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console_codes - Linux console escape and control sequences
The Linux console implements a large subset of the VT102 and
ECMA-48/ISO 6429/ANSI X3.64 terminal controls, plus certain private-
mode sequences for changing the color palette, character-set mapping,
etc. In the tabular descriptions below, the second column gives
ECMA-48 or DEC mnemonics (the latter if prefixed with DEC) for the
given function. Sequences without a mnemonic are neither ECMA-48 nor
After all the normal output processing has been done, and a stream of
characters arrives at the console driver for actual printing, the first
thing that happens is a translation from the code used for processing
to the code used for printing.
If the console is in UTF-8 mode, then the incoming bytes are first
assembled into 16-bit Unicode codes. Otherwise each byte is
transformed according to the current mapping table (which translates it
to a Unicode value). See the Character Sets section below for
In the normal case, the Unicode value is converted to a font index, and
this is stored in video memory, so that the corresponding glyph (as
found in video ROM) appears on the screen. Note that the use of
Unicode (and the design of the PC hardware) allows us to use 512
different glyphs simultaneously.
If the current Unicode value is a control character, or we are
currently processing an escape sequence, the value will treated
specially. Instead of being turned into a font index and rendered as a
glyph, it may trigger cursor movement or other control functions. See
the Linux Console Controls section below for discussion.
It is generally not good practice to hard-wire terminal controls into
programs. Linux supports a terminfo(5) database of terminal
capabilities. Rather than emitting console escape sequences by hand,
you will almost always want to use a terminfo-aware screen library or
utility such as ncurses(3), tput(1), or reset(1).
Linux Console Controls
This section describes all the control characters and escape sequences
that invoke special functions (i.e., anything other than writing a
glyph at the current cursor location) on the Linux console.
A character is a control character if (before transformation according
to the mapping table) it has one of the 14 codes 00 (NUL), 07 (BEL), 08
(BS), 09 (HT), 0a (LF), 0b (VT), 0c (FF), 0d (CR), 0e (SO), 0f (SI), 18
(CAN), 1a (SUB), 1b (ESC), 7f (DEL). One can set a "display control
characters" mode (see below), and allow 07, 09, 0b, 18, 1a, 7f to be
displayed as glyphs. On the other hand, in UTF-8 mode all codes 00-1f
are regarded as control characters, regardless of any "display control
If we have a control character, it is acted upon immediately and then
discarded (even in the middle of an escape sequence) and the escape
sequence continues with the next character. (However, ESC starts a new
escape sequence, possibly aborting a previous unfinished one, and CAN
and SUB abort any escape sequence.) The recognized control characters
are BEL, BS, HT, LF, VT, FF, CR, SO, SI, CAN, SUB, ESC, DEL, CSI. They
do what one would expect:
BEL (0x07, ^G) beeps;
BS (0x08, ^H) backspaces one column (but not past the beginning of the
HT (0x09, ^I) goes to the next tab stop or to the end of the line if
there is no earlier tab stop;
LF (0x0A, ^J), VT (0x0B, ^K) and FF (0x0C, ^L) all give a linefeed, and
if LF/NL (new-line mode) is set also a carriage return;
CR (0x0D, ^M) gives a carriage return;
SO (0x0E, ^N) activates the G1 character set;
SI (0x0F, ^O) activates the G0 character set;
CAN (0x18, ^X) and SUB (0x1A, ^Z) interrupt escape sequences;
ESC (0x1B, ^[) starts an escape sequence;
DEL (0x7F) is ignored;
CSI (0x9B) is equivalent to ESC [.
ESC- but not CSI-sequences
ESC c RIS Reset.
ESC D IND Linefeed.
ESC E NEL Newline.
ESC H HTS Set tab stop at current column.
ESC M RI Reverse linefeed.
ESC Z DECID DEC private identification. The kernel returns the
string ESC [ ? 6 c, claiming that it is a VT102.
ESC 7 DECSC Save current state (cursor coordinates,
attributes, character sets pointed at by G0, G1).
ESC 8 DECRC Restore state most recently saved by ESC 7.
