task-color - A color tutorial for the task(1) command line todo
The first thing you need is a terminal program that supports color.
All terminal programs support color, but only a few support lots of
colors. First tell your terminal program to use color by specifying
the TERM environment variable like this:
In this example, xterm-color is used - a common value, and one that
doesn't require that you use xterm. This works for most setups. This
setting belongs in your shell profile (~/.bash_profile, ~/.bashrc,
~/.cshrc etc, depending on which shell you use). If this is a new
setting, you will need to either run that profile script, or close and
reopen the terminal window (which does the same thing).
Now tell task that you want to use color. This is the default for
task, so the following step may be unnecessary.
$ task config color on
This command will make sure there is an entry in your ~/.taskrc file
that looks like:
Now task is ready.
It should be mentioned that task is aware of whether it's output is
going to a terminal, or to a file or through a pipe. When task output
goes to a terminal, color is desirable, but consider the following
$ task list > file.txt
Do we really want all those color control codes in the file? Task
assumes that you do not, and temporarily sets color to 'off' while
generating the output. This explains the output from the following
$ task config | grep '^color '
it always returns 'off', no matter what the setting.
The reason is that the task output gets piped into grep, and the color
is disabled. If you wanted those color codes, you can override this
behavior by setting the _forcecolor variable to on, like this:
$ task config _forcecolor on
$ task config | grep '^color '
or by temporarily overriding it like this:
$ task rc._forcecolor=on config | grep '^color '
Task has a 'color' command that will show all the colors it is capable
of displaying. Try this:
$ task color
The output cannot be replicated here in a man page, but you should see
a set of color samples. How many you see depends on your terminal
program's ability to render them.
You should at least see the Basic colors and Effects - if you do, then
you have 16-color support. If your terminal supports 256 colors,
you'll know it!
The basic color support is provided through named colors:
black, red, blue, green, magenta, cyan, yellow, white
Foreground color (for text) is simply specified as one of the above
colors, or not specified at all to use the default terminal text color.
Background color is specified by using the word 'on', and one of the
above colors. Some examples:
green # green text, default background color
green on yellow # green text, yellow background
on yellow # default text color, yellow background
These colors can be modified further, by making the foreground bold, or
by making the background bright. Some examples:
bold white on bright red
on bright cyan
The order of the words is not important, so the following are
But the 'on' is important - colors before the 'on' are foreground, and
colors after 'on' are background.
There is an additional 'underline' attribute that may be used:
underline bright red on black
Task has a command that helps you visualize these color combinations.
$ task color underline bright red on black
You can use this command to see how the various color combinations
work. You will also see some sample colors displayed, like the ones
above, in addition to the sample requested.
Some combinations look very nice, some look terrible. Different
terminal programs do implement slightly different versions of 'red',
for example, so you may see some unwanted variation due to the program.
The brightness of your display is also a factor.
Using 256 colors follows the same form, but the names are different,
and some colors can be referenced in different ways. First there is by
color ordinal, which is like this:
This gives you access to all 256 colors, but doesn't help you much.
This range is a combination of 8 basic colors (color0 - color7), then 8
brighter variations (color8 - color15). Then a block of 216 colors
(color16 - color231). Then a block of 24 gray colors (color232 -
The large block of 216 colors (6x6x6 = 216) represents a color cube,
which can be addressed via RGB values from 0 to 5 for each component
color. A value of 0 means none of this component color, and a value of
5 means the most intense component color. For example, a bright red is
And a darker red would be:
Note that the three digits represent the three component values, so in
this example the 5, 0 and 0 represent red=5, green=0, blue=0.
Combining intense red with no green and no blue yields red. Similarly,
blue and green are:
Another example - bright yellow - is a mix of bright red and bright
green, but no blue component, so bright yellow is addressed as:
A soft pink would be addressed as:
See if you agree, by running:
$ task color black on rgb515
You may notice that the large color block is represented as 6 squares.
All colors in the first square have a red value of 0. All colors in
the 6th square have a red value of 5. Within each square, blue ranges
from 0 to 5 left to right, and within each square green ranges from 0
to 5, top to bottom. This scheme takes some getting used to.
The block of 24 gray colors can also be accessed as gray0 - gray23, in
a continuous ramp from black to white.
MIXING 16- AND 256-COLORS
If you specify 16-colors, and view on a 256-color terminal, no problem.
If you try the reverse, specifying 256-colors and viewing on a 16-color
terminal, you will be disappointed, perhaps even appalled.
There is some limited color mapping - for example, if you were to
specify this combination:
red on gray3
you are mixing a 16-color and 256-color specification. Task will map
red to color1, and proceed. Note that red and color1 are not quite the
Note also that there is no bold or bright attributes when dealing with
256 colors, but there is still underline available.
Task supports colorization rules. These are configuration values that
specify a color, and the conditions under which that color is used. By
example, let's add a few tasks:
$ task add project:Home priority:H pay the bills (1)
$ task add project:Home clean the rug (2)
$ task add project:Garden clean out the garage (3)
We can add a color rule that uses a blue background for all tasks in
the Home project:
$ task config color.project.Home on blue
We use quotes around "on blue" because there are two words, but they
represent one value in the .taskrc file. Now suppose we which to use a
bold yellow text color for all cleaning work:
$ task config color.keyword.clean bold yellow
Now what happens to task 2, which belongs to project Home (blue
background), and is also a cleaning task (bold yellow foreground)? The
colors are combined, and the task is shown as "bold yellow on blue".
Color rules can be applied by project and description keyword, as
shown, and also by priority (or lack of priority), by active status, by
being due or overdue, by being tagged, or having a specific tag
(perhaps the most useful rule) or by being a recurring task.
It is possible to create a very colorful mix of rules. With 256-color
support, those colors can be made subtle, and complementary, but
without care, this can be a visual mess. Beware!
Task supports themes. What this really means is that with the ability
to include other files into the .taskrc file, different sets of color
rules can be included.
To get a good idea of what a color theme looks like, try adding this
entry to your .taskrc file:
You can use any of the standard task themes:
Better yet, create your own, and share it. We will gladly host the
theme file on <http://taskwarrior.org>.
CREDITS & COPYRIGHTS
task was written by P. Beckingham <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Copyright (C) 2006 - 2010 P. Beckingham
This man page was originally written by Paul Beckingham.
task is distributed under the GNU General Public License. See
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.txt for more information.
task(1), taskrc(5), task-faq(5) task-tutorial(5)
For more information regarding task, the following may be referenced:
The official site at
The official code repository at
You can contact the project by writing an email to
Bugs in task may be reported to the issue-tracker at