I noticed that colors in the Snow Leopard Terminal.app aren't that great (using the Pro theme, but the other themes are worse).

There seems to be no easy way to customize the colors, and googling only showed weird workarounds involving SIMBL and forcing the terminal to 32-Bit.

Is that still the case, or is there a way to change the colors in Snow Leopard's Terminal.app? My shell is zsh, not bash if that makes a difference.

Clarification: I'm referring to the ANSI Colors like Green, Red, Blue etc. By default, the Terminal looks like this:


These colors aren't that great, I want them look like this:

I want these colors

I have found a 64-Bit compatible SIMBL/TerminalColours plugin, but if I can avoid having to use SIMBL, that would be my goal. I know that there are alternative terminals like iTerm, but I want Terminal.app.

  • is there some reason that the color customization in the preferences doesn't work for you? Jan 1, 2011 at 9:35
  • @calavera they simply don't have the option needed. They have Text, Bold Text and Selection, but I want the ANSI Colors like Green, Blue, Red etc. Jan 1, 2011 at 10:29
  • 3
    For reference: Lion has fixed this, ANSI Colors can now be defined in Terminal.app. Aug 26, 2011 at 19:53
  • 1
    awesome, thanks for updating. probably will still use iterm2 though :P Aug 29, 2011 at 3:44

3 Answers 3


Terminal.app has these colors hard-coded into it. Internal methods like +[NSColor(Terminal) vtRedColor] use hard-coded floating-point constants to set the colors.

As you noted, there are SIMBL plugins that can patch this but you've already noted their current limitations. SIMBL has been updated to support 64-bit applications, so you should contact the authors of the plugins to request that they rebuild them to support 64-bit. There's also another SIMBL plugin to consider.

The only other option for Terminal.app is to write a feature request at http://bugreport.apple.com and hope that somebody at Apple is enticed to add color customization to Terminal.app for Lion.

  • "The only other option for Terminal.app is to write a feature request at bugreport.apple.com and hope that somebody at Apple is enticed to add color customization to Terminal.app for Lion." Follow up: And that's what happened.
    – Chris Page
    Sep 9, 2011 at 1:11
  • Nice work Chris. :-)
    – ohmantics
    Sep 13, 2011 at 5:19

As of Mac OS X Lion 10.7, the sixteen ANSI colors are customizable in Terminal preferences.

Terminal > Preferences > Settings > [profile] > Text > ANSI Colors

Terminal ANSI Color Preferences

When you point at one of the color controls it displays the ANSI color name and number for reference.

When you edit an ANSI color there's a button in the color panel for resetting the individual ANSI color back to its default:

Terminal ANSI Color Panel

A couple of tips about the Settings preference panel:

  • As with most of the Settings, you can select more than one profile at a time (e.g., Shift- or Command-Click, or choose Edit > Select All) and change the colors for all of them at the same time.

  • The Settings preference panel supports Undo (and Redo), so you can try out a change (or several changes) and revert changes you don't like.


ANSI escape codes might do what you want. They're not as popular now as they were when everyone worked at a terminal over a modem, but they're still work in Terminal and iTerm and such ilk. I wouldn't be surprised to find that Terminal is using them behind the scenes to control its colors.

You might want to look at IBM's Prompt magic page. ANSI codes should allow you to customize the colors if you start with the Basic terminal profile.

Wikipedia has additional info at ANSI escape code.

  • 1
    The problem wasn't the actual escape code, but how Terminal.app interpreted them. Prior to Lion, you couldn't change how the colors looked. Sep 8, 2011 at 21:31

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