dir_colors − configuration file for dircolors(1)


The dir_colors file contains configuration information for the dircolors(1) program, which in turn provides color information for ls(1). This file is normally found in /etc, though users may maintain their own local copies in their home directories as .dir_colors.

The configuration file consists of several statements, one per line. Anything right of a hash mark (hash mark is at the beginning of a line or is preceded by at least one whitespace. Blank lines are ignored.

The global section of the file consists of any statement before the first TERM statement. Any statement in the global section of the file is considered valid for all terminal types Following the global section is one or more terminal-specific sections, which are preceded by one or more TERM statements which specify the terminal types (as given by the TERM environment variable) the following declarations apply for. It is always possible to override a global declaration by a subsequent terminal-specific one.

The following statements are recognized, case is insignificant:

TERM terminal-type

Starts a terminal-specific section and specifies which terminal it applies to. Multiple TERM statements can be used to create a section which applies for several terminal types.

COLOR yes|all|no|none|tty

Specifies that colorization should be always enabled (yes or all), never enabled (no or none) or enabled only if the output is a terminal (tty). The default is no.


Specifies that eight-bit ISO 8859 characters should be enabled by default. Can for compatibility reasons also be specified as 1 for yes or 0 for no. The default is no.

OPTIONS options

Adds command line options to the default ls command line. The options can be any valid ls command line options, and should include the leading minus sign. Please note that dircolors does not verify the validity of these options.

NORMAL color-sequence

Specifies the color used for normal (non-filename) text.

FILE color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a regular file.

DIR color-sequence

Specifies the color used for directories.

LINK color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a symbolic link.

ORPHAN color-sequence

Specifies the color used for an orphanned symbolic link (one which points to a nonexistent file). If this is unspecified, ls will use the LINK color instead.

MISSING color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a missing file (a nonexistent file which nevertheless has a symbolic link pointing to it). If this is unspecified, ls will use the FILE color instead.

FIFO color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a FIFO (named pipe).

SOCK color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a socket.

BLK color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a block device special file.

CHR color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a character device special file.

EXEC color-sequence

Specifies the color used for a file with the executable attribute set.

LEFTCODE color-sequence

Specifies the left code for non-ISO 6429 terminals (see below).

RIGHTCODE color-sequence

Specifies the right code for non-ISO 6429 terminals (see below).

ENDCODE color-sequence

Specifies the end code for non-ISO 6429 terminals (see below).

*extension color-sequence

Specifies the color used for any file that ends in extension.

.extension color-sequence

Same as *.extension. Specifies the color used for any file that ends in .extension. Note that the period is included in the extension, which makes it impossible to specify an extension not starting with a period, such as ~ for emacs backup files. This form should be considered obsolete.


Most color-capable ASCII terminals today use ISO 6429 (ANSI) color sequences, and many common terminals without color capability, including xterm and the widely used and cloned DEC VT100, will recognize ISO 6429 color codes and harmlessly eliminate them from the output or emulate them. ls uses ISO 6429 codes by default, assuming colorization is enabled.

ISO 6429 color sequences are composed of sequences of numbers separated by semicolons. The most common codes are:

 0     to restore default color
 1     for brighter colors
 4     for underlined text
 5     for flashing text
30     for black foreground
31     for red foreground
32     for green foreground
33     for yellow (or brown) foreground
34     for blue foreground
35     for purple foreground
36     for cyan foreground
37     for white (or gray) foreground
40     for black background
41     for red background
42     for green background
43     for yellow (or brown) background
44     for blue background
45     for purple background
46     for cyan background
47     for white (or gray) background

Not all commands will work on all systems or display devices.

ls uses the following defaults:

NORMAL   0       Normal (non-filename) text
FILE     0       Regular file
DIR      32      Directory
LINK     36      Symbolic link
ORPHAN   undefined       Orphanned symbolic link
MISSING  undefined       Missing file
FIFO     31      Named pipe (FIFO)
SOCK     33      Socket
BLK      44;37   Block device
CHR      44;37   Character device
EXEC     35      Executable file

A few terminal programs do not recognize the default properly. If all text gets colorized after you do a directory listing, change the NORMAL and FILE codes to the numerical codes for your normal foreground and background colors.


If you have a color-capable (or otherwise highlighting) terminal (or printer!) which uses a different set of codes, you can still generate a suitable setup. To do so you will have to use the LEFTCODE, RIGHTCODE, and ENDCODE definitions.

When writing out a filename, ls generates the following output sequence: LEFTCODE typecode RIGHTCODE filename ENDCODE, where the typecode is the color sequence that depends on the type or name of file. If the ENDCODE is undefined, the sequence LEFTCODE NORMAL RIGHTCODE will be used instead. The purpose of the left- and rightcodes is merely to reduce the amount of typing necessary (and to hide ugly escape codes away from the user). If they are not appropriate for your terminal, you can eliminate them by specifying the respective keyword on a line by itself.

NOTE: If the ENDCODE is defined in the global section of the setup file, it cannot be undefined in a terminal-specific section of the file. This means any NORMAL definition will have no effect. A different ENDCODE can however be specified, which would have the same effect.


To specify control- or blank characters in the color sequences or filename extensions, either C-style \-escaped notation, or stty-style ^-notation can be used. The C-style notation includes the following characters:

\a      Bell (ASCII 7)
\b      Backspace (ASCII 8)
\e      Escape (ASCII 27)
\f      Form feed (ASCII 12)
\n      Newline (ASCII 10)
\r      Carriage Return (ASCII 13)
\t      Tab (ASCII 9)
\v      Vertical Tab (ASCII 11)
\?      Delete (ASCII 127)
\nnn Any character (octal notation)
\xnnn        Any character (hexadecimal notation)
\_      Space
\\     Backslash (\)
\^      Caret (^)
\#      Hash mark (#)

Please note that escapes are necessary to enter a space, backslash, caret or any control character anywhere in the string, as well as a hash mark as the first character.


The default LEFTCODE and RIGHTCODE definitions, which are used by ISO 6429 terminals are:


The default ENDCODE is undefined.


dircolors(5), ls(1), stty(1), xterm(1)



System-wide configuration file for dircolors.


Per-user configuration file for dircolors.


This page describes the dir_colors file format as found in the fileutils-4.0 package; other versions may differ slightly. Mail corrections and additions to aeb@cwi.nl. Report bugs in the program to fileutils-bugs@gnu.ai.mit.edu.