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A simple stream filter to highlight patterns
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discoball is a tool to filter streams and colorize patterns. It functions somewhat like egrep --color, except that it can highlight multiple patterns (in different colors). Patterns are arbitrary ruby regexes that are matched against the entire line. If the regex contains groups, only the first group's match text is highlighted.


$ discoball [options] <pattern1 pattern2 ...>

where options are:

  • --group-colors or -g: Color all matches of the same pattern with the same color
  • --one-color or -o: Highlight all matches with a single color
  • --match-any or -m: Only print lines matching an input pattern
  • --match-all or -a: Only print lines matching all input patterns
  • --help or -h: Print the help message


  • Highlight instances of "foo" and "bar" in the text of myfile.txt:

    $ cat myfile.txt | discoball foo bar
  • Highlight paths of processes running out of /usr/sbin/:

    $ ps -ef | discoball --one-color --match-any '/usr/sbin/.*$'
  • I wrote discoball for use with Steve Losh's todo-list tool, t. I put tags on my tasks annotated with + (inspired by Todo.txt):

    $ t Make an appointment with the dentist +health

    When I list my tasks (using t), I use discoball to highlight the tags with different colors:

    $ t | discoball '\+\S+'

    I can even do some fancier stuff to list particular labels. I have the following function defined in my .bashrc:

    function tl() {
      if [ -z  "$1" ]; then
        t | discoball '\+\S+'
        t | discoball -a "${@/#/\+}"

    I can use this as follows:

    $ tl               # ~> Show the list of tasks, with tags highlighted
    $ tl health urgent # ~> Show only tasks tagged with 'health' and 'urgent'


    Discoball + t demo


The easiest way to get discoball is by using RubyGems: $ gem install discoball. You can also clone the git repository at git:// if you want the latest code.

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