Extend the Prompt in IPython (and jupyter console)

I use IPython and sometimes the jupyter console program for interactive Python work. (I used to think that the ipython console program was getting deprecated with the advent of the Jupyter split, but it turns out that that’s not the case.) When I do so, I like to customize the input prompt that they show me. Unfortunately, it’s not well documented how to configure custom prompts, and the method for doing so is very different depending on which version of the software you’re using. Here’s my compilation the relevant methods.

(This post has been heavily revised since its original version since I was confused about the lay of the land, and was over-optimistic about IPython’s stability. Last updated 2016/08.)

IPython, newer method (version >= 5.0): IPython 5.0 uses a completely new subsystem for gathering input: [prompt_toolkit](https://python-prompt- toolkit.readthedocs.io/en/latest/). So, the way to customize your prompts has completely changed. Yay. To customize how prompts are generated, you need to provide a customized version of a small class on IPython startup. Put code like this in your ~/.ipython/profile_default/ipython_config.py file:

# This file is dedicated to the public domain.

    from IPython.terminal.prompts import Prompts as BasePrompts
except ImportError:
    pass # not IPython 5.0
    from pygments.token import Token
    from time import strftime

    class MyPrompts(BasePrompts):
        def in_prompt_tokens(self, cli=None):
            return [
                (Token.Prompt, strftime('%H:%M') + ' '),
                (Token.PromptNum, str(self.shell.execution_count)),
                (Token.Prompt, ' >>> '),

    c.InteractiveShell.prompts_class = MyPrompts

See the file IPython/terminal/prompts.py to see what else you can override in the Prompts class.

Jupyter Console, newer method (works on console version 4.1): There’s no good approach, but there’s a hack. The key issue is that under Jupyter, the “shell” that displays the user interface is a separate program than the actual Python code you’re running. To customize the prompt, you need to inject new code into the shell program, not the kernel. The console shell (again, not kernel) seems to load the config file ~/.jupyter/jupyter_console_config.py. You can inject some code into module that renders prompts by putting something like this in that file:

# This file is dedicated to the public domain.

from IPython.core import prompts
import time
prompts.lazily_evaluate['shorttime'] = \
  prompts.LazyEvaluate(time.strftime, '%H:%M')
c.PromptManager.in_template = '{shorttime} \\# >>> '

Juypter Console, older method (console versions 4.0 and below?): This method must have worked for me at some point, but now I’m not sure how it ever did. Anyway, the way you’re supposed to inject code into Jupyter applications is through the “extension” mechanism. Version 4.1 of the shell can’t load extensions, but I guess older versions did. So you could install an extension that set up the prompt renderer as follows.

First, you need to create an extension by creating a file named something like ~/.ipython/extensions/shorttime_ext.py.

# This file is dedicated to the public domain.

_loaded = False

def load_ipython_extension(ip):
    global _loaded

    if _loaded:

    from IPython.core.prompts import LazyEvaluate
    import time
    ip.prompt_manager.lazy_evaluate_fields['shorttime'] = \
    LazyEvaluate(time.strftime, '%H:%M')
    _loaded = True

Then you can cause this extension to be loaded and modify the prompt of your shell using the standard configuration framework. In the 4.0.x versions of the console, the relevant file was still ~/.ipython/profile_default/ipython_config.py. A standalone version of that file that would set things up is:

# This file is dedicated to the public domain.

c = get_config()
c.InteractiveShellApp.extensions = ['shorttime_ext']
c.PromptManager.in_template = '{shorttime} \\# >>> '
c.PromptManager.in2_template = '{shorttime} {dots}...> '
c.PromptManager.out_template = '{shorttime}   \\# < '

# This suppresses 'Loading IPython extension: foo' messages on startup:
import logging
logging.getLogger('ZMQTerminalIPythonApp').level = logging.WARN