ESC [ CSI Control sequence introducer
ESC % Start sequence selecting character set
ESC % @ Select default (ISO 646 / ISO 8859-1)
ESC % G Select UTF-8
ESC % 8 Select UTF-8 (obsolete)
ESC # 8 DECALN DEC screen alignment test - fill screen with E's.
ESC ( Start sequence defining G0 character set
ESC ( B Select default (ISO 8859-1 mapping)
ESC ( 0 Select VT100 graphics mapping
ESC ( U Select null mapping - straight to character ROM
ESC ( K Select user mapping - the map that is loaded by
the utility mapscrn(8).
ESC ) Start sequence defining G1
(followed by one of B, 0, U, K, as above).
ESC > DECPNM Set numeric keypad mode
ESC = DECPAM Set application keypad mode
ESC ] OSC (Should be: Operating system command) ESC ] P
nrrggbb: set palette, with parameter given in 7
hexadecimal digits after the final P :-(. Here n
is the color (0-15), and rrggbb indicates the
red/green/blue values (0-255). ESC ] R: reset
ECMA-48 CSI sequences
CSI (or ESC [) is followed by a sequence of parameters, at most NPAR
(16), that are decimal numbers separated by semicolons. An empty or
absent parameter is taken to be 0. The sequence of parameters may be
preceded by a single question mark.
However, after CSI [ (or ESC [ [) a single character is read and this
entire sequence is ignored. (The idea is to ignore an echoed function
The action of a CSI sequence is determined by its final character.
@ ICH Insert the indicated # of blank characters.
A CUU Move cursor up the indicated # of rows.
B CUD Move cursor down the indicated # of rows.
C CUF Move cursor right the indicated # of columns.
D CUB Move cursor left the indicated # of columns.
E CNL Move cursor down the indicated # of rows, to column 1.
F CPL Move cursor up the indicated # of rows, to column 1.
G CHA Move cursor to indicated column in current row.
H CUP Move cursor to the indicated row, column (origin at 1,1).
J ED Erase display (default: from cursor to end of display).
ESC [ 1 J: erase from start to cursor.
ESC [ 2 J: erase whole display.
ESC [ 3 J: erase whole display including scroll-back
buffer (since Linux 3.0).
K EL Erase line (default: from cursor to end of line).
ESC [ 1 K: erase from start of line to cursor.
ESC [ 2 K: erase whole line.
L IL Insert the indicated # of blank lines.
M DL Delete the indicated # of lines.
P DCH Delete the indicated # of characters on the current line.
X ECH Erase the indicated # of characters on the current line.
a HPR Move cursor right the indicated # of columns.
c DA Answer ESC [ ? 6 c: "I am a VT102".
d VPA Move cursor to the indicated row, current column.
e VPR Move cursor down the indicated # of rows.
f HVP Move cursor to the indicated row, column.
g TBC Without parameter: clear tab stop at the current position.
ESC [ 3 g: delete all tab stops.
h SM Set Mode (see below).
l RM Reset Mode (see below).
m SGR Set attributes (see below).
n DSR Status report (see below).
q DECLL Set keyboard LEDs.
ESC [ 0 q: clear all LEDs
ESC [ 1 q: set Scroll Lock LED
ESC [ 2 q: set Num Lock LED
ESC [ 3 q: set Caps Lock LED
r DECSTBM Set scrolling region; parameters are top and bottom row.
s ? Save cursor location.
u ? Restore cursor location.
` HPA Move cursor to indicated column in current row.
ECMA-48 Set Graphics Rendition
The ECMA-48 SGR sequence ESC [ parameters m sets display attributes.
Several attributes can be set in the same sequence, separated by
semicolons. An empty parameter (between semicolons or string initiator
or terminator) is interpreted as a zero.
0 reset all attributes to their defaults
1 set bold
2 set half-bright (simulated with color on a color display)
4 set underscore (simulated with color on a color display)
(the colors used to simulate dim or underline are set
using ESC ] ...)
5 set blink
7 set reverse video
10 reset selected mapping, display control flag, and toggle
meta flag (ECMA-48 says "primary font").
