Customizing grml-zsh-config

🔖 linux 

Ever heard of grml-zsh-config? Maybe not, but it’s possible you may have used it. It’s the zsh config for the Arch linux installer, as well as some Debian systems.

Grml is a nice alternative to heavy and bloated config frameworks like oh-my-zsh and pretzo (even on a modern machine I’ve seen zsh take over a second to load using oh-my-zsh with just a few plugins enabled).

Unfortunately, grml is not that easy to configure, and the available documentation is a little lacking. With a few tweaks though, I managed to get a proper shell out of grml.

Grml provides almost everything I’d like out of zsh by default. Here’s the out of the box prompt:

    austin@nightmare ~/Documents/pdpv2 (git)-[master] %

Not bad, but room for improvement. Let’s make some changes. All code below belongs in your .zshrc

Change the prompt layout.

There are a few items in the prompt that make it unnecessarily long and redundant. I don’t often forget who I am or where I’m at, so let’s remove the user@host nonsense. I also like my prompt to contain a newline, so input is consistently placed on the far left.

    zstyle ':prompt:grml:left:setup' items rc change-root path vcs newline percent

Now you’ll end up with something like this:

    ~/Documents/pdpv2 (git)-[master]

Better git information.

It’d be nice to see if there are any unstaged/staged changes in the current working directory. While we’re at it, let’s get rid of the lame (git)- part of the prompt. Nobody uses svn anymore, right?

Place this above the zstyle ':prompt:grml:left:setup' line in your .zshrc:

    autoload -U colors && colors
    zstyle ':vcs_info:*' enable git
    zstyle ':vcs_info:*' check-for-changes true
    zstyle ':vcs_info:*' unstagedstr '!'
    zstyle ':vcs_info:*' stagedstr '+'
    zstyle ':vcs_info:git*' formats "%{${fg[cyan]}%}[%{${fg[blue]}%}%b%{${fg[yellow]}%}%m%u%c%{${fg[cyan]}%}]%{$reset_color%}"

This will load only git support, check for changes in the working directory and add some icons to the prompt if there are changes. It also gets rid of the vcs type display and adds some pretty colors. Your prompt should look something like this now:

    ~/Documents/pdpv2 [master!]

Add the current virtualenv.

Every self respecting python developer wants the currently activated virtualenv to appear in their prompt. Due to the way grml configures itself virtualenv’s normal mechanism does not work. Here’s how with grml. In your .zshrc:

    source /usr/bin/
    function virtual_env_prompt () {
    grml_theme_add_token virtual-env -f virtual_env_prompt '%F{magenta}' '%f'

Lastly, add the new virtual-env token to the layout:

    zstyle ':prompt:grml:left:setup' items rc change-root path virtual-env vcs newline percent

You should end up with something like this if in the “testenv” virtualenv:

    ~/Documents/pdpv2 (testenv) [master]

Check out the cheat sheet

Grml is a lot more than just a prompt. It adds a bunch of aliases and functions as well. Check out the exhaustive cheat sheet if you’d like to learn more. Enjoy!