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Author Pasi Kallinen
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Bilious PatchDB 11

Menucolors is a patch that allows you to colorize individual rows on a menu based on what regular expressions match its text. The patch was written by paxed and can be found here. You can color the inventory menu, the spellcasting menu, the enhance menu, the options menu, and more. Menucolors are currently only supported in a terminal and (partially) in the Windows GUI.

For example, you could color all blessed items bright cyan, all cursed items bright orange, and all uncursed items dim green. From there you could underline dangerous items (loadstone, wand of cancellation, etc.), make the Amulet of Yendor magenta, all gold yellow, and so on, until you're satisfied.

The menucolors patch also supports globbing instead of regular expressions; the resulting menucolors are far less powerful, but are more portable. has the menucolors patch installed. You can test menucolors out before making the effort of patching it into your source code.

There is a precompiled binary of NetHack 3.4.3 Windows GUI and TTY with menucolors available for download here.

This patch was incorporated into NetHack 3.6.0


The menucolors are applied top to bottom, and each successive match replaces the colors and attributes.

Unfortunately, there's a bug in that setting an attribute (bold, underline, etc) resets the color of a line, and vice versa. You can work around this by setting color&attribute, but that's not a very general solution.

For the purposes of regex matching, the menu accelerator and the hyphen separating it from the menu entry are considered part of the entry by the menucolors patch. However, patches to NAO during May and June of 2012 altered this behavior, and these features are no longer part of the entry. In other words, "q - a club" or "a - autodig" will match a club in your inventory or the autodig option in the options menu as long as you aren't playing on NAO. If you are playing on NAO, you would need to use "a club" and "autodig".

The regular expressions match against menu entry separately, so you are free to use the ^ and $ operators to match the beginning and the end of the entries.


For examples of extensive menucolors, see the .nethackrc files of Eidolos and itsblah. Here's an example nethackrc file that includes menucolors (which uses regular expressions, not globbing):



MENUCOLOR="loadstone\|wand \(of\|called\) cancellation"=underline
MENUCOLOR="Amulet of Yendor named"=magenta                           # color only the real Amulet
MENUCOLOR="gold piece"=yellow

MENUCOLOR="[a-zA-Z] - [a-zA-Z ]+[ ]+[0-9]+\*[ ]+[a-z]+[ ]+[0-9]+%"=magenta  # forgotten spell
# This version will work on NAO.
# MENUCOLOR="[a-zA-Z ]+[ ]+[0-9]+\*[ ]+[a-z]+[ ]+[0-9]+%"=magenta  # forgotten spell

and here is an example that uses globbing, that is, only ? and * wildcards.


MENUCOLOR="* cursed *"=red
MENUCOLOR="* unholy *"=red
MENUCOLOR="* blessed *"=green
MENUCOLOR="* holy *"=green

Installing on Windows

Please see the article on compiling, the following assumes you have installed MinGW and NetHack's sources to the locations shown in that article.

  • Unpack that into the bin directory of MinGW, so that the patch.exe will be in the same directory as mingw32-make.exe (e.g. c:\mingw\bin).
  • Find the diff-file you want to patch, and download it on to your computer, preferably in the NetHack sources root directory, c:\nh343.

Note that linux-style line endings will cause problems, you need to convert those into Windows-style ones! You can do this for example copypasting the contents of that file from a browser window into Notepad, and then saving the notepad file. In this example, we'll be using the menucolors-patch available at We'll assume the file is saved in c:\nh343\ as nh343-menucolor.diff

  • Start cmd.exe and do the following:
cd c:\nh343
patch -p1 < nh343-menucolor.diff

The 1 after the -p might need to be changed to 0 or possibly 2 for other patches.

note: On MS-Windows, the patchfile must be a text file, i.e. CR-LF must be used as line endings. A file with LF may give the error: "Assertion failed, hunk, file patch.c, line 343," unless the option '--binary' is given.

note: Newer version of windows require administrative privileges to run files named patch, which can break GNU patch, see here for a workaround:

  • Some patches require extra configuration steps before compiling. For menucolors, you need to edit c:\nh343\include\config.h by changing the line


/* # define MENU_COLOR_REGEX */

This changes the menucolors, so it won't try to use regular expressions, because MinGW does not come with regex header files. Menucolors also comes with it's own short README file, which should be c:\nh343\README.menucolor

  • Compile NetHack, by running install.bat (Assuming you created one when compiling the source) or manually.
  • Now you should be able to edit your RC file, and add menucolors as listed above.

If you want to use regular expressions for menucolors:

  • Edit src\Makefile.gcc and add -lpcre to WINPLIBS. There's two definitions of WINPLIBS, one is for TTY, the other for graphical GUI.
  • Uncomment the MENU_COLOR, MENU_COLOR_REGEX and MENU_COLOR_REGEX_POSIX defines in include\config.h.
  • Unpack the PCRE development package and copy libpcre.dll.a to c:\mingw\lib\ and pcre.h, pcreposix.h and regex.h to c:\mingw\include\
  • Run install.bat to compile NetHack.
  • Unpack the PCRE binary package and copy pcre3.dll into the directory where NetHack binary is. (c:\nh343\binary\)
MENUCOLOR=" blessed "=green
MENUCOLOR=" holy "=green
MENUCOLOR=" cursed "=red
MENUCOLOR=" unholy "=red

Installing on Unix

Unix is much simpler. Download the patch, and apply the patch with patch < menucolors.diff , while in the root directory of the nethack source tree. You may need to use the -n flag, depending on your location inside the directory tree.