Windows

Create an old-time monochrome command prompt in Windows XP

If you're ever feeling nostalgic when working from a Command Prompt in Microsoft Windows XP, you can change the settings on the Color tab to emulate the old green monochrome or amber monochrome monitors. Greg Shultz walks you through the steps to make it happen.

In what some may call the olden days, before there were fancy graphical user interfaces and RGB monitors, early computer monitors were monochrome, meaning that they displayed only one color on a black background. Monochrome monitors were available in three colors: green, amber, and white.

When you open up a Command prompt in its default configuration, it comes up in a white monochrome configuration with white text on a black background. If you're like most command line users, you've changed the color scheme from the Color tab on the Command Prompt Properties dialog box to make the screen more appealing.

However, if you're ever feeling nostalgic when working from a Command Prompt, you can change the settings on the Color tab to emulate the old green monochrome or amber monochrome monitors. Here's how:

  1. Open a Command Prompt window.
  2. Right the title bar and select the Properties command.
  3. Select the Colors tab.
  4. Select the Screen Background button and select the black box in the color palette.
  5. Select the Screen Text button.
  6. To emulate an old green monochrome monitor, select the green box in the color palette, and then in the Selected Color Values panel use the spin button for the Green setting to move the number up to 255. Make sure that the settings for the Red and Blue remain at 0.
  7. To emulate an old amber monochrome monitor, select the green box in the color palette, and then in the Selected Color Values panel use the spin button for the Red setting to move the number up to 185. Make sure that the settings for the Green remains at 128 and Blue remains at 0.

Note: This tip applies to both Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

41 comments
reggy
reggy

The people that find this usefull probably print out e-mails in order to read them. We should be thinking forward and develop, instead of these pretty useless tips.... Use our time (and money, hdd space, etc...) to really come up with usefull things...

Zenith545
Zenith545

The first digit selects a background color and the second a foreground color. The hexadecimal codes are: Hex. value Color 0 Black 1 Blue 2 Green 3 Aqua 4 Red 5 Purple 6 Yellow 7 White 8 Gray 9 Light Blue A Light Green B Light Aqua C Light Red D Light Purple E Light Yellow F Bright White A value of F0, for example, would give black text on a white background, and 1E would yield yellow text on a blue background. The change should take effect the next time you open a console window. Registry Settings User Key: [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor] Value Name: DefaultColor Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value) Value Data: (0 = default) To make system-wide changes use: [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Command Processor]

Hanns
Hanns

The amber or green command prompt is great for seniors, it reminds me of starting with an Apple IIe a quarter century ago and I am feeling young again, thank you Greg!

kdust111
kdust111

Thank you Greg for the info. I think the green on black is much easier on the eyes. And while you "oldies" remember the monochrome monitors, I do not. But I consistentently use Notepad and have played with the font to emulate the cmd window. Nice and clean. I wish the background would change but you can't have everything.

TheOldProf
TheOldProf

While this seems to be just another thing to play with, I found it useful when teaching. You can also change the font size; I increased it so that everyone could see more clearly. Just choose the Font tab when you go to Properties. You'll probably have to experiment a bit to get the best display for your particular situation.

mike_flood
mike_flood

Clever. Not really a 'value added' suggestion but clever and I learned something from it. I like to learn something every day. This idea is subject to replacement if I find something better today. (grin)

TheSwabbie
TheSwabbie

Oh my goodness, talking about a 20 year leap back. Why dont we scrap our Super VGA's for CGA again? The colors were so grainy it wasnt funny! But - I remember a time when CGA's monitors cost $400.00 easy. When I cleaned out my office/shop i bet at least 20 green/amber mono's went to the landfill (which by the way cost me quite a bit considering they are considered hazardous materials). We could also take a stroll down "backup" memory lane.... remember the days when a 1.44 floppy could hold ALL your data? OR - if you really had alot you could use the handy dandy Casette (yes - audio cassette) tape backup! :) Showing our age arent we :-)

jruby
jruby

If you only want to temporarily change your cmd window colors like this, just issue this command: color 0a The first digit of the argument sets the background color, the second sets the text color, so in this case '0' sets the background to black, 'a' sets the text color to bright green. To see what other colors you can use, see color /? Jim /* If you think the problem is bad now, wait until I solve it! */

sbutler
sbutler

perhaps not perfect.. hit auto adjust on your LCD to correct screen size issues.

