When using the terminal in a deep folder structure sometimes the prompt can take up most of the line. Is there any way in which I can trim the working directory? I know I can do

PS1="\W >"

to only print the current directory and not the full path, but is there a way to have something like:

/home/smauel/de...ther/folder >

9 Answers 9


If you are using bash4 (Ubuntu 9.10 and newer has bash4), the easiest option is to just set the PROMPT_DIRTRIM variable. e.g.:


For one similar to João Pinto's example, (that'll work in older bash versions and ensures that the path component is never longer than 30 characters), you could do something like this:

PS1='[\u@\h:$(p=${PWD/#"$HOME"/~};((${#p}>30))&&echo "${p::10}…${p:(-19)}"||echo "\w")]\$ '

Create a small python script which implements the desired trimming logic.

Example: ~/.short.pwd.py

import os
from socket import gethostname
hostname = gethostname()
username = os.environ['USER']
pwd = os.getcwd()
homedir = os.path.expanduser('~')
pwd = pwd.replace(homedir, '~', 1)
if len(pwd) > 33:
    pwd = pwd[:10]+'...'+pwd[-20:] # first 10 chars+last 20 chars
print '[%s@%s:%s] ' % (username, hostname, pwd)

Now test it, from a terminal:

export PROMPT_COMMAND='PS1="$(python ~/.short.pwd.py)"'

If you are ok with the result just append the command to your ~/.bashrc.

  • Not to ask the obvious, but how exactly do we append the command to the ~/.bashrc? Would it just be pasting that last line at the bottom of the file? Jul 4, 2014 at 10:31
  • 2
    @FloatingRock correct. Simply add it to the .bashrc file.
    – tdc
    Apr 16, 2015 at 16:59
  • This is great! If you edit the python program, it automatically updates: sweet!
    – N3sh
    Dec 1, 2015 at 12:36
  • Update that last print ... to print( ... ) to get this work almost as-is for python 3 too, great tip, thanks for sharing!!
    – Sean
    Mar 12, 2018 at 15:34
  • See also next best answer down below: PROMPT_DIRTRIM
    – BaCh
    Jun 18, 2020 at 9:00

Another way around that problem is to include a line break into PS1, so that the working directory and the actual prompt appear on separate lines, for example:

  • Similar to thiis, is to not change your PS1 prompt, but to just start your command with a \ and press Enter. This forces the command to begin on the next line with the PS2 prompt, which is usually > ... (I hadn't thought of it until I saw your suggestion :)
    – Peter.O
    Dec 16, 2010 at 19:36

Add this to the bottom of your ~/.bashrc

split_pwd() {
        # Only show ellipses for directory trees -gt 3
        # Otherwise use the default pwd as the current \w replacement
        if [ $(pwd | grep -o '/' | wc -l) -gt 3 ]; then
                pwd | cut -d'/' -f1-3 | xargs -I{} echo {}"/../${PWD##*/}"

export PS1="\$(split_pwd) > "

Admittedly this could probably be cleaner, but I wanted to get a crack at it.

Expected output for directories more than three layers deep.

/home/chris/../Node Projects >

Expected output for directories from Desktop and back.

/home/chris/Desktop > 
/home/chris >  
  • Beautiful! I just need to add some smarts about transforming $HOME to "~/" and not counting that as part of the 'length' if $PWD is under the home directory. Oct 29, 2019 at 21:50

Based on Cris Sullivan's answer, but keeping the ~ for the home folder

get_bash_w() {
  # Returns the same working directory that the \W bash prompt command
  echo $(pwd | sed 's@'"$HOME"'@~@')

split_pwd() {
  # Split pwd into the first element, elipsis (...) and the last subfolder
  # /usr/local/share/doc --> /usr/.../doc
  # ~/project/folder/subfolder --> ~/project/../subfolder
  if [ $(echo $W | grep -o '/' | wc -l) -gt $split ]; then
    echo $W | cut -d'/' -f1-$split | xargs -I{} echo {}"/../${W##*/}"
    echo $W

export PS1="\$(split_pwd) > "
  • Don't you still need to export PS1 here?? Looks great. Jan 2, 2019 at 19:25
  • Yes, you still need to export PS1, as you detailed in your answer. I just add the working directory :-)
    – Manuel
    Jan 7, 2019 at 19:55

Just to update slightly (for Python3) and enhance the selected answer to add colours to the prompt as per a BASH prompt (in Linux Mint 18.3 anyway):

#! /usr/bin/python3

import os, getpass
from socket import gethostname

username = getpass.getuser()
hostname = gethostname()
pwd = os.getcwd()
homedir = os.path.expanduser('~')
pwd = pwd.replace(homedir, '~', 1)

if len(pwd) > 40:
    # first 10 chars+last 30 chars
    pwd = pwd[:10] + '...' + pwd[-30:] 

# Virtual environment being used? Essential not to omit!
ve = os.getenv('VIRTUAL_ENV')
venv = '(`basename \"$VIRTUAL_ENV\"`)' if ve else ''

# colours as per my current BASH Terminal: 
# username + hostname: bold green
# path and $: bold blue
print( '\[\e[;1;32m\]%s%s@%s \[\e[;1;34m\]%s $\[\e[0m\]  ' % (venv, username, hostname, pwd) )

More on colour codes in a BASH Terminal here. There's probably some way of finding out what colours your Terminal uses automatically, but I haven't got a clue what that might be.

With the shebang line the export line for inclusion in .bashrc then becomes:

export PROMPT_COMMAND='PS1="$(~/.local/bin/manage_prompt.py)"' # adjust path to .py file

NB1 these "\e" escape codes must always be enclosed in "\[ ... \]", otherwise line-returns get completely messed up.

NB2 to get your full path at any time just go

... $ pwd 

of course...


This small addition to @joão-pinto's excellent answer adds in the virtual environment name when you run the workon command.

import os
from platform import node
hostname = node().split('.')[0]
username = os.environ['USER']
pwd = os.getcwd()
homedir = os.path.expanduser('~')
pwd = pwd.replace(homedir, '~', 1)

# check for the virtualenv
ve = os.getenv('VIRTUAL_ENV')

if ve:
    venv = '(`basename \"$VIRTUAL_ENV\"`)'
    venv = ''

if len(pwd) > 33:
    pwd = pwd[:10]+'...'+pwd[-20:] # first 10 chars+last 20 chars
print '%s[%s@%s:%s] ' % (venv, username, hostname, pwd)
  • This is absolutely essential! If you don't have it you will assume your Python virtual environment is not working when it is... for this reason I'm shamelessly using this to incorporate into my idea (with the colours...). Nov 17, 2019 at 12:59

I like this one most, PS1="[\W]\\$ "

  • OP mentioned they're not intersted in that.
    – wjandrea
    Mar 10, 2017 at 23:41

this prompt shortens all names except the current line this:

sps() {
    echo `dirname $PWD` | sed -r 's|/(.)[^/]*|/\1|g'

PS1='\u:$$(eval "sps")/\W\$ '

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