Announcing ncurses 5.8
The ncurses (new curses) library is a free software emulation
of curses in System V Release 4.0, and more. It uses terminfo
format, supports pads and color and multiple highlights and forms
characters and function-key mapping, and has all the other
SYSV-curses enhancements over BSD curses.
In mid-June 1995, the maintainer of 4.4BSD curses declared
that he considered 4.4BSD curses obsolete, and encouraged the
keepers of Unix releases such as BSD/OS, FreeBSD and NetBSD to
switch over to ncurses.
The ncurses code was developed under GNU/Linux. It has been in
use for some time with OpenBSD as the system curses library, and
on FreeBSD and NetBSD as an external package. It should port
easily to any ANSI/POSIX-conforming UNIX. It has even been ported
to OS/2 Warp!
The distribution includes the library and support utilities,
including a terminfo compiler tic(1), a decompiler infocmp(1),
clear(1), tput(1), tset(1), and a termcap conversion tool
captoinfo(1). Full manual pages are provided for the library and
The ncurses distribution is available via anonymous FTP at the
GNU distribution site ftp://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/ncurses/ .
It is also available at ftp://invisible-island.net/ncurses/ .
This release is designed to be upward compatible from ncurses
5.0 through 5.7; very few applications will require
recompilation, depending on the platform. These are the
highlights from the change-log since ncurses 5.7 release.
- turn on
_XOPEN_CURSES definition in
has_mouse, reflect its use in C++ and Ada95.
functions for opaque access to the WINDOW structure.
tiparm, based on review of X/Open Curses
New features and improvements
- add a terminal driver for Windows console, which supports a
MinGW port to Windows.
- add extended functions which specify the
SCREEN pointer for several curses functions which
use the global
- improve the
NCURSES_NO_UTF8_ACS feature by
adding a check for an extended terminfo capability
- improve performance of
tigetstr, etc., by
using hashing code from tic.
- add WACS_xxx definitions to wide-character
configuration for thick- and double-lines.
- modify init_pair to allow caller to create extra color
pairs beyond the color_pairs limit, which use default
Improvements to Programs
- modify tic's -I/-C dump to reformat acsc strings into
canonical form (sorted, unique mapping).
- add checks in tic for inconsistent cursor-movement
controls, and for inconsistent printer-controls.
- add special case to
_nc_infotocap (used by tic
and infocmp) to recognize the
setab strings from
provide a reduced version which works with termcap.
- added entries:
bterm terminfo entry, based on bogl
mlterm+256color entry, for mlterm
- several screen-bce.xxx entries
screen.Eterm terminfo entry
xterm-utf8 entry as a demo of the
- updated/improved entries:
- use extended capabilities:
U8 feature to denote entries for
terminal emulators which do not support VT100 SI/SO
when processing UTF-8 encoding
XT capability to entries for
terminals that support both xterm-style mouse- and
special-cases TERM beginning with
- improvements based on new checks in tic:
- fill in no-parameter forms of cursor-movement where
a parameterized form is available
- fill in missing cursor controls where the form of
the controls is ANSI
- add parameterized cursor-controls to
tek4115 to make
- change several terminfo entries to make consistent
use of ANSI clear-all-tabs
capability from kf1-kf10 to kf1-kf48, moving function key
- correct missing final 'p' in
terminfo entries to atari-old, st52-old, use newer entries
gnome terminfo entries as
gnome variants for
compatibility, but generally deprecating those since the
VTE library is what actually defines the behavior of
"gnome", etc., since 2003.
capability by using reverse rather than bold.
initc capability of
linux-c-nc end-of-range, make similar change
minix terminfo entry.
- remove unnecessary
kcan assignment to
konsole-base entries, allowing underline.
- change ncv and op capabilities in
sun-color terminfo entry to match Sun's entry
- fix typo in
acsc string for
show arrow keys.
- add hard-reset for
wsvt25 to help ensure that reset ends the
alternate character set.
Major bug fixes
- ncurses library
- wide character support
- modify length returned by
count the trailing null which is documented in
- fix an infinite recursion when adding a
legacy-coding 8-bit value using
- improve a workaround in adding wide-characters,
when a control character is found. The library uses
unctrl to obtain a printable version of
the control character, but was not passing color or
line-pointer after a multicolumn character is found to
not fit on the current row, and wrapping is done. Since
the line-pointer was not updated, the wrapped
multicolumn character was written to the beginning of
the current row.
- fixes in
wins_nwstr and related
functions to ensure that special characters, i.e.,
control characters are handled properly with the
- correct internal
_nc_insert_ch to use
_nc_insert_wch when inserting wide
characters, since the
that it used did not update the cursor position.
- add check if
Gpm_Open returns a -2,
e.g., for "xterm". This is normally suppressed but can
be overridden using
Gpm_Close is called in this
- add check in mouse-driver to disable connection if
GPM returns a zero, indicating that the connection is
getmouse to act as its
documentation implied, returning on each call the
preceding event until none are left. When no more
events remain, it will return
- improve handling of color-pairs embedded in
attributes for the extended-colors configuration.
