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stderr in red.


stderred hooks on write() function from libc in order to colorize all stderr output that goes to terminal thus making it distinguishable from stdout. Basically it wraps text that goes to file with descriptor "2" with proper escape codes making text red.

It's implemented as a shared library and doesn't require recompilation of existing binaries thanks to LD_PRELOAD feature of Linux dynamic linker.


Clone this repository:

git clone git://
cd stderred


For 32-bit system:

make lib/

For 64-bit system:

make lib64/


You can enable stderred in 2 ways.

Recommended one is to export LD_PRELOAD variable in your shell's config file. Put following in you .bashrc/.zshrc:

if [ -f "/absolute/path/to/lib/" ]; then
  export LD_PRELOAD="/absolute/path/to/lib/"

Second option is to create alias and then use it to selectively colorize stderr for run commands:

$ alias stderred='LD_PRELOAD=/absolute/path/to/lib/'
$ stderred java lol

Make sure that path to is absolute!

Note: on a Mac, the following may be necessary instead:


Checking if it works

$ python -c 'import os; print "Yo!"; os.write(2, "Jola\n\r")'

Jola should be in red dress.

stderred in action

Multi-arch distros

* Ignore this section if using Ubuntu. Ubuntu prefers architecture purity and doesn't allow coexisting 32 and 64-bit packages on the same installation. Thus this problem doesn't exist on this distro.

On some Linux distros you can run 32-bit binaries on 64-bit system. Shared libraries compiled for 64-bit doesn't work with 32-bit binaries though. It happens that 64-bit binaries call 32-bit ones resulting in warning message printed to terminal about not compatible LD_PRELOAD shared lib.

Fortunately Linux's dynamic linker has a feature called Dynamic String Token (DST). It allows dynamic substitution of $LIB token in LD_PRELOAD variable with "lib" or "lib64" respectively for 32 and 64-bit binaries when the binary is being run.

Thanks to that you can compile stderred for both architectures and automatically use proper version of this shared library.

On Fedora, for example, you need to install libc development headers for both architectures:

$ sudo yum install glibc-devel.i686 glibc-devel.x86_64

compile it like this:

$ make both

and export LD_PRELOAD like this in your shell's config:

export LD_PRELOAD="/path/to/stderred/\$LIB/"

Alternative implementations

Simpler and much less reliable solution when using Zsh is to use named pipes trick proposed on Gentoo Linux wiki. It has some race condition/buffering issues and breaks on interactive commands writing to stderr though.


Asheesh Laroia - original concept and initial implementation

Marcin Kulik - current implementation


You are free to use this program under the terms of the license found in LICENSE file.