My terminal window default prompt text takes up too much space (I guess my computer name is too long).

Can I customize this?

2 Answers 2


Yes, it is customizable with the PS1 environment variable.

You can set it by putting something like this in your .bash_profile or .profile file:

PS1="your prompt"

If you want a very simple bash prompt that doesn't take up much space at all (which seems to be what you're looking for) you can set it just to show the current directory, like this:

PS1="\w "

The \w is one of many bash PS1 escape sequences. This one expands to the current directory.


This is my /etc/prompt file, which I source from /etc/profile. It uses colors by name, machine name, dir name, colors depending on the user, and is mostly a shameless copy of some parts of the manpage of bash:

#       When  executing  interactively, bash displays the primary prompt PS1 when it is ready to read a command, and the sec-
#       ondary prompt PS2 when it needs more input to complete a command.  Bash allows these prompt strings to be  customized
#       by inserting a number of backslash-escaped special characters that are decoded as follows:
#              \a     an ASCII bell character (07)
#              \d     the date in "Weekday Month Date" format (e.g., "Tue May 26")
#              \D{format}
#                     the  format is passed to strftime(3) and the result is inserted into the prompt string; an empty format
#                     results in a locale-specific time representation.  The braces are required
#              \e     an ASCII escape character (033)
#              \h     the hostname up to the first `.'
#              \H     the hostname
#              \j     the number of jobs currently managed by the shell
#              \l     the basename of the shell's terminal device name
#              \n     newline
#              \r     carriage return
#              \s     the name of the shell, the basename of $0 (the portion following the final slash)
#              \t     the current time in 24-hour HH:MM:SS format
#              \T     the current time in 12-hour HH:MM:SS format
#              \@     the current time in 12-hour am/pm format
#              \A     the current time in 24-hour HH:MM format
#              \u     the username of the current user
#              \v     the version of bash (e.g., 2.00)
#              \V     the release of bash, version + patchelvel (e.g., 2.00.0)
#              \w     the current working directory
#              \W     the basename of the current working directory
#              \!     the history number of this command
#              \#     the command number of this command
#              \$     if the effective UID is 0, a #, otherwise a $
#              \nnn   the character corresponding to the octal number nnn
#              \\     a backslash
#              \[     begin a sequence of non-printing characters, which could be used to embed a terminal  control  sequence
#                     into the prompt
#              \]     end a sequence of non-printing characters
#       The  command  number and the history number are usually different: the history number of a command is its position in
#       the history list, which may include commands restored from the history file (see HISTORY below),  while  the  command
#       number  is  the  position in the sequence of commands executed during the current shell session.  After the string is
# colors:
# \[...\]   needed, so the shell knows, that this isn't printable output, and newlines are placed at the right position.
# RED: Failure or error message
# GREEN: Success message
# YELLOW: Descriptions
# BLUE: System messages
# MAGENTA: Found devices or drivers
# CYAN: Questions
# default:
# postgres, oracle
# PS1=$BLUE"asux]->"$NORMAL\\w"$BLUE ø $NORMAL"
PS1=$BLUE"asux]:"$NORMAL\\w"$BLUE > $NORMAL"
# root, stefan:
case "$UID" in
        PS1=$RED"asux:"$NORMAL\\w"$RED # $NORMAL"
    PS1=$GREEN"asux:"$BLUE\\w$YELLOW" > "$NORMAL
#    default)
#    ;;

asux is my machine name, replace it with yours. It is common usage to use different colors (red for root) and prompts (> for user, # for root) for normal users and super user. If you often use ssh, the machine name is helpful, and different colors, if you just use 2-3 different hosts.

I have a different color for user 'postgresql' or 'oracle' but I don't need it often any more.

screenshot of prompts by user


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .