FreeBSD Desktop – Part 25 – Configuration – Random Terminal Theme

Some time ago when I was mostly writing about Openbox setup I also showed how to setup xterm(1) so it will start with new random theme with each start. Since then I reworked that feature a little and also added random theme and background selection for urxvt(1) terminal. This post will guide you through the needed steps to make that setup working.


You may want to check other articles in the FreeBSD Desktop series on the FreeBSD Desktop – Global Page where you will find links to all episodes of the series along with table of contents for each episode’s contents.

I already once wrote about random xterm(1) themes in the FreeBSD Desktop – Part 12 – Configuration – Openbox part – but I really wanted to expand that topic and also include other terminals.

After trying many terminal emulators – some more bulky like Konsole/GNOME Terminal/XFCE Terminal/MATE Terminal – some more lightweight like st(1)/rox-term(1)/eterm(1)/… – I always went back to the most old-school and basic one – good old xterm(1) terminal. Mostly because of its good compatibility with all UNIX systems – especially the older ones like IBM AIX or HP-UX. I do not remember last time when I had to manage these archaic systems but the respect for xterm(1) remains.


The other one that always got my attention was urxvt(1) terminal. Unfortunately it has some issues with fonts rendering – making larger spaces between the lines and making fonts bigger for example – but as I also like bitmap fonts like CLEAN or FIXED – so I use bitmap fonts for urxvt(1).

Recently also sakura(1) got my attention – but it’s theming possibilities are even more limited then xterm(1) with themes/colors hardcoded directly into the source code. That is why I will omit it in this article – but I mention it since its also nice terminal.

This is the Table of Contents for this article.

  • xterm(1)
    • Proper Font Selection
    • Selecting Text for Copy/Paste
    • Selection Buffers and Keyboard Shortcuts
    • Increase/Decrease Font Size on the Fly
    • Copy/Paste with [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[C/V]
    • Interactive Menus
    • Random xterm(1) Theme
  • urxvt(1)
    • Tabbed Interface
    • Daemon and Client Mode
    • Random urxvt(1) Theme and Background
  • sakura(1)
    • Different sakura(1) Themes
  • RAM Usage Comparison
  • CPU Time Usage Comparison


First lest start with some reasonable configuration in the ~/.Xdefaults file. Alternatively some people use ~/.Xresources file. You can use any of them. Just pick one and stick to it.

! -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  xterm*allowBoldFonts:     true
  xterm*allowWindowOps:     true
  xterm*boldMode:           false
  xterm*charClass:          33:48,35:48,37:48,43:48,45-47:48,64:48,95:48,126:48,35:48,58:48,63:48,61:48,44:48,38:48,59:48
  xterm*cursorBlink:        false
  xterm*cutNewline:         true
  xterm*faceName:           consolas
  xterm*faceSize:           11
  xterm*fastScroll:         true
  xterm*fullscreen:         false
  xterm*iconHint:           /home/vermaden/.icons/vermaden/xterm.xpm
  xterm*internalBorder:     1
  xterm*jumpScroll:         true
  xterm*keepSelection:      true
  xterm*loginShell:         true
  xterm*metaSendsEscape:    true
  xterm*multiScroll:        true
  xterm*omitTranslation:    fullscreen
  xterm*on4Clicks:          group
  xterm*on5Clicks:          page
  xterm*saveLines:          1024000
  xterm*scaleHeight:        1.0
  xterm*scrollKey:          true
  xterm*scrollTtyOutput:    false
  xterm*selectToClipboard:  true
  xterm*SimpleMenu*font:    -*-clean-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-iso8859-2
  xterm*termName:           xterm-256color
  xterm*title:              xterm
  xterm*veryBoldColors:     14
  xterm*VT100*geometry:     150x40
  xterm*VT100*translations: #override                                             \n\
                            <btn1up>: select-end(PRIMARY, CLIPBOARD, CUT_BUFFER0) \n\
                            Ctrl <key> minus: smaller-vt-font()                   \n\
                            Ctrl <key> plus: larger-vt-font()                     \n\
                            Ctrl Shift <key> C: copy-selection(CLIPBOARD)         \n\
                            Ctrl Shift <key> V: insert-selection(CLIPBOARD)

I will not discuss all possible settings as they are well described in the xterm(1) man page but I will comment some more useful and interesting ones.

