While logged in to a remote ssh session, sometimes I do cat to the wrong file (a binary or a diretory) and the display converts to gibberish. The only way out is to close the terminal and open a new one, which frustrates me because usually there is a lot of state related to the current terminal already.

Update: while I received great answers, a little problem persists. See this follow-up question.

What can I do?

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  • As it happens in the title thread, I suggest you to correct the word "gibberish". I can not edit your post to correct only one character, as you know. Feb 11, 2014 at 20:49

8 Answers 8


/usr/bin/reset might also do the trick.


An old trick that works on almost any other Unix type system, too:

echo "^V^O"

That is: Type the word echo than a double quote character then press CTRL and type the kev v then press CTRL and type the key o (the letter not zero) then type another double quote character then press RETURN.


Try "Reset" or "Reset and clear" from the the "Terminal" menu in the screenshot.

  • Won’t work in a different terminal application or the console.
    – Bombe
    Jul 20, 2009 at 9:34

Try entering setterm -reset


use reset, manpage: http://www.penguin-soft.com/penguin/man/1/reset.html

cating a textfile works too if i remember correctly

  • 5
    cating a text file will almost certainly not work
    – finnw
    Jul 20, 2009 at 9:34

Usual commands for these situations:

  • stty sane
  • eval $(tset -s) # or eval tset -s
  • echo ^[c # You will need to type ^v ESC to get ^[ in bash command line

Hope this helps


If you start using a practice of

less filename

instead of

cat filename

You would not land into such state often (ever?).


when running screen in your ssh session helps as well, as that one will disable the more uncommon font switching escape sequences (but will of course still work with normal programs). The main reasons for screen are different, usually (switching between programs, disconnecting and getting back to your original programs when reconnecting, etc.)

running reset (or one of the escape combos) works if you ever happen to run into a garbled screen (or a screen that refuses to echo input) again...

  • 1
    The problem with running screen is that you lose useful stuff from the terminal like mouse scrolling. Jul 22, 2009 at 10:15
  • 1
    IBTD. Yes, mouse scrolling won't work, but you get working keyboard scrolling and keyboard copy&paste that does not have problems with "dialog borders". Other programs (like "less") kill mouse scrolling, too.
    – mihi
    Jul 22, 2009 at 17:27
  • In gnome-terminal, less doesn't kill mouse scrolling - it just scrolls the text in less, not the scrollback. Jul 26, 2009 at 14:28
  • Hmm, I just installed gnome-terminal (2.22.3 from Debian Lenny) and I cannot scroll less with the mouse; the scrollbar is just grayed out as with screen. Just as with every other terminal emulator available. as soon as less or screen is closed, the scrollbar gets active again.
    – mihi
    Jul 26, 2009 at 20:57

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