11 select null mapping, set display control flag, reset
toggle meta flag (ECMA-48 says "first alternate font").
12 select null mapping, set display control flag, set toggle
meta flag (ECMA-48 says "second alternate font"). The
toggle meta flag causes the high bit of a byte to be
toggled before the mapping table translation is done.
21 set normal intensity (ECMA-48 says "doubly underlined")
22 set normal intensity
24 underline off
25 blink off
27 reverse video off
30 set black foreground
31 set red foreground
32 set green foreground
33 set brown foreground
34 set blue foreground
35 set magenta foreground
36 set cyan foreground
37 set white foreground
38 set underscore on, set default foreground color
39 set underscore off, set default foreground color
40 set black background
41 set red background
42 set green background
43 set brown background
44 set blue background
45 set magenta background
46 set cyan background
47 set white background
49 set default background color
ECMA-48 Mode Switches
ESC [ 3 h
DECCRM (default off): Display control chars.
ESC [ 4 h
DECIM (default off): Set insert mode.
ESC [ 20 h
LF/NL (default off): Automatically follow echo of LF, VT or FF
ECMA-48 Status Report Commands
ESC [ 5 n
Device status report (DSR): Answer is ESC [ 0 n (Terminal OK).
ESC [ 6 n
Cursor position report (CPR): Answer is ESC [ y ; x R, where x,y
is the cursor location.
DEC Private Mode (DECSET/DECRST) sequences
These are not described in ECMA-48. We list the Set Mode sequences;
the Reset Mode sequences are obtained by replacing the final 'h' by
ESC [ ? 1 h
DECCKM (default off): When set, the cursor keys send an ESC O
prefix, rather than ESC [.
ESC [ ? 3 h
DECCOLM (default off = 80 columns): 80/132 col mode switch. The
driver sources note that this alone does not suffice; some user-
mode utility such as resizecons(8) has to change the hardware
registers on the console video card.
ESC [ ? 5 h
DECSCNM (default off): Set reverse-video mode.
ESC [ ? 6 h
DECOM (default off): When set, cursor addressing is relative to
the upper left corner of the scrolling region.
ESC [ ? 7 h
DECAWM (default on): Set autowrap on. In this mode, a graphic
character emitted after column 80 (or column 132 of DECCOLM is
on) forces a wrap to the beginning of the following line first.
ESC [ ? 8 h
DECARM (default on): Set keyboard autorepeat on.
ESC [ ? 9 h
X10 Mouse Reporting (default off): Set reporting mode to 1 (or
reset to 0)—see below.
ESC [ ? 25 h
DECTECM (default on): Make cursor visible.
ESC [ ? 1000 h
X11 Mouse Reporting (default off): Set reporting mode to 2 (or
reset to 0)—see below.
Linux Console Private CSI Sequences
The following sequences are neither ECMA-48 nor native VT102. They are
native to the Linux console driver. Colors are in SGR parameters: 0 =
black, 1 = red, 2 = green, 3 = brown, 4 = blue, 5 = magenta, 6 = cyan,
7 = white.
ESC [ 1 ; n ] Set color n as the underline color
ESC [ 2 ; n ] Set color n as the dim color
ESC [ 8 ] Make the current color pair the default attributes.
ESC [ 9 ; n ] Set screen blank timeout to n minutes.
ESC [ 10 ; n ] Set bell frequency in Hz.
ESC [ 11 ; n ] Set bell duration in msec.
ESC [ 12 ; n ] Bring specified console to the front.
ESC [ 13 ] Unblank the screen.
ESC [ 14 ; n ] Set the VESA powerdown interval in minutes.
The kernel knows about 4 translations of bytes into console-screen
symbols. The four tables are: a) Latin1 -> PC, b) VT100 graphics ->
PC, c) PC -> PC, d) user-defined.
There are two character sets, called G0 and G1, and one of them is the
current character set. (Initially G0.) Typing ^N causes G1 to become
current, ^O causes G0 to become current.
