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Some programs have a colored output (such as grep or emerge on my gentoo system), but if their output is piped, into less for example or into a file, the colored output is disabled.

Yet, I know less is able to display colored output, as commands such as

ccze -A < /var/log/emerge.log | less

do display colored text. So I have two questions here :

  • Is it possible to "trick" other colored output programs to keep the coloration ?
    I would like to keep colors if I do for example :

    emerge -puND world | less
    
  • How do these programs detect that their output is redirected ?

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1  
From the emerge man page: --color < y | n > Enable or disable color output. This option will override NOCOLOR (see make.conf(5)) and may also be used to force color output when stdout is not a tty (by default, color is disabled unless stdout is a tty). – gniourf_gniourf Sep 14 '13 at 15:28
up vote 2 down vote accepted

From stackoverflow - on detecting tty:

Most commands that do print out those color codes explicitly check if stdout/stderr is a tty (using the isatty command).

From stackoverflow - on capturing colorized output:

One way to capture colorized output is with the script command. Running script will start a bash session where all of the raw output is captured to a file (named typescript by default).

See man script for more information.

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