KingYoda
KingYoda

Um i have been here many times before, in my life, and it looks like i am going to continue, to be here as well, one day everybody will all get it through there "Skulls", "black and white" ARE NOT A COLOUR they are a shade for want of a word that fails me at this moment. Monochrome monitors were available in three colors: green, amber, and white. No NO No Monochrome monitors were available in two colors: green, amber. again White is not a colour, yes there were monochrome monitors that displayed white on a black background and vice versa if you flicked a switched, but again they were and are still not a colour, people have to stop trying to persuade others to think this way

mrogers
mrogers

Don't forget to look for a font online that has what I remember as a 1cm gap between each pixel (horizontally). I think this was interlaced, but they didn't call it that then.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Why do people download desktop themes? Why change the ring tone on your phone? Why do cars come in colors other than Henry Ford's favorite black? Why do people waste their time reading tips they don't want when the article title clear describes the article contents? Why do people post comments in response to six-month-old discussions? Oh, wait...

chucktho
chucktho

Once upon a time, I had a line in my autoexec.bat which called a batch file which created a nice Texas flag followed by C:\ but when I tried it recently, it created a mess. The Texas.bat file is @echo off PROMPT $e[0m$_$e[44m*$e[41m??$e[0m$e[36m $p$g$e[1;33m That's a left bracket used 6 times, and the "0" is zero. The batch file works great in DOS 6.2. It creates a vertical blue bar with a superimposed asterisk "*" posing as a star, with a horizontal white bar to the right over a horizontal red bar. Anyone have any ideas on how to do it as a cmd prompt under XP Pro? Chuck

g.dombrowski
g.dombrowski

Being a old programmer who started programming when CPU were 8 bits I have found a way to keep and improve the DOS Prompt First make a batch file with NotePad with a single command CMD Save it in the Windows folder as DOS.BAT Make a shortcut to it and ajust the properties to your liking. My favorite setup in White on Black background with Lucida Console 20 Bold Font. As I still sometime write codes in QB45 this enable me to use 50 line that fill my 22 wide LCD from top to bottom with very clear caracters. Try it and you will love it

KingYoda
KingYoda

Oh dear, be carefull, i am not sure if She/He realises She/He has aged yet

Slartibartfast
Slartibartfast

8GB USB keys? Hah, you young 'uns have it easy, I used to carry around a deck of 80-byte cards (yes, made out of card) to store my work. And you could still only get 71 bytes on each one. And you had to read them by where the holes were punched :-) 12-2-9

Lost Cause?
Lost Cause?

I may have missed something - is there a way to make the change permanent?

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

And art is art, isn't it? And east is east and west is west. And if you stew strawberries like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. --- Groucho Marx

martinfam
martinfam

We agree, but unless you're in the arts or graphics industries, who cares? But while we're at it, "...all get it through there "Skulls"..." 'There' should be 'their' - don't worry about colours - concentrate on grammar and punctuation. Kiwis are well educated and very articulate (just like we Aussies LOL) - you're letting the side down. Goodness knows the yanks don't know the difference; let's not perpetuate the problem.

foss.paul
foss.paul

White is the full spectrum of all colours, black is the lack of light. that's why they not colours.

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

I have been here many times also. When are people who post going to get it through their 'thick skulls' to the correct use of the English language and associated punctuation. Look at the post above! A Small 'i' where 'I' should be used. 'Colour' used instead of the correct 'Colour's' Lack off full stops and capital letters. People really have to stop typing in this manner.

