ansicolortags module

An efficient and simple ANSI colors module (and also a powerful script), with functions to print text using colors.

The names of the colors follow these conventions:

  • for the eight ANSI colors (black, red, green, yellow, blue, magenta, cyan, white):
    • the name in minuscule is for color with bold (example ‘yellow‘),
    • the name starting with ‘B’ is for color without bold (example ‘Byellow‘),
    • the name starting with a capital letter is for the background color (example ‘Yellow‘).
  • for the special effects (blink, italic, bold, underline, negative), they might not always be supported, but they usually are:
    • the name in minuscule is used to turn on the effect (example ‘i’ to turn on italic),
    • the name starting in capital letter is used to turn down the effect (example ‘I’ to turn off italic).
  • for the other special effects (nocolors, default, Default, clear, el), the effect is immediate (and seems to be well supported).

List of functions

To print a string

  • sprint(): give a string,
  • printc(): like print(), but with interpreting tags to put colors. This is the most useful function in this module !
  • writec(): like printc, but using any file object (and no new line added at the end of the string).

To clean the terminal or the line

  • erase(): erase all ANSI colors tags in the string (like sprint, but erasing and not interpreting color tags),
  • clearLine(), clearScreen(): to clear the current line or screen,
  • Reset(): to return to default foreground and background, and stopping all fancy effects (like blinking or reverse video).

Others functions

  • notify(): try to display a system notification. Only on GNU/Linux with notify-send installed.
  • xtitle(): try to set the title of the terminal. Warning: not always supported.

Example of use (module)

To store a string, use sprint() (i.e. print to a string, sprint), like this:

>>> example = sprint("France flag is <blue>blue<white>white<red>red<white>, Italy flag have <green>green on it<white>.")
>>> example
'France flag is bluewhitered, Italy flag have green on it.'

The string example can then be printed, with colors, with:

>>> print(example)  # Sorry, but in the documentation it is hard to show colors :)
France flag is bluewhitered, Italy flag have green on it.

To directly print a string colored by tags, use printc() (colors will be there if you try this in your terminal):

>>> printc("<reset><white>Batman's costum is <black>black<white>, Aquaman's costum is <blue>blue<white> and <green>green<white>.<reset>")
Batman's costum is black, Aquaman's costume is blue and green.

See also

This is the most useful function. To do the same, but on any file, use writec().

Moreover, the function erase() can also be useful to simply delete all valid color tags:

>>> print(erase("<reset>Batman's costum is <black>black<white>, Aquaman's costum is <blue>blue<white> and <green>green<white>, and this is a non-valid <tag>, so it is kept like this.<reset>"))
Batman's costum is black, Aquaman's costum is blue and green, and this is a non-valid <tag>, so it is kept like this

In this last example, an <el> tag (el) is used to erase the current content of the line, useful to make a dynamical print:

>>> writec("<reset><red>Computing <u>len(str(2**562017))<reset>...."); tmp = len(str(2**562017)); writec("<el><green>Done !<reset>")
Done !

The first part of the line ‘Computing len(str(2**562017))....’ have disappeared after the computation! (which takes about one second).

Example of use (script)

  • To show the help $ --help;
  • To run a test $ --test;
  • To produce a GNU Bash color aliases file $ --generate --file ~/

Auto detection

This script can normally detect if ANSI codes are supported :

  1. $ --help : will print with colors if colors seems to be supported;
  2. $ --help --noANSI : will print without any colors, even if it is possible;
  3. $ --help --ANSI : will force the use of colors, even if they seems to be not supported.

And, the module part behaves exactly like the script part.

Elsewhere online

This project can be found on-line:

And some documentation on ANSI codes:

  • The reference page for ANSI code is : here on Wikipedia.
  • A reference page for XTitle escape code is : here.


© Lilian Besson, 2012-2017.

Complete documentation


The doc is available on-line, on Read the Docs:

ansicolortags.Reset() → unit[source]

Try to reset the current ANSI codes buffer, using reset.

ansicolortags._generate_color_sh(file_name=None) → string | unit.[source]

Used to print or generate (if file_name is present and is a valid URI address) a profile of all the colors defined in this file.

Print all ANSI Colors as export NAME="VALUE". Useful to automatically generate a file, to be used with Bash: and now you can easily colorized your Bash script with . to import all colors.

The file is a list of export NAME="VALUE", to be used with GNU Bash.


For example, to generate the file with this script, use the -g or --generate option, with -f FILE or --file FILE:

$ python -m ansicolortags -g -f


I suggest to save this file to your home, like ~/, so it will be available for any GNU Bash script. During the last 4 years, all the Bash scripts I wrote that uses this color profile (or assume it to be enabled, e.g. from your .bashrc file) assume it to be saved as ~/

For instance, PDFCompress,,,,,,,, etc.

In a Bash script, I suggest to source this file like this (it checks if the file exists before sourcing it):

[ -f ~/ ] && . ~/
ansicolortags._run_complete_tests() → unit.[source]

Launch a complete test of all ANSI Colors code in the list colorList.

ansicolortags.clearLine() → unit[source]

Try to clear the current line using ANSI code el.

ansicolortags.clearScreen() → unit[source]

Try to clear the screen using ANSI code clear.

ansicolortags.erase(chainWithTags, left='<', right='>', verbose=False) → string[source]

Parse a string containing color tags, when color is one of the previous define name, and then return it, with color tags erased.


>>> print(erase("<reset><blue>This is blue.<white> And <this> is white.<red> Now this is red because I am <angry> !<reset>"))
This is blue. And <this> is white. Now this is red because I am <angry> !

This example seems exactly the same that the previous one in the documentation, but it’s not (it is impossible to put color in the output of a Python example in Sphinx documentation, so there is no color in output in the examples... but be sure there is the real output !).