Proper Font Selection

This advice is not limited to xterm(1) but its worth to mention it. Many times after adding fonts to my system – and renaming them to my ‘standard’ which looks like that one below I was asking myself how to properly specify the variant I need.

% ls -1 ~/.fonts/ubuntu-mono*

The answer to that question comes with fc-match(1) from fontconfig package. Check my ‘queries’ below.

% fc-match consolas:bold
consolas-bold.ttf: "Consolas" "Bold"

% fc-match consolas     
consolas.ttf: "Consolas" "Regular"

% fc-match consolas:bold:italic
consolas-bold-italic.ttf: "Consolas" "Bold Italic"

Selecting Text for Copy/Paste

The xterm*charClass defines which sets of characters should be treated the same when doing cut and paste. Especially with double-clicking the text. The setting above I use is based on 15 years of experience and seems to work best. You are of course encouraged to investigate the CHARACTER CLASSES section of the xterm(1) man page to read more on this topic.

The xterm*on4Clicks and xterm*on5Clicks are not used by default while xterm*on2Clicks are predefined as word and xterm*on3Clicks as line values. This is why I added them so you can select entire group with xterm*on4Clicks and entire page with xterm*on5Clicks option. Alternatively you can also use some fancy regex for some of these ‘CLICKS’ but I never thought about a REGEX that would be useful here – maybe you will come with something sensible.

Here are these ‘CLICKS’ in action.

First the xterm*on2Clicks with word selection. This is when the xterm*charClass is taken into account – what is word and that is not πŸ™‚


Then xterm*on3Clicks with line selection.


Now xterm*on4Clicks with group selection.


Finally the xterm*on5Clicks entire page selection.


Selection Buffers and Keyboard Shortcuts

The last interesting option is xterm.VT100.translations which is used for keyboard shortcuts.

The first one select-end(PRIMARY, CLIPBOARD, CUT_BUFFER0) is better described in the page from 2005. I will try to short the meritum here. The X11 applications have two different selection buffers:

CLIPBOARD – selection buffer used for cut/paste functions – you select/highlight text and then select Copy from context menu or use [CTRL]+[C] shortcut. Then you use Paste or [CTRL]+[C] shortcut.

PRIMARY – this one receives data when user selects/highlights text with mouse. None other operations such as Copy or Paste are needed. You end selecting the text and its already in PRIMARY buffer. You then paste it with MIDDLE mouse button.

Using the option above selecting/highlighting the text in xterm(1) copies the text into both selection buffers simultaneously. You can now either Paste it info Firefox or hit MIDDLE mouse button to paste it in other xterm(1) terminal. Best of both worlds.

If that setting does not suit you then use the xterm*selectToClipboard instead. When set to true it copies selected text to CLIPBOARD buffer and when set to false it copies selection to the PRIMARY one.

Increase/Decrease Font Size on the Fly

I always missed the shortcuts to decrease or increase font size on the fly in xterm(1) and for many years I believed that its just not possible and then I found some blog post (do not remember which one now of course) in which I found these settings and started to use them.

They are smaller-vt-font() and larger-vt-font() for decrease and increase respectively with [CTRL]+[-] and [CTRL]+[+] shortcuts – keep in mind that [SHIFT] is not used here.

Copy/Paste with [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[C/V]

If by some reason you prefer to copy and paste by using [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[C] and [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[V] shortcuts then copy-selection(CLIPBOARD) and insert-selection(CLIPBOARD) will do the needed job here. As you probably guessed you can use PRIMARY instead of CLIPBOARD here if that is what you desire.

Interactive Menus

The xterm(1) comes with three different interactive menus. I will now show all three of them here with screenshots.

Menu displayed with clicking [CTRL]+[LEFT-MOUSE-BUTTON] in the terminal area.

Menu displayed with clicking [CTRL]+[MIDDLE-MOUSE-BUTTON] in the terminal area.

Menu displayed with clicking [CTRL]+[RIGHT-MOUSE-BUTTON] in the terminal area.

