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<First Draft> When I use Midnight Commander on Sourceforge via ssh, it displays as very readable black text on a white background. When I run it locally, it displays unreadable (for me) shades of white text on a blue background.

Aside: Somewhere I talked about my theory that many anti-aliasing algorithms / programs are set up incorrectly, such that black on white looks correct but white on black does not. I know I covered it in one or more emails and/or things like bugzilla reports -- don't remember if I covered it on WikiLearn -- should do so (or did I just do it? wink ).

UPDATE: This page should be revised, but here's a summary of some recent findings:

  • Looks like there is no easy way to get a white instead of a gray background. (Some color tables were recommended to me (see below), but none of them accomplished a white background. Based on some messages from the mc mailing list, it seems there are some difficulties with getting white instead of gray as a background (can't remember / explain exactly, but, IIRC, they have to do with the idea that background colors are not as "bright" as foreground colors).)
  • Still no feedback from SourceForge on how they do it -- I had an additional thought, that maybe the white background is somehow a result of using ssh instead of something "compiled" into mc, but that is total speculation.

UPDATE: Apparently they responded to my support request number 499185 the day after I filed it, saying that they use the "Debian GNU/Linux stable platform, with stock configuration for mc and terminal settings." (I can't imagine how I did not find that before now, especially since I created this page on 12 Jan 2002, and they posted a response on 4 Jan 2002.) I've now reposted to mc@gnomePLEASENOSPAM.org (after a few false starts) seeking confirmation that the default text on Debian is black on white, and advice on how to move the executable to Mandrake.

UPDATE 17 Sept 2002: Just tried Sourceforge for the first time in quite a while -- today I got the standard (unreadable for me) colors -- I wonder what changed? I tried this on both my Mandrake 8.2 and 7.2 installations.

See AboutThesePages.



What I wanted to do at first was whatever Sourceforge had done to make it display that way (I didn't want to have to create my own color table -- too many choices to make). I first tried to use the -b option to start mc, but it gave me (difficult to read) shades of white text on a black background. I wanted to try to figure (or find) out what magic Sourceforge had used -- I tried looking for a color table on Sourceforge in an environment variable, an .mc/ini file, or an mc.lib file. I found an mc.lib file on Sourceforge (without a color table), downloaded it, installed it in place of the existing mc.lib file, disabled the existing .mc/ini file, but still got the shades of white on blue.

Asked for help on the mc developers list (got some suggestions that did not work, will list later), a Sourceforge support request (no response so far -- about two weeks), and finally on the BasicLinuxTraining mail list. Here I finally got some responses that helped.


Vladimir Popov suggested that the mc on Sourceforge might have been compiled with different options, which is the first logical suggestion I've heard as to how it works one way for Sourceforge and differently for me.

He also provided a "color table", listed below, that may be exactly what I need (or is at least a good beginning). As Anita Lewis from the same mail list (as well as Vladimir) pointed out, I simply need to insert the color table at the bottom of my ~/.mc/ini file.

I might provide more detail about the things I tried which didn't work (like the -b option -- they are recorded on some of the emails I posted to the various mail lists). (The versions of mc were different, but as long as they both supported colors, I didn't see why I couldn't get my local one to behave the same as the one on Sourceforge.)

Note: The color table can also be incorporated in an environment variable or possibly in the mc.lib file <need to confirm the second and then explain both>.

V.Popov's Suggested Color Table

[Colors] base_color=normal=black,white:selected=white,black:marked=blue,white:markselect=black,white:errors=red,white:input=black,white:reverse=white,black:gauge=black,white:directory=black,white:executable=gray,white:stalledlink=lightgray,white:special=gray,white:core=red,white:

As modified to get rid of the gray background(s):


Other Suggested Color Tables

Cyan on a Blue Background

From Art Johnson:
"You might want to try this, cyan on a blue background. I find it quite attractive:"



PeterMasiar's Table

Suggested by PeterMasiar -- seems nice, I have it installed now, still doesn't accomplish a white background.



Undocumented Color Attributes

from wa4chq@netscapePLEASENOSPAM.net (neil t), around

My problem what the yellow text in certain menus..ie: f10 to exit, the yellow prompts were hard to read against a white background. I had made some changes in the .mc/ini file, but didn't hit the right answer until I discovered the "dhotnormal:" line....that is the one that controled my problem color. That was not in the /ini file, so I guess the default was yellow. I added "dhotnormal:black" to [Colors} and that solved my problem. Finally!


  • Learn and then explain the difference between specifying the color table based on "base_color" vs. "xterm" (and other options).
  • Quote the relevant section of the mc man page (on colors -- it's up above line 1000). (Listing the available key words, colors, and so forth.)
  • Create the basic MidnightCommander page -- include this page in a list of links.
  • Consider creating the Reminder (and Beginner) versions of this page. (Maybe this is acceptable for both beginners and experienced users.)


  • RandyKramer - 12 Jan 2002
  • Vladimir Popov
  • Anita Lewis
  • Art Johnson
  • <If you edit this page, add your name here, move this to the next line>
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Topic revision: r8 - 2005-10-22 - RandyKramer
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