Small OSX tip: Fixing the dark Terminal background

January 21, 2011

If you’re OK with dark text on a light background, you can stop reading now.

Personally, I have always preferred a dark background when coding, so obviously my Emacs theme is a dark one. And switching back and forth between Emacs and is much easier on the eyes if the background in Terminal is dark too.

Unfortunately, the Terminal theme I like best (“Pro”) doesn’t agree with ANSI colors. Especially the color blue becomes hard to read:

Many people resolve to using iTerm instead, but I’m not really a fan of it. The shortcuts for switching between tabs are on the arrow keys, much slower than the Terminal shortcuts. And maybe I’m missing something, but I never managed to reconfigure those shortcuts. To be honest, I think the iTerm configuration UI is a bit of a disaster.

So, I discovered by accident that I can actually tweak the background color in Terminal to make the blue color readable.

This is the color picker for the background color. The vertical slider will adjust the brightness of the background, right? Well, it turns out that the brightness of the colored text is also adjusted, but in intervals. The blue color becomes brighter to begin with, then falls back to the original color at about 10% on the slider. The same happens for the other colors, but at different points on the slider. For example the red color switches at about 20% and the magenta a bit after that.







What works best for me is setting the slider at about 9%, just before the blue color falls back.

It may be hard to see from the pictures above, but this makes a huge difference, at least on my monitor. Reading the colored text is no longer a strain on the eye.

3 Responses to “Small OSX tip: Fixing the dark Terminal background”

  1. FYI, iTerm2 fixes the keyboard shortcut complaint you have with iTerm.

  2. …and the configuration disaster is fixed too.

  3. chopmo Says:

    Excellent, George, thanks a lot for commenting! I’ll be sure to check out iTerm2.

    Actually, I first heard of iTerm2 a few hours after posting this – strange coincidence.

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