Random xterm(1) Theme

To have random xterm(1) theme on every startup you need four things:

I gathered all these themes all over the Internet, only the VERMADEN and VERMADEN-OLD themes are created by me.

Little preview of some of the included xterm(1) themes.


From now on to have random xterm(1) theme at each start always start it with ~/scripts/ script. The script itself is not very complicated. It just draws random theme from the ~/.config/Xdefaults/themes dir – then loads the ~/.Xdefaults config – then merges the colors from chosen random theme – and finally starts new xterm(1) instance.


I use urxvt(1) less often but still sometimes I want to use bitmap fonts instead.


For a start here is the urxvt(1) configuration in the ~/.Xdefaults file.

! -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
  urxvt.letterSpace:    0.0
! urxvt.font:           xft:monaco:pixelsize=9,style=regular,minspace=True
  urxvt.font:           -*-clean-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-iso8859-2
  urxvt.boldFont:       -*-clean-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-iso8859-2
  urxvt.iconFile:       /home/vermaden/.icons/vermaden/xterm.xpm
  urxvt.geometry:       150x40
  urxvt.cutchars:       ,;
  urxvt.scrollBar:      false
  urxvt.imLocale:       en_US.UTF-8
  urxvt.loginShell:     true
  urxvt.saveLines:      1024000
  urxvt.inheritPixmap:  false
  urxvt.shading:        20
  urxvt.xftAntialias:   true
  urxvt.jumpScroll:     true
  urxvt.tintColor:      black
  urxvt.internalBorder: 2
  urxvt.cursorBlink:    false
  urxvt.cursorColor:    #dd9900
  urxvt.cursorColor2:   #000000
  urxvt.colorBD:        #dddddd
  urxvt.colorIT:        #bbbbbb
  urxvt.colorUL:        #999999
  urxvt.underlineColor: #999999

Tabbed Interface

To get tabs in urxvt(1) add the following option to the ~/.Xdefaults configuration file.

  urxvt.perl-ext-common:   default,tabbed

With this option you will open new tab with [SHIFT]+[DOWN] shortcut.

To switch between the tabs left and right use [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[LEFT] and [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[RIGHT] shortcut respectively.

You can also use [CTRL]+[LEFT] and [CTRL]+[RIGHT] to move current tab left and right.

The timeless [CTRL]+[D] – which of course is not a strictly urxvt(1) shortcut but a general shortcut for closing all terminals.


Daemon and Client Mode

The urxvt(1) can be run in special daemon mode where you start one urxvtd(1) server and many urxvtc(1) clients.

% urxvtd
rxvt-unicode daemon listening on /home/vermaden/.urxvt/urxvtd-w520.local.

Now you will start each new urxvt(1) terminal with urxvtc(1) command.

The drawback of that approach is that when urxvtd(1) dies or crashes then also all your urxvtc(1) client terminals disappear πŸ™‚

Random urxvt(1) Theme and Background

To have random urxvt(1) theme and background on every startup you need four things:

Little preview of some of the included urxvt(1) themes and backgrounds.


From now on to have random urxvt(1) theme at each start always start it with ~/scripts/ script. The script for urxvt(1) is little more advanced. First it draws random theme from the ~/.config/Xdefaults/themes dir – then checks if its DARK or LIGHT theme – then draws either random LIGHT or DARK background from the ~/.config/Xdefaults/urxvt dir – finally loads the ~/.Xdefaults config and then merges the colors from chosen LIGHT or DARK theme. Of course then it finally starts new urxvt(1) instance.


The more modern and GTK based sakura(1) also supports tabs. To open new tab use [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[T] shortcut. To switch between the tabs use [CTRL]+[ALT]+[LEFT] and [CTRL]+[ALT]+[RIGHT] shortcuts. You can also move tab between left and right with [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[LEFT] and [CTRL]+[SHIFT]+[RIGHT].


One things that sakura(1) impresses me is that you can scale down its window and then scale that window up and the contents that did not fit in the window after downscalling are back again in the terminal. Doing the same operation in xterm(1) or urxvt(1) terminals will result in these characters being lost. The output is also dynamically ‘fit’ into the new larger window while maintaining the new lines etc. Besides that nice feature it is small and fast and uses relatively small amount of RAM.