Amnezia
Amnezia

I didn't like the monitor screen colours on my 30mb hard disk XT box anyway (circa 1989) - green background, black text. So why would I want to change the CMD PRMPT from the nice maroon background and orange text I've got it set at now? (Damn! This was supposed to be in reply to the original article. Now you know why my prompt isn't green background with black text - I got to maroon, then stuffed it up!)

William.R.Bond
William.R.Bond

I used slightly different settings to the green background and set the rgb setting for the text to 225 for all colors to produce a strong white. Now I'm looking at the prompt and it is not right. It should be white like the text but it's not. Any ideas about fixing this problem?

seanferd
seanferd

I never did try to match colors exactly, but then again, I only ever changed the colors in DOS (not cmd).

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

in resurrecting old, dead threads. I hope and dream someone forgot to remove it from their reminders: "What the... that thread died out in 1999...." the problem comes about because TR is recycling ancient articles instead of finding new stuff, and thus people assume the discussion is new as well. I find amusement in it all.

wiggledbits
wiggledbits

Yes. Apply the changes to the shortcut that you used when opening the CL session. Everyone has a short or 2 for a CL prompt, right?

as400doofus
as400doofus

Green screens will rule the Earth until there is no Earth!

tom
tom

Let's not bring religion into it or we'll really start a war...

rball
rball

It's not 'colour's' since it is not possessive - incorrect use of the apostrophe.

PatentlyUntrue
PatentlyUntrue

Lack "off" full stops? Do you mean lack "of" full stops? And "colour's" is wrong; in this context it's not being used as possessive, so "colours" would be correct. Nothing is worse than a grammar nazi, except for one who has no idea about grammar.

I_Borg
I_Borg

You seem to have a problem capitalizing the first word in your first sentence on many of your posts. I also noted that nearly all of your posts are critical in one way or another; you might try adding to the discussion and not detracting from it like I am doing right now... Sorry everybody.

I_Borg
I_Borg

Well, you seem to have left out the fact that he used a comma splice in the first sentence... We need to check all of your posts for grammar and spelling next...

KingYoda
KingYoda

Maybe, maybe "MAYBE" , "maybe'...... Whatever. Maybe, just maybe, some people should not be a spellathon magician as in whatever trevor ooops Trevor forgot the "CAPITOL" "T" sorry where are my manners oh i know im a New Zealander sitting on them

Bixxo
Bixxo

Well---The 'G-Man' properly critiques the quick note like a good copy editor brings up the old proper grammar vs communicatons---Some get so bogged down in grammar their message never gets sent. Bottom line---did the person communicate his/her message--in this case "yes". Remember the old story re Gen Eisenhower who, although he recognized slight errors in a letter written in his name, signed it anyway. The communication was correct but grammar wrong and not worth the effort to correct and argue the AP stylebook.

dippleydokus
dippleydokus

As I recall you use the SET or PROMPT command. SET P will tell you what your current setting is (usually $p$g by default). SET /? or PROMPT /? will give you a lot of info, and if you happen to have an old DOS manual ... You use $e as an escape character, and then you can get quite inventive with the prompt format. I don't know if this will let you change it's color, but possibly ...

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

a counter grammar-natzi, we need more of your kind. And to top it all off, from a technical point of view, KingYoda is correct, black and white are shades when dealing with pigment, not colors. And in terms of light, white is considered achromatic, or 1. (optics) Free from color; transmitting light without color-related distortion. 2. Containing components such as achromatic lenses and prisms, designed to prevent color-related distortion. 3. (biology) Uncolored; not absorbing color from a fluid; -- said of tissue 4. (music) Having only the diatonic notes of the scale; not modified by accidentals. 5. Being achromatic in subject: "The lecture was achromatic, the speaker used politics to suppress the weight of his/her subject." In terms of light, black is an absence of any light spectrum (color), and thus its self can not be a color.