Cycle Terminal background images

Here’s an interesting, fun, and maybe (but not necessarily definitely) useful hint for your Friday. As you may or may not know, you can customize the background of an OS X 10.4 Terminal window—you can use either a color or an image, and you can also set a transparency level for the selected color or image. You access these settings in the Terminal -> Window Settings screen; click the drop-down menu and select Color. On the Color panel, you’ll see a section for Background Settings, and within that, a set of radio buttons to choose either a color or an image.

If you choose to use an image, the Set button becomes active. When clicked, the standard OS X file dialog appears. Here’s where the trick comes in: instead of selecting a particular image file, select a folder that contains a number of images and click Open. In the Color panel, click the Use Settings as Default button.

Now every time you open a new Terminal window (Command-N), Terminal will randomly display one of the selected images from the folder you specified. Whether you find this effect interesting, useful, or distracting probably depends on the types of images you choose to place in the chosen folder. But here’s one way to use this trick that might actually be useful—or at worst, not incredibly distracting.

In your favorite image editor, create a new image with relatively tiny dimensions—say 20x20 pixels. Fill this image with a color you’d like to use as a Terminal background, and save it to a “Terminal Colors” folder (or whatever you’d care to call it) as a TIFF, PNG, or JPEG (other formats probably work fine, too; these are the three I tested). Now change the fill to another color you’d like to use for your background, and save it as a new name to the same folder. Repeat until you have a nice assortment of background colors saved to that folder.

Switch to Terminal and return to the Color portion of the Window Settings dialog, and tell it to use your Terminal Colors folder for your background images. Now every time you open a new Terminal window, you’ll see one of your color swatches as the background—Terminal automatically scales your tiny image to fill the Terminal’s screen. And while solid colors might not be as interesting to look at as fancy background images, they’re much less distracting to the eye—and not nearly as boring as using the same color every time you open Terminal.

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