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Customizing the Linux Prompt

When working in a Linux terminal, the prompt is your constant companion, guiding you with context about your current environment. However, the default prompt may not provide the exact information or appearance that you prefer. Thankfully, customizing the prompt is not only possible but also a straightforward task.

Saving the Default Prompt

Before we dive into customizations, it's a good practice to save the current state of the prompt. This way, if you ever decide that your customizations are not to your liking, you can easily revert to the default.

To save the default PS1 value, simply execute:


With the value stored in ps1_old, you can later restore the original prompt using:


Basics of Customizing the Prompt

The prompt's appearance and information are dictated by the PS1 environment variable. By adjusting the value of PS1, you can customize the look and feel of your prompt. Remember, the PS1 variable can contain text, variables, and special escape codes that are replaced with dynamic values.

Certainly! Here are two alternative examples that focus on customizing the information displayed by the prompt without altering its appearance:

Displaying the Last Command's Exit Status

It's useful sometimes to know the exit status of the last command you ran, especially when scripting. A zero (0) exit status usually indicates success, and a non-zero status indicates an error. You can have this information right in your prompt:

PS1='\u@\h:\w (last cmd: $?)\$ '

After running a command, the prompt will show the exit status of that command in parentheses. For instance, after a successful ls command, it might show (last cmd: 0).

Displaying Only the Current Directory

If you find the full path too verbose, you can display just the current directory name:

PS1='\W\$ '

Showing the Time

You can include the current time in your prompt, which can be particularly useful if you're tracking the time of your commands:

PS1='\t \u@\h:\w\$ '

Adding Emoji or Special Characters

To make your prompt more playful, you can include emojis or special characters:

PS1='🚀 \u@\h:\w\$ '

Advanced Customizations

Display Host IP Address

If you're often working with networking or switching between different networks, having the host's IP address in the prompt can be handy:

PS1='\u@\h (\4{eth0}):\w\$ '

This would show the IPv4 address of the eth0 network interface. For example, if the IP address is, the prompt might appear as username@hostname ($.

Note: The above command might not work on all systems or setups since the way to retrieve the IP address might differ. Ensure your interface name matches (eth0 in this case), or adjust as needed. If your system doesn't support \4, you might have to use a command substitution with a tool like ip or ifconfig to achieve similar results.

Calling Commands

You can incorporate the result of a command into your prompt. As an example, you can display the number of files in the current directory:

PS1='\u@\h:\w ($(ls | wc -l) files)\$ '

Restoring the Original Prompt

After experimenting with various customizations, if you want to go back to the default Ubuntu prompt, simply recall the ps1_old value you saved earlier:



The prompt is an essential aspect of the Linux terminal experience, and customizing it can make your interactions more efficient, informative, and enjoyable. Whether you're changing colors, adding emojis, or incorporating dynamic data, the prompt offers a canvas for your creativity. Always remember to save your original prompt value, ensuring you have a way back to familiar ground if needed.

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