Operating system: Mac OS 10.6.2

I'd like to be able to see colour output when piping certain commands through less.

Two examples:

I've got ls aliased to ls --color=auto, so I'd like to be able to see colour when I do this:

ls -l | less

I've also got the color extension turned on in Mercurial, so I'd like to see colour output from:

hg diff | less


hg st | less

After some googling, it seems like some versions of less support either -r or -R to make this work, but no dice for me. I can't see anything in the man page that looks like what I need. (-r or -R SEEM to be the right options, but again, they don't seem to work)

  • 1
    It looks like the color extension is always disabled when piped. Try these commands to see what I mean: ls --color=always | ls -R and hg diff --config color.mode=ansi | less -R – Harvey Aug 10 '10 at 17:34

For mercurial, you should use the pager extension rather than piping explicitly to less. This will play nicely with the colored output options of other hg commands.


I believe you have to use --color=always for ls if you want it to do colors even when not going to stdout. Then use -r on the less command

ls --color=always -l | less -r


$ hg diff --color always | less -R

I would alias "less -R" to less. I'm not sure if there's a way to provide default options to mercurial's commands so that you don't have to remember to type --color always for hg diff all the time.

  • 1
    Or use $ hg diff --color always | less -FRSXQ for better less options. It will silently quit if diff fits the screen, for example. – jpbochi Jul 28 '12 at 15:08
  • 1
    You can setup LESS="-R" alternatively to aliasing "less" itself. – blueyed Sep 27 '12 at 10:45
  • -F is to keep reading file as it's being produced, -S is to not line-wrap, -X something obscure, -Q avoids ringing terminal bell. – Evgeni Sergeev Jan 23 '14 at 0:17

In your ~/.hgrc put:

color =
pager =

pager = LESS='FRSXQ' less
quiet = True
attend = outgoing,incoming,diff,status,log,qdiff,blame,annotate,pdiff,glog
  • Why the quiet = True part? – einpoklum Nov 9 '16 at 19:01
  • Nice! I recommend LESS='eiFRSXQ' to also quit after reaching EOF and ignore case during search – sebastian Jan 18 '17 at 18:22

If you don't want to use the Pager Extension for mercurial you can use the following command:

hg diff | cdiff


[defaults] diff = --color always


ls --color=auto means you get colour output when it's not being piped to something. Try ls --colour=auto | cat and you'll see what I mean.

I expect hg makes similar assumptions.


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