When I start gnome-terminal and do echo $TERM, I got xterm as output.

I want it to be xterm-256color

I've considered the solution to add 'export TERM=xterm256color' in my .bashrc. But I don't like this solution, what if I decide to switch shell? I have to add an other export to my new shell startup script?

So is there a better way to have automatically a 256 colors terminal when launching gnome-terminal?

3 Answers 3


Copying my answer from the same question @javabrett pointed out:

You were well advised not to change your startup scripts, specially ~/.bashrc. Any "terminal detection" using current $TERM or $COLORTERM in ~/.profile is merely a guess, and may, as you said, cause trouble when using other terminals (say, Putty or xterm). The terminal emulator is supposed to set $TERM, and this should not be changed from within the shell.

Gnome terminal, AFAIK, does not offer a configuration to change its TERM, but it does allow you to change your startup command, and that's all you need. Here is the trick:

Profile Preferences => Title and Command => Run a custom command instead of my shell

Then use the following command:

env TERM=xterm-256color /bin/bash

Just replace /bin/bash with your preferred shell if it's different. And no, you can't use "$SHELL" in that line for shell auto-detection ;) You have to hard-code it


Beginning with gnome-terminal version 3.16, it defaults to TERM=xterm-256color.

  • I'm on gnome terminal version 3.30 but it seem that TERM=xterm-256color is not the default. Explicitly specifying it with export TERM=xterm-256color does solve my question related to bracketed paste for example. May 14, 2020 at 15:20
  • TERM=xterm-256color is its default. If that's not what you see, either your shell initialization files tamper with it, or your distribution patches gnome-terminal (vte) to a different default.
    – egmont
    May 14, 2020 at 17:53
  • Sorry that's because I was in a tmux session the $TERM variable then becomes screen. May 15, 2020 at 9:30

There's a good answer explaining how gnome-terminal doesn't allow TERM to be defaulted via its settings over at askubuntu.

It suggests that this is a compile-time option, so it appears that setting TERM in a shell profile or startup script is the best and only option. You might create a wrapper script or alias if you prefer.

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