These variables G0 and G1 point at a translation table, and can be
changed by the user. Initially they point at tables a) and b),
respectively. The sequences ESC ( B and ESC ( 0 and ESC ( U and ESC (
K cause G0 to point at translation table a), b), c) and d),
respectively. The sequences ESC ) B and ESC ) 0 and ESC ) U and ESC )
K cause G1 to point at translation table a), b), c) and d),
The sequence ESC c causes a terminal reset, which is what you want if
the screen is all garbled. The oft-advised "echo ^V^O" will only make
G0 current, but there is no guarantee that G0 points at table a). In
some distributions there is a program reset(1) that just does "echo
^[c". If your terminfo entry for the console is correct (and has an
entry rs1=\Ec), then "tput reset" will also work.
The user-defined mapping table can be set using mapscrn(8). The result
of the mapping is that if a symbol c is printed, the symbol s = map[c]
is sent to the video memory. The bitmap that corresponds to s is found
in the character ROM, and can be changed using setfont(8).
The mouse tracking facility is intended to return xterm(1)-compatible
mouse status reports. Because the console driver has no way to know
the device or type of the mouse, these reports are returned in the
console input stream only when the virtual terminal driver receives a
mouse update ioctl. These ioctls must be generated by a mouse-aware
user-mode application such as the gpm(8) daemon.
The mouse tracking escape sequences generated by xterm(1) encode
numeric parameters in a single character as value+040. For example,
'!' is 1. The screen coordinate system is 1-based.
The X10 compatibility mode sends an escape sequence on button press
encoding the location and the mouse button pressed. It is enabled by
sending ESC [ ? 9 h and disabled with ESC [ ? 9 l. On button press,
xterm(1) sends ESC [ M bxy (6 characters). Here b is button-1, and x
and y are the x and y coordinates of the mouse when the button was
pressed. This is the same code the kernel also produces.
Normal tracking mode (not implemented in Linux 2.0.24) sends an escape
sequence on both button press and release. Modifier information is
also sent. It is enabled by sending ESC [ ? 1000 h and disabled with
ESC [ ? 1000 l. On button press or release, xterm(1) sends ESC [ M
bxy. The low two bits of b encode button information: 0=MB1 pressed,
1=MB2 pressed, 2=MB3 pressed, 3=release. The upper bits encode what
modifiers were down when the button was pressed and are added together:
4=Shift, 8=Meta, 16=Control. Again x and y are the x and y coordinates
of the mouse event. The upper left corner is (1,1).
Comparisons With Other Terminals
Many different terminal types are described, like the Linux console, as
being "VT100-compatible". Here we discuss differences between the
Linux console and the two most important others, the DEC VT102 and
The VT102 also recognized the following control characters:
NUL (0x00) was ignored;
ENQ (0x05) triggered an answerback message;
DC1 (0x11, ^Q, XON) resumed transmission;
DC3 (0x13, ^S, XOFF) caused VT100 to ignore (and stop transmitting) all
codes except XOFF and XON.
VT100-like DC1/DC3 processing may be enabled by the tty driver.
The xterm(1) program (in VT100 mode) recognizes the control characters
BEL, BS, HT, LF, VT, FF, CR, SO, SI, ESC.
VT100 console sequences not implemented on the Linux console:
ESC N SS2 Single shift 2. (Select G2 character set for the next
ESC O SS3 Single shift 3. (Select G3 character set for the next
ESC P DCS Device control string (ended by ESC \)
ESC X SOS Start of string.
ESC ^ PM Privacy message (ended by ESC \)
ESC \ ST String terminator
ESC * ... Designate G2 character set
ESC + ... Designate G3 character set
The program xterm(1) (in VT100 mode) recognizes ESC c, ESC # 8, ESC >,
ESC =, ESC D, ESC E, ESC H, ESC M, ESC N, ESC O, ESC P ... ESC \, ESC Z
(it answers ESC [ ? 1 ; 2 c, "I am a VT100 with advanced video option")
and ESC ^ ... ESC \ with the same meanings as indicated above. It
accepts ESC (, ESC ), ESC *, ESC + followed by 0, A, B for the DEC
special character and line drawing set, UK, and US-ASCII, respectively.
