Show only current and parent directory in bash prompt

I’m new to bash and would like my prompt to show something that in tcsh was trivial, yet after a good google search I still cannot do.

I would like my prompt to include only the current and parent directories like this:

/parent/currentdir $

In tcsh this is achieved by:

set prompt = "%C2 %"

However in bash so far I have only found that I have to parse pwd to obtain the same output.

Isn’t there a simpler way, like doing:

export PS1="$(some_command) $" 
Asked By: twalbaum


Prompt string can be easily changed in bash by editing the shell variable PS1. It stands for Prompt String 1. More info here.

For now fire up your bash shell.

vi ~/.bashrc

Append the PS1 definition in the file

`export PS1="$(basename $(dirname $PWD))/$(basename $PWD)"`

More tutorials here and here, to help you tweak it even more.

Answered By: Munai Das Udasin

The syntax for obtaining the parent and current directories is taken from Munai’s answer.

However, as noted by Gilles, that code only shows the current directory at the time .bashrc is loaded, but it won’t change as you navigate the system to other folders.

Having this in your .bashrc file makes the prompt automatically updated to your current directory:

prompt_command () {
    PS1='$(basename $(dirname "$PWD"))/$(basename "$PWD") $ '
Answered By: twalbaum

Bash’s prompt control features are rather static. If you want more control, you can include variables in your prompt; make sure you haven’t turned off the promptvars option.

PS1='${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"} $ '

Note the single quotes: the variable expansions must happen at the time the prompt is displayed, not at the time the PS1 variable is defined.

If you want more control over what is displayed, you can use command substitutions. For example, the snippet above loses the ~ abbreviation for the home directory.

PS1='$(case $PWD in
        $HOME) HPWD="~";;
        $HOME/*/*) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
        $HOME/*) HPWD="~/${PWD##*/}";;
        /*/*/*) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
        *) HPWD="$PWD";;
      esac; printf %s "$HPWD") $ '

This code is rather cumbersome, so instead of sticking it into the PS1 variable, you can use the PROMPT_COMMAND variable to run code to set HPWD and then use that in your prompt.

        $HOME) HPWD="~";;
        $HOME/*/*) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
        $HOME/*) HPWD="~/${PWD##*/}";;
        /*/*/*) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
        *) HPWD="$PWD";;
PS1='$HPWD $'

Since the shortened prompt only changed on a directory change, you don’t need to recalculate it each time a prompt is displayed. Bash doesn’t provide a hook that runs on a current directory change, but you can simulate it by overriding cd and its cousins.

cd () { builtin cd "$@" && chpwd; }
pushd () { builtin pushd "$@" && chpwd; }
popd () { builtin popd "$@" && chpwd; }
chpwd () {
  case $PWD in
    $HOME) HPWD="~";;
    $HOME/*/*) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
    $HOME/*) HPWD="~/${PWD##*/}";;
    /*/*/*) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
    *) HPWD="$PWD";;
PS1='$HPWD $'

Note that you don’t need to, and should not, export PS1, since it’s a shell setting, not an environment variable. A bash PS1 setting wouldn’t be understood by other shells.

P.S. If you want a nice interactive shell experience, switch to zsh, where all of these (prompt % expansions largely encompassing tcsh’s, chpwd, etc.) are native features.

PS1='%2~ %# '

May be simpler one with “~” for Home directory.

function PWDN {
  echo "${PWD/#$HOME/~}" | rev | cut -d "/" -f1 -f2 | rev
Answered By: Baskar
export PS1='[u@h $(basename $(dirname ${PWD}))/$(basename ${PWD})]$ '
export PROMPT_COMMAND='echo -ne "33]0;$(basename $(dirname $PWD))/$(basename ${PWD})07"'
Answered By: Marius

Setting PROMPT_DIRTRIM=2 should be all you need.

Answered By: ianinini

Adding export PROMPT_DIRTRIM=2 to your bash file will do it for recent versions of bash (v. 4+). Specifically, this alters the appearance of the w entry in the PS1 environment variable from full path to last two entries.

Final results looks like ../Documents/MyFolder

Answered By: TomNorway

you can improve it by this:


# colors
# 30 range -> dark colors
# 90 range -> light colors

# random colors
random_color=($red $blue $magenta $cyan)
PS1='$(case $PWD in
        $HOME) HPWD="~";;
        $HOME/*/*) HPWD="~/${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*}/"}";;
        $HOME/*) HPWD="~/${PWD##*/}";;
        *) HPWD="${PWD#"${PWD%/*/*/*}/"}";;

      printf " e$green%s" "$HPWD" | sed "s|/|e$red -> e$green|g"
) e${random_color[$((RANDOM % 4 ))]}  e[0;93m'


home directories

enter image description here

Answered By: devs.hashtag
Categories: Answers Tags: ,
Answers are sorted by their score. The answer accepted by the question owner as the best is marked with
at the top-right corner.