Different sakura(1) Themes

If you would also like to start sakura(1) with different theme everytime the options are quite limited here. The palettes and color sets are hardcoded into the sakura(1) source code.

I will not show you how to modify them using the FreeBSD Ports system.

The sakura(1) port is located at /usr/ports/x11/sakura directory. For the record – I use WRKDIRPREFIX option in the /etc/make.conf file. This means that when I type make extract in the /usr/ports/x11/sakura dir the work directory will not be created at /usr/ports/x11/sakura/work directory but at /usr/ports/obj/usr/ports/x11/sakura/work instead. That way I can clean my Ports tree fast by removing the /usr/ports/obj directory.

We will now extract and patch the sakura(1) port on FreeBSD.

% grep WRKDIRPREFIX /etc/make.conf

# cd /usr/ports/x11/sakura

# make patch

# cd /usr/ports/obj/$( pwd )/work/*/src || cd work/*/src

# pwd

# grep -m 1 DEFAULT_PALETTE sakura.c
#define DEFAULT_PALETTE "tango"

# grep -o -E '[a-z]+_palette\[PALETTE_SIZE\]' sakura.c

As you can see the default sakura(1) palette is Tango. Fortunately you can use palette=solarized_dark option in the ~/.config/sakura/sakura.conf config file to change it into Solarized Dark for example.

Besides hardcoded palettes sakura(1) also has several Color Sets.

If you would like to make random theme (from the hardcoded ones) for each start you would have to use this syntax with prepared dedicated config files for each palette.

% sakura --config-file ~/.config/sakura/sakura.solarized_dark.conf --colorset 1 
% sakura --config-file ~/.config/sakura/sakura.tango.conf          --colorset 3

I do not use sakura(1) that much so I was too lazy to write random startup theme script also for it πŸ™‚

Changing sakura(1) palette or color set manually is shown below.



RAM Usage Comparison

Just started xterm(1) terminal takes about 16 MB or RAM as you have seen on the urxvt(1) screenshots. The urxvt(1) started without tabs uses more then 2 TIMES of xterm(1) terminal RAM usage. The urxvt(1) started in tabbed mode uses more then 3 TIMES of xterm(1) terminal RAM usage. The sakura(1) also uses more then 3 TIMES of xterm(1) terminal RAM usage.

Table below shows RAM usage comparison. I have added more feature packed mate-terminal(1) to the list and also added the st(1) minimalistic terminal from Suckless project for compassion.

    64  mate-terminal
    53  sakura
    52  urxvt (tabbed)
    38  urxvt
    16  xterm
    12  st

CPU Time Usage Comparison

I also made simple benchmark of the CPU used. The ‘benchmark’ was to check how much time each terminal would take to print output ofΒ  dmesg | lolcat -b -r command. Here xterm(1) does not shine that much.

0:00.93  xterm
0:00.82  mate-terminal
0:00.52  sakura
0:00.43  urxvt
0:00.23  st

The above ‘benchmark’ was was quite ‘hard’ because of all the colors generated by lolcat(1) command. Lets try something more practical now. We will measure CPU time used to display out of the find find /usr/local/share/doc command.

0:01.34  xterm
0:01.18  mate-terminal
0:00.85  sakura
0:00.32  urxvt
0:00.28  st

Seems that lolcat(1) was not that ‘hard’. The st(1) minimalistic terminal really seems to suck less here πŸ™‚


7 thoughts on “FreeBSD Desktop – Part 25 – Configuration – Random Terminal Theme

  1. penrose

    Testujesz inne systemy poza FreeBSD? Niedawno wyszedΕ‚ NetBSD 9.2. Ciekawi mnie czy te wszystkie nowsze systemy uniksowe napisane w C++17 jak HaikuOS, GenodeOS, HelenOS, RedoxOS(Rust), FuchsiaOS(Rust, Go, Dart), QubesOS(C i kontenery?) majΔ… zawalone katalogi tymi wszystkimi bibliotekami lib? Linux juΕΌ siΔ™ nie pozbΔ™dzie tych libΓ³w, zawalone sΔ… nimi procesy. Taki menadΕΌer okien Penrose napisany w jΔ™zyku Rust uruchomisz na FreeBSD?
    Jak pod FreeBSD sprawdzić w ilu nanometrach jest dany procesor i jaką nazwę kodową posiada?