The user can configure xterm(1) to respond to VT220-specific control
sequences, and it will identify itself as a VT52, VT100, and up
depending on the way it is configured and initialized.
It accepts ESC ] (OSC) for the setting of certain resources. In
addition to the ECMA-48 string terminator (ST), xterm(1) accepts a BEL
to terminate an OSC string. These are a few of the OSC control
sequences recognized by xterm(1):
ESC ] 0 ; txt ST Set icon name and window title to txt.
ESC ] 1 ; txt ST Set icon name to txt.
ESC ] 2 ; txt ST Set window title to txt.
ESC ] 4 ; num; txt ST Set ANSI color num to txt.
ESC ] 10 ; txt ST Set dynamic text color to txt.
ESC ] 4 6 ; name ST Change log file to name (normally disabled
by a compile-time option)
ESC ] 5 0 ; fn ST Set font to fn.
It recognizes the following with slightly modified meaning (saving more
state, behaving closer to VT100/VT220):
ESC 7 DECSC Save cursor
ESC 8 DECRC Restore cursor
It also recognizes
ESC F Cursor to lower left corner of screen (if enabled by
xterm(1)'s hpLowerleftBugCompat resource)
ESC l Memory lock (per HP terminals).
Locks memory above the cursor.
ESC m Memory unlock (per HP terminals).
ESC n LS2 Invoke the G2 character set.
ESC o LS3 Invoke the G3 character set.
ESC | LS3R Invoke the G3 character set as GR.
Has no visible effect in xterm.
ESC } LS2R Invoke the G2 character set as GR.
Has no visible effect in xterm.
ESC ~ LS1R Invoke the G1 character set as GR.
Has no visible effect in xterm.
It also recognizes ESC % and provides a more complete UTF-8
implementation than Linux console.
Old versions of xterm(1), for example, from X11R5, interpret the blink
SGR as a bold SGR. Later versions which implemented ANSI colors, for
example, XFree86 3.1.2A in 1995, improved this by allowing the blink
attribute to be displayed as a color. Modern versions of xterm
implement blink SGR as blinking text and still allow colored text as an
alternate rendering of SGRs. Stock X11R6 versions did not recognize
the color-setting SGRs until the X11R6.8 release, which incorporated
XFree86 xterm. All ECMA-48 CSI sequences recognized by Linux are also
recognized by xterm, however xterm(1) implements several ECMA-48 and
DEC control sequences not recognized by Linux.
The xterm(1) program recognizes all of the DEC Private Mode sequences
listed above, but none of the Linux private-mode sequences. For
discussion of xterm(1)'s own private-mode sequences, refer to the Xterm
Control Sequences document by Edward Moy, Stephen Gildea, and Thomas E.
Dickey available with the X distribution. That document, though terse,
is much longer than this manual page. For a chronological overview,
details changes to xterm.
The vttest program
demonstrates many of these control sequences. The xterm(1) source
distribution also contains sample scripts which exercise other
ESC 8 (DECRC) is not able to restore the character set changed with ESC
In 2.0.23, CSI is broken, and NUL is not ignored inside escape
Some older kernel versions (after 2.0) interpret 8-bit control
sequences. These "C1 controls" use codes between 128 and 159 to
replace ESC [, ESC ] and similar two-byte control sequence initiators.
There are fragments of that in modern kernels (either overlooked or
broken by changes to support UTF-8), but the implementation is
incomplete and should be regarded as unreliable.
Linux "private mode" sequences do not follow the rules in ECMA-48 for
private mode control sequences. In particular, those ending with ] do
not use a standard terminating character. The OSC (set palette)
sequence is a greater problem, since xterm(1) may interpret this as a
control sequence which requires a string terminator (ST). Unlike the
setterm(1) sequences which will be ignored (since they are invalid
control sequences), the palette sequence will make xterm(1) appear to
hang (though pressing the return-key will fix that). To accommodate
applications which have been hardcoded to use Linux control sequences,
set the xterm(1) resource brokenLinuxOSC to true.
An older version of this document implied that Linux recognizes the
ECMA-48 control sequence for invisible text. It is ignored.
console(4), console_ioctl(4), charsets(7)
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