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Is there a command that can be used to change the color scheme of the Mac OS X Terminal? I like the idea of being able to change colors depending on scripts I run. So far I am just changing the color of my bash prompt with PS1 which is okay but not as noticeable as I'd like.

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What I want to do is change the terminal background color like it would be changed in the same way as Terminal -> Preferences -> Settings except I want to do this with a command. I want to create a script that will look like this: changeBackgroundTheme; ssh; changeBackgroundTheme. This will help to remind me which windows are currently in ssh. – sixtyfootersdude Nov 11 '10 at 17:59
up vote 14 down vote accepted

Depending on what exactly you want to accomplish, here's a few ideas in AppleScript using your Terminal styles. These are more robust than tput, because this gets reset by colored prompts. etc (at least for me).

This sets all tabs running Python (no SSH server available for testing right now) to Homebrew, the others to Ocean:

tell application "Terminal"
    repeat with w from 1 to count windows
        repeat with t from 1 to count tabs of window w
            if processes of tab t of window w contains "Python" then
                set current settings of tab t of window w to (first settings set whose name is "Homebrew")
                set current settings of tab t of window w to (first settings set whose name is "Ocean")
            end if
        end repeat
    end repeat
end tell

save as script and run as osascript Name.scpt anytime you want to re-color your shells (of course you can wrap this as a shell script or something).

If you want to display all long-running processes differently, use the following condition:

if busy of tab t of window w is true then

Or, you can set the style of a single tab, manually selected:

on run argv
    tell application "Terminal" to set current settings of tab (item 1 of argv as number) of front window to first settings set whose name is (item 2 of argv)
end run

Run it like this:

osascript StyleTerm.scpt 3 Homebrew

-> Third tab of frontmost Terminal window gets Homebrew style!

If you want to modify background windows, replace "front window" with a parenthesized expression like just after "tab". If you always want to modify the selected "current tab", use selected tab instead of tab (item 1 of argv as number).

Add the following to your .bash_profile if the first solution is too manual labour for you:

PROMPT_COMMAND='osascript "/path/to/Name.scpt"'

Now it gets executed before every prompt (only problem: not after starting something, i.e. ssh. But this topic isn't about fancy bash tricks anyway. This is just a pointer.)

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Fantastic! Thanks for the help. Exactly what I wanted to do. – sixtyfootersdude Nov 18 '10 at 12:21
In my script "current tab" did not work, I used "selected tab" and that worked. Thanks for the great answer! – satur9nine Nov 19 '10 at 0:31
@satur9nine Thanks for that. Was writing text ad-hoc and mixed up the terms due to the current/selected immediately before that. – Daniel Beck Nov 19 '10 at 0:50

Your scripts can use the tput command to set colors in a portable manner. Try the following script and you will see the terminal clear to a dark cyan background with some bright cyan text.

tput setab 6
tput clear
tput setaf 14
echo Hello World

You can see more information about this in man 5 terminfo in the section called "Color Handling".

You can do the same things by echoing the escape sequences that your terminal recognizes directly. It will be faster, but it may not work using another terminal program. Many of them recognize xterm sequences and here is what the script above would look like using them.

printf "\033[48;5;6m"  # or "\033[46m"
printf "\033[H\033[2J" # your system's clear command does something similar
printf "\033[38;5;14m" # or "\033[96m"
echo Hello World

There's more information on xterm control sequences here.

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This seems to have some effect on the color but setaf doesn't seem to do anything at all for me. What I'd really like is something to change the Mac OS terminal theme like waiwai suggest but programmatically and not using the GUI. – satur9nine Sep 30 '10 at 17:46
Is there a way to change the theme that is being used similar to Terminal -> Preferences -> Settings? – sixtyfootersdude Nov 11 '10 at 18:02
@sixtyfootersdude: There's probably a way to do that with osascript, but I'm not familiar with it. – Dennis Williamson Nov 11 '10 at 18:35

The following article can be used as an example for changing the color theme:
A black OS X Leopard Terminal theme that is actually readable

This article relates to both Leopard and Snow Leopard.
One should also read the very useful comments of the article.

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The link is broken. – Antonio Aug 31 '13 at 14:56
@Antonio: link replaced. – harrymc Aug 31 '13 at 15:50

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