How to edit MacOS’ terminal appearance

I think we can all agree that command-line interfaces are a scary thing. They’re ugly to look at and speak a dialect that normal people do not understand and don’t want to make the effort to. If I could avoid using them entirely, I’d be more than happy to do so.
There are, however, times when you simply cannot avoid to, so maybe there’s something you can do to improve how you interact with a necessary evil, isn’t it?
My biggest gripe with MacOS’ terminal appearance is that it uses a freakin’ tiny font and the white background is a bit hard on the eyes. To be fair, there are alternative appearances to choose from, but as you may have discovered yourself, if you close all terminal windows and open a new one from the dock, you’ll still get the same black-and-white appearance with that tiny font. Here’s how to change that.

Open the terminal preferences

Once you’ve opened the terminal, open its preferences by clicking on Terminal > Preferences on the top bar or by pressing the keyboard shortcut ⌘ + ,. This window will open.

The Terminal Preferences window.
The Terminal Preferences window.

 Create a new profile or edit an existing one

We will need to click on Profiles. This is what that tab looks like.

The Profiles tab.
The Profiles tab.

On the left bar are all presets provided by Apple. You can add a new one by clicking on the + sign on the lower left corner, but I think it’s faster to edit an existing one. I personally like the Homebrew and Pro presets because I find the black background easier on the eyes, but the choice is up to you.

Once you’ve found a preset you like, select it by right-clicking on its name. The Text tab allows you to determine how text will be displayed. The other tabs allow to configure more advanced settings. Their default settings are okay as they are, in my opinion, so there’s no need to change them. Some of them deal with the window title, which I don’t particularly care for because I keep all programs in full screen mode at all time, whereas others configure the character encoding to use. Since Unicode already allows to work with files written in most languages, we won’t be changing that.

Among the options in the Text tab, those named TextBold text and Selection are of particular importance because they allow us to configure the text colour. There’s generally little need to care about bold text because the terminal doesn’t generally make use of bold text, but Text is very important, since most of the text displayed in the terminal will use that colour. Clicking on the rectangle will allow you to choose the shade. Select one you like and click close the colour wheel.

I strongly suggest you also increase the font size. For whatever reason, Apple thinks that tiny characters are the hottest thing since the invention of the wheel. A font size between 14 and 18 will do great wonders. To change this setting, click Change… next to the font name. Once done, close the window.

When you’re happy with your edits, click the Default button below the left bar. This will set the currently selected profile as default.

Edit settings in the General tab

Let’s go back to the General tab and, under section On startup, open, select the profile we just edited. Change the value for New windows open with to Same profile, as shown in the screenshot below.


You may close the Preferences window now.

Every time you’ll open a new Terminal window, it will use the profile you specified instead of the default black-and-white one.

About Andrea Luciano Damico 117 Articles
Andrea Luciano Damico is a freelance translator from Italy. Among his interests are linguistics, technology, video games, and generally being a chill guy. He runs Let's and