- add check for failure to open hashed-database
needed for db4.6.
- modify use of
$CC environment variable
which is defined by X/Open as a curses feature, to
ignore it if it is not a single character.
- modify declaration of
broken-linker is used, but enable-reentrant is not, to
- correct limit-checks in
- remove old check in
prevented moving a derived window whose origin happened
to coincide with its parent's origin.
- correct limit-checks in
ensure that windows have nonzero size.
set_curterm to make
broken-linker configuration work with changes from
wgetch to ensure it checks
SIGWINCH when it gets an error in
- correct limit-check in
- fix a null-pointer check in
_nc_format_slks in lib_slk.c, from
- correct translation of "^" in
_nc_infotocap, used to transform terminfo
to termcap strings.
_nc_wgetch to check for a -1 in
the fifo, e.g., after a
discard that value, to avoid confusing
- other libraries
- correct transfer of multicolumn characters in multirow
field_buffer, which stopped at the end of the
first row due to filling of unused entries in a cchar_t
array with nulls.
- correct buffer-size after internal resizing of
set_field_buffer, broken in
- correct layout of working window used to extract data
in wide-character configured by
- configure script:
- new options:
- use the "-version-number" feature which was added
in libtool 1.5. The default value for the option uses
the newer feature, which makes libraries generated
using libtool compatible with the standard builds of
- disable a feature which adds rpath options for
libraries in unusual places.
- integrate changes for generic/interop support to
- generate ".pc" files for each of the libraries, and
install them in
- control whether to allow
interrupt a read operation in
applies only to the pthread configuration
- compile-in support for extended functions which
SCREEN pointer, reducing the need
for juggling the global
SP value with
- compile with terminal-driver. That is used in the
MinGW port, and (being somewhat more complicated) is an
experimental alternative to the conventional termlib
internals. Currently, it requires the sp-funcs feature
to be enabled.
- allows setting the prefix for functions used to
wrap global variables to something other than
- check for
specifying its path.
- tells the configure script to suppress the install
of ncurses' manpages.
- suppress building test programs.
- improved options:
- correct logic for
which was coded as an enable-type switch.
- omit the opaque-functions from
--disable-ext-funcs is used.
- *-config scripts:
adacurses-config to look for
".ali" files in the adalib directory.
- correct install for the Ada95 tree, which omitted
libAdaCurses.a used in
- change install for
provide additional flavors such as
adacursesw-config, for ncursesw.
- modify scripts to generate
ncurses*-config and pc-files to add
dependency for tinfo library.
ncurses*-config scripts if
available for test/configure.
- correct name for termlib in
ncurses*-config, e.g., if it is renamed to
provide a single file for ncurses/ncursesw
- generate manpages for the *-config scripts, adapted
- modify install-rule for manpages so that *-config
manpages will install when building with
- build-fixes for OpenSolaris aka Solaris 11, for
wide-character configuration as well as for rpath
feature in *-config scripts.
$includedir symbol in
- improve install-rules for pc-files.
- create the
directory if needed.
- fix typo "
==" where "
is needed in
gen-pkgconfig.in to eliminate a
dependency on rpath when deciding whether to add
--libs output; that
should be shown for the ncurses and tinfo libraries
without taking rpath into account.
- modify handling of
to use only the first item in a possibly
- other packaging issues
make-tar.sh scripts to Ada95 and
test subdirectories to help with making those
Ada95/configure script, to use in
tar-file created by
tar-copy.sh and related
configure/Makefile chunks, since the Ada95
binding is now installed using rules in
- improve configure checks for location of tic and
infocmp programs used for installing database and for
generating fallback data, e.g., for cross-compiling.
- modify #define's for build-compiler to suppress cchar_t
symbol from compile of
make_keys, improving cross-compilation of
- simplify include-dependencies of
make_keys, to reduce the need for setting
BUILD_CPPFLAGS in cross-compiling when the build- and
- correct cross-compiling configure check for
CF_MKSTEMP macro, by adding a check cache
variable set by
- library dependencies:
wecho_wchar to eliminate dependency on
- adjust configure script so that "t" is not added to
library suffix when weak-symbols are used, allowing the
pthread configuration to more closely match the non-thread
- building the Ada95 tree:
- changes to use gnatmake project files in the Ada95
- add/use configure check to turn on project rules for
- old gnatmake (3.15) does not produce libraries using
project-file; work around by adding script to generate
- add configure --with-ada-sharedlib option, for the
- move Ada95-related logic into aclocal.m4, since
additional checks will be needed to distinguish old/new
implementations of gnat.
- add test_make / test_clean / test_install rules in
- change install-path for adainclude directory to
/usr/share/ada (was /usr/lib/ada).
- other configure/build issues:
CCHARW_MAX value configurable, noting
that changing this would change the size of
cchar_t, and would be ABI-incompatible.
- improve comparison of program-names when checking for
linked flavors such as "reset" by ignoring the executable
misc/jpf-indent; they are provided by an
external package cindent.
- change makefiles to use
$AR_OPTS, provide a configure check to
detect whether a "-" is needed before "ar" options.
CF_DISABLE_LEAKS configure macro so