This function can mess up a string which has unmatched opening and closing tags (< without a > or > without a <), use it carefully.

ansicolortags.notify(msg='', obj='Notification sent by ansicolortags.notify', icon=None, verb=False) → bool[source]

Notification using subprocess and notify-send (GNU/Linux command-line program). Also print the informations directly to the screen (only if verb=True).


This does not use any ANSI escape codes, but the common notify-send GNU/Linux command line program. It will probably fail (but cleanly) on Windows or Mac OS X.

  • Return True if and only if the title have been correctly changed.
  • Fails simply if notify-send is not found.
ansicolortags.printc(chainWithTags, *objects, left='<', right='>', sep=' ', end='n', erase=False, **kwargs) → unit[source]

Basically a shortcut to print(sprint(chainWithTags)) : it analyzes all tags (i.e., it converts the tags like <red> to their ANSI code value, like red), and then it prints the result.

Example (in a terminal the colors, and the bold and underlining effects would be there):

>>> printc("<reset><white>« <u>Fifty shades of <red>red<white><U> » could be a <green>good<white> book, <b>if it existed<B>.<reset>")
« Fifty shades of red » could be a good book, if it existed.

It accepts one or more “things” to print, exactly like print(): for each value arg_i in *objects:

  • if arg_i is a string, it is converted using sprint(arg_i, left=left, right=right) (sprint()), and then passed to print().
  • otherwise arg_i is passed to print() without modification (in the same order, of course).

Example with more than one object:

>>> print("OK n =", 17, "and z =", 1 + 5j, ".")
OK n = 17 and z = (1+5j) .
>>> printc("<reset><green>OK<white> n =<magenta>", 17, "<white>and z =<blue>", 1 + 5j, "<reset>.")  # in a terminal, the output will have colors:
OK n = 17 and z = (1+5j) .

This is the more useful function in this package.


I suggest to use in your own project with the following piece of code:

    from ansicolortags import printc
except ImportError:
    print("WARNING: ansicolortags was not found, disabling colors instead.\nPlease install it with 'pip install ansicolortags'")
    def printc(*a, **kwargs):
        print(*a, **kwargs)


During the last 4 years, a lot of the small Python scripts I wrote try to use this module to add some colors: for example,,,,

ansicolortags.sprint(chainWithTags, left='<', right='>', verbose=False) → string[source]

Parse a string containing color tags, when color is one of the previous define name, and then return it, with color tags changed to concrete ANSI color codes.

Tags are delimited by left and right. By default, it’s HTML / Pango style whit ‘<’ and ‘>’, but you can change them.

For example, a custom style even closer to HTML could be: left='<span color=' and right = '</span>' is also possible.


It is more prudent to put nothing else than ANSI Colors (i.e. values in colorList) between '<' and '>' in chainWithTags. The behavior of the function in case of false tags is not perfect. Moreover, a good idea could be to try not to use ‘<’ or ‘>’ for anything else than tags. I know, it’s not perfect. But, the syntax of color tags is so simple and so beautiful with this limitation that you will surely forgive me this, won’t you ;) ?

Example (where unknown tags are left unmodified, and the colors should be there):

>>> print(sprint("<reset><blue>This is blue.<white> And <this> is white.<red> Now this is red because I am <angry> !<green><reset>"))
This is blue. And <this> is white. Now this is red because I am <angry> !

This function is used in all the following, so all other function can also use left and right arguments.

ansicolortags.tocolor(mystring) → string[source]

Convert a string to a color. mystring have to be in colorDict to be recognized (and interpreted). Default value if mystring is not one of the color name is "" the empty string.

ansicolortags.writec(chainWithTags="", out=sys.stdout, left='<', right='>', flush=True) → unit[source]

Useful to print colored text to a file, represented by the object out. Also useful to print colored text, but without any trailing ‘n’ character.

In this example, before the long computation begin, it prints ‘Computing 2**(2**(2**4)).....’, and when the computation is done, erases the current line (with <el> tag, el), and prints ‘ Done !’ in green, and the result of the computation:

>>> writec("<red>Computing<reset> 2**(2**(2**4))....."); tmp = 2**(2**(2**4)); writec("<el><green>Done !<reset>")
Done !

This example show how to use this module to write colored data in a file. Be aware that this file now contains ANSI escape sequences. For example, $ cat /tmp/colored-text.txt will well print the colors, but editing the file will show hard values of escape code:

>>> my_file = open('/tmp/colored-text.txt', mode = 'w')  # Open an random file.
>>> write("<reset><blue>this is blue.<white>And <this> is white.<red>Now this is red because I am <angry> !<green><reset>", file = my_file)
>>> # Now this file '/tmp/colored-text.txt' has some ANSI colored text in it.

Remark: It can also be used to simply reinitialize the ANSI colors buffer, but the function Reset() is here for this:

>>> writec("<reset>")


The file out will be flushed by this function if flush is set to True (this is default behavior). If you prefer no to, use flush=False option:

>>> writec(chainWithTags_1, out=my_file, flush=False)
>>> # many things...
>>> writec(chainWithTags_n, out=my_file, flush=False)
>>> my_file.flush()  # only flush here!
ansicolortags.xtitle(new_title="", verb=False) → 0 or 1[source]

Modify the current terminal title. Returns 0 if one of the two solutions worked, 1 otherwise.

An experimental try is with ANSI escape code, if the simple way by calling the xtitle program does not work (or if it is not installed).


The second solution simply uses the two ANSI Tags <title> (title) and <bell> (bell). So, you can also do it with:

>>> ansicolortags.writec("<title>This is the new title of the terminal<bell>")

But this function xtitle is better: it tries two ways, and returns a signal to inform about his success.