How would one change the background color on the fly for Whiptail. For example red, green, or yellow, Blue seams to be a lack of color. I checked How to get rid of purple background color in newt apps? which really breaks the system. If you want permanent blue it is OK.

I know that it can be done as when you install Ubuntu they change the background color when you don't get matching passwords for example. Non of the manuals for Whiptail discuss how.

I do know that it deal with newt as this is its base, but even there they don't tell you how.

1 Answer 1


Internal colour palette of whiptail may be overwritten at compilation by providing a path to a file containing color definitions.

In ubuntu sudo update-alternatives --config newt-palette provides a way of selecting between ubuntu palette and original palette.

The location of this file can be overriden by setting the NEWT_COLORS_FILE to point to an alternative file.

Furthermore both previous overrides can be overriden by setting the NEWT_COLORS environment variable.

The structure of the definitions is:


name can be:

root                  root fg, bg
border                border fg, bg
window                window fg, bg
shadow                shadow fg, bg
title                 title fg, bg
button                button fg, bg
actbutton             active button fg, bg
checkbox              checkbox fg, bg
actcheckbox           active checkbox fg, bg
entry                 entry box fg, bg
label                 label fg, bg
listbox               listbox fg, bg
actlistbox            active listbox fg, bg
textbox               textbox fg, bg
acttextbox            active textbox fg, bg
helpline              help line
roottext              root text
emptyscale            scale full
fullscale             scale empty
disentry              disabled entry fg, bg
compactbutton         compact button fg, bg
actsellistbox         active & sel listbox
sellistbox            selected listbox

bg and fg can be:

color0  or black
color1  or red
color2  or green
color3  or brown
color4  or blue
color5  or magenta
color6  or cyan
color7  or lightgray
color8  or gray
color9  or brightred
color10 or brightgreen
color11 or yellow
color12 or brightblue
color13 or brightmagenta
color14 or brightcyan
color15 or white

Example displaying a message box with red window background:


' \
whiptail --msgbox "passwords don't match" 0 0

Appending to ubuntu colors:


readarray -t newtcols < /etc/newt/palette


NEWT_COLORS="${newtcols[@]} ${newtcols_error[@]}" \
whiptail --msgbox "passwords don't match" 0 0
  • Yes works except for one thing the root background goes to blue, I tried to add root to NEWT_COLORS but the root background goes to black. What is the variable to get the root background to magenta like Ubuntu uses?
    – Eric
    Jun 3, 2016 at 15:38
  • root=,magenta. Please note that there is only 1 override that takes place. If you set NEWT_COLORS none of the overrides takes place.
    – user448115
    Jun 3, 2016 at 18:39
  • I did exactly that and it makes the background black. I also found out that if you don't do NEWT_COLORS on all whiptail windows they are black background. Which means that it affects all whiptails.
    – Eric
    Jun 4, 2016 at 1:43
  • @Eric, if you set an invalid color to an elements it makes it black. i.e. root=,mageta would make root window black.
    – user448115
    Jun 4, 2016 at 8:20
  • There must be a problem with Ubuntu 14.04 as I get the black background for root. When I do it in Ubuntu 16.04 it works perfectly (magenta root background). Would you know if there is a difference between the two?
    – Eric
    Jun 4, 2016 at 12:31

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