SETTERM(1) User Commands SETTERM(1)
setterm – set terminal attributes
setterm writes to standard output a character string that will invoke
the specified terminal capabilities. Where possible terminfo is con‐
sulted to find the string to use. Some options however (marked “vir‐
tual consoles only” below) do not correspond to a terminfo(5) capabil‐
ity. In this case, if the terminal type is “con” or “linux” the string
that invokes the specified capabilities on the PC Minix virtual console
driver is output. Options that are not implemented by the terminal are
For boolean options (on or off), the default is on.
Below, an 8-color can be black, red, green, yellow, blue, magenta,
cyan, or white.
A 16-color can be an 8-color, or grey, or bright followed by red,
green, yellow, blue, magenta, cyan, or white.
The various color options may be set independently, at least on virtual
consoles, though the results of setting multiple modes (for example,
–underline and –half-bright) are hardware-dependent.
–appcursorkeys [on|off] (virtual consoles only)
Sets Cursor Key Application Mode on or off. When on, ESC O A,
ESC O B, etc. will be sent for the cursor keys instead of ESC [
A, ESC [ B, etc. See the vi and Cursor-Keys section of the
Text-Terminal-HOWTO for how this can cause problems for vi
Like –dump, but appends to the snapshot file instead of over‐
writing it. Only works if no –dump options are given.
Sets the background text color.
–blank [0-60|force|poke] (virtual consoles only)
Sets the interval of inactivity, in minutes, after which the
screen will be automatically blanked (using APM if available).
Without an argument, it gets the blank status (returns which vt
was blanked, or zero for an unblanked vt).
The force option keeps the screen blank even if a key is
The poke option unblanks the screen.
–bfreq [number] (virtual consoles only)
Sets the bell frequency in Hertz. Without an argument, it
defaults to 0.
–blength [0-2000] (virtual consoles only)
Sets the bell duration in milliseconds. Without an argument, it
defaults to 0.
Turns blink mode on or off. Except on a virtual console,
–blink off turns off all attributes (bold, half-brightness,
Turns bold (extra bright) mode on or off. Except on a virtual
console, –bold off turns off all attributes (bold, half-bright‐
ness, blink, reverse).
Without an argument or with the argument all, the entire screen
is cleared and the cursor is set to the home position, just like
clear does. With the argument rest, the screen is cleared
from the current cursor position to the end.
–clrtabs [tab1 tab2 tab3 …] (virtual consoles only)
Clears tab stops from the given horizontal cursor positions, in
the range 1-160. Without arguments, it clears all tab stops.
–cursor [on|off] Turns the terminal’s cursor on or off.
Sets the terminal’s rendering options to the default values.
Writes a snapshot of the virtual console with the given number
to the file specified with the –file option, overwriting its
contents; the default is screen.dump. Without an argument, it
dumps the current virtual console. This overrides –append.
Sets the snapshot file name for any –dump or –append options
on the same command line. If this option is not present, the
default is screen.dump in the current directory. A path name
that exceeds the system maximum will be truncated, see PATH_MAX
from linux/limits.h for the value.
Sets the foreground text color.
Turns dim (half-brightness) mode on or off. Except on a virtual
console, –half-bright off turns off all attributes (bold, half-
brightness, blink, reverse).
Sets the color for bold characters.
Displays the terminal initialization string, which typically
sets the terminal’s rendering options, and other attributes to
the default values.
–inversescreen [on|off] Swaps foreground and background colors for the whole screen.
–linewrap [on|off] Makes the terminal continue on a new line when a line is full.
–msg [on|off] (virtual consoles only)
Enables or disables the sending of kernel printk() messages to
–msglevel 0-8 (virtual consoles only)
Sets the console logging level for kernel printk() messages.
All messages strictly more important than this will be printed,
so a logging level of 0 has the same effect as –msg on and a
logging level of 8 will print all kernel messages. klogd(8) may
be a more convenient interface to the logging of kernel mes‐
Sets the VESA powerdown interval in minutes. Without an argu‐
ment, it defaults to 0 (disable powerdown). If the console is
blanked or the monitor is in suspend mode, then the monitor will
go into vsync suspend mode or powerdown mode respectively after
this period of time has elapsed.
Turns off monitor VESA powersaving features.
Puts the monitor into VESA vsync suspend mode.
Puts the monitor into VESA powerdown mode.
Puts the monitor into VESA hsync suspend mode.
–regtabs [1-160] (virtual consoles only)
Clears all tab stops, then sets a regular tab stop pattern, with
one tab every specified number of positions. Without an argu‐
ment, it defaults to 8.
–repeat [on|off] (virtual consoles only)
Turns keyboard repeat on or off.
Displays the terminal reset string, which typically resets the
terminal to its power-on state.
Turns reverse video mode on or off. Except on a virtual con‐
sole, –reverse off turns off all attributes (bold, half-bright‐
ness, blink, reverse).
–store (virtual consoles only)
Stores the terminal’s current rendering options (foreground and
background colors) as the values to be used at reset-to-default.
–tabs [tab1 tab2 tab3 …]
Sets tab stops at the given horizontal cursor positions, in the
range 1-160. Without arguments, it shows the current tab stop
Overrides the TERM environment variable.
–ulcolor 16-color (virtual consoles only)
Sets the color for underlined characters.
–underline [on|off] Turns underline mode on or off.
Displays version information and exits.
–help Displays a help text and exits.
Since version 2.25 setterm has support for long options with two
hyphens, for example –help, beside the historical long options with a
single hyphen, for example -help. In scripts it is better to use the
backward-compatible single hyphen rather than the double hyphen. Cur‐
rently there are no plans nor good reasons to discontinue single-hyphen
Differences between the Minix and Linux versions are not documented.
The setterm command is part of the util-linux package and is available
from Linux Kernel Archive ⟨ftp://ftp.kernel.org/pub/linux/utils/util-
util-linux May 2014 SETTERM(1)