    1. vermaden Post author

      Testowalem ostatnio DragonflyBSD 6.0 ale jakos nieszczegolnie mnie czyms zauroczyl πŸ™‚

      HaikuOS czasami przejrze ich raport co tam zmienili/dodali.

      Penrose sie nie bawilem ale wyglada ciekawie – moze kiedys Openbox mi sie znudzi to wtedy sie przesiade πŸ™‚

      Jak pod FreeBSD sprawdzić w ilu nanometrach jest dany procesor i jaką nazwę kodową posiada?

      Najwygodniej chyba za pomoca lscpu lub dmidecode:

      # dmidecode -s processor-version     
      Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2820QM CPU @ 2.30GHz
      # pkg which -o $( which dmidecode )
      /usr/local/sbin/dmidecode was installed by package sysutils/dmidecode
      % lscpu
      Architecture:            amd64
      Byte Order:              Little Endian
      Total CPU(s):            8
      Thread(s) per core:      2
      Core(s) per socket:      4
      Socket(s):               1
      Vendor:                  GenuineIntel
      CPU family:              6
      Model:                   42
      Model name:              Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2820QM CPU @ 2.30GHz
      Stepping:                7
      L1d cache:               32K
      L1i cache:               32K
      L2 cache:                256K
      L3 cache:                8M
      Flags:                   fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 cflsh ds acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss htt tm pbe sse3 pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx smx est tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic popcnt tsc_deadline aes xsave osxsave avx syscall nx rdtscp lm lahf_lm
      % pkg which -o $( which lscpu )
      /usr/local/bin/lscpu was installed by package sysutils/lscpu

      Mozna tez tak bez instalowania niczego:

      % grep CPU /var/run/dmesg.boot 
      CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-2820QM CPU @ 2.30GHz (2292.60-MHz K8-class CPU)
      FreeBSD/SMP: Multiprocessor System Detected: 8 CPUs
      cpu0:  on acpi0
      coretemp0:  on cpu0

      … ale zeby sprawdzic jeszcze proces (nm) to juz musisz wrzucic model (i7-2820QM) w i wtedy sie dowiesz πŸ™‚

      W moim przypadku jest to 32nm:


      1. vermaden Post author

        A faktycznie, jest tez w portach/paczkach, dzieki πŸ™‚

        % cat /usr/ports/sysutils/cpuid/pkg-descr
        Cpuid dumps detailed information about the CPU(s) gathered from the
        CPUID instruction, and also determines the exact model of CPU(s).
        It supports Intel, AMD, and VIA CPUs, as well as older Transmeta,
        Cyrix, UMC, NexGen, Rise, and SiS CPUs.
        % pkg which -o $( which cpuid-etallen )
        /usr/local/bin/cpuid-etallen was installed by package sysutils/cpuid
        % cpuid-etallen | grep -m 3 32nm
              (simple synth)  = Intel Core (unknown type) (Sandy Bridge D2/J1/Q0) {Sandy Bridge}, 32nm
           (uarch synth) = Intel Sandy Bridge {Sandy Bridge}, 32nm
           (synth) = Intel Core i*-2000 (Sandy Bridge D2/J1/Q0) {Sandy Bridge}, 32nm


    1. vermaden Post author

      Its just a function declared in my ~/.zshrc file.

      Its also on that screenshot (which math).

      Copy this below and put it into your Bourne shell of choice (zsh/bash/sh):

      math () {
        local SCALE=2 
        local INPUT=$( echo "${@}" | tr 'x' '*' | tr ',' '.' ) 
        local RESULT=$( echo "scale=${SCALE}; ${INPUT}" | bc -l ) 
        if echo ${RESULT} | grep --color -q '^\.'
          echo -n 0
        echo ${RESULT}



  2. Pingback: FreBSD Desktop (25) – configuration | 0ddn1x: tricks with *nix

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