful man pages in Linux

Run the following apt-get command or apt command:
$ sudo apt-get install most
OR
$ sudo apt install most
Sample outputs:

Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  most
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 8 not upgraded.
Need to get 44.0 kB of archives.
After this operation, 121 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Get:1 http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu eoan/universe amd64 most amd64 5.0.0a-4 [44.0 kB]
Fetched 44.0 kB in 1s (48.3 kB/s)
Selecting previously unselected package most.
(Reading database ... 235913 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../most_5.0.0a-4_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking most (5.0.0a-4) ...
Setting up most (5.0.0a-4) ...
Processing triggers for man-db (2.8.7-3) ...
Processing triggers for mime-support (3.63ubuntu1) ..

Install most under Fedora / RHEL / SL / CentOS Linux?

First, turn on and install EPEL repo on a CentOS and RHEL 7.x (see how to install EPEL repo on a CentOS 8 and RHEL 8 here). Execute the following yum command to install the most package:
# yum install most
Fedora Linux user should type the following dnf command:
$ sudo dnf install most

Arch Linux install most

Try the pacman command:
sudo pacman -S most
Sample outputs:

pacman -S most
resolving dependencies...
looking for conflicting packages...
 
Packages (1) most-5.1.0-1
 
Total Installed Size:  0.11 MiB
 
:: Proceed with installation? [Y/n] y
(1/1) checking keys in keyring                     [###################] 100%
(1/1) checking package integrity                   [###################] 100%
(1/1) loading package files                        [###################] 100%
(1/1) checking for file conflicts                  [###################] 100%
(1/1) checking available disk space                [###################] 100%
:: Processing package changes...
(1/1) installing most                              [###################] 100%
:: Running post-transaction hooks...
(1/1) Arming ConditionNeedsUpdate...

macOS install most

Open the Terminal application and run the most command:
brew install most

How to view colored man pages in Linux or Unix

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

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

I recommend that you modify and setup environment variable called PAGER in ~/.bashrc file as follows:
echo 'export PAGER="most"' >> ~/.bashrc

A Note About CSH / TCSH Shell Users

CSH / tcsh shell users, type the following command:

## csh / tcsh syntax ##
setenv PAGER /usr/local/bin/most

How to view colored man page

Try viewing man page for any command. For example, to view the man page of Linux date command, enter:
$ man date

Unix / Linux: View Colour Man Pages
Fig.: Unix / Linux: Color man pages with most command

To quit press ‘q’.

most command summary

Like many Unix commands, most have tons of options and keyboard shortcuts. Hence, I am going to summarize the commonly used options:

Quitting:

  Q                      Quit MOST.
  :N,:n                  Quit this file and view next.
                            (Use UP/DOWN arrow keys to select next file.)

Movement:

  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.

Searching:

  S, f, /               *Search forward
  ?                     *Search Backward
  N                     *Find next in current search direction.

Miscellaneous:

  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.

Conclusion

You learned how to view colored man pages in Linux and Unix-like oses using the most command as pager. See most paging home page here.

This entry is 1 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

This entry is 3 of 6 in the Installing and Using Man Pages Tutorial series. Keep reading the rest of the series:
  1. How to add/install man pages in Alpine Linux
  2. How to install man pages on a CentOS Linux 6/7
  3. Unix / Linux: Display Color Man Pages
  4. Linux / UNIX: Getting help with man pages and how to use them
  5. HowTo: Linux / UNIX Create a Manpage
  6. Ubuntu Linux install man pages

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Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

Start the discussion at www.nixcraft.com

Historical Comment Archive

10 comment

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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
    to
    PAGER /usr/bin/most -s

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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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