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,
and so on. 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 trans-
formed according to the current mapping table (which translates it to a
Unicode value). See the Character Sets section below for discussion.
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 Uni-
code (and the design of the PC hardware) allows us to use 512 different
If the current Unicode value is a control character, or we are cur-
rently 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 capabili-
ties. 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
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
@ 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 current line.
X ECH Erase the indicated # of characters on 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 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 semi-
colons. 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)
toggle meta flag causes the high bit of a byte to be tog-
gled 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 [ ? 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.
ESC [ 15 ] Bring the previous console to the front (since
ESC [ 16 ; n ] Set the cursor blink interval in milliseconds
(since Linux 4.2)
The kernel knows about 4 translations of bytes into console-screen sym-
bols. 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.
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 con-
sole 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.
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 depend-
ing on the way it is configured and initialized.
It accepts ESC ] (OSC) for the setting of certain resources. In addi-
tion 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.
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 dis-
cussion 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 dis-
tribution also contains sample scripts which exercise other features.
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 incom-
plete 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 con-
trol sequences), the palette sequence will make xterm(1) appear to hang
(though pressing the return-key will fix that). To accommodate appli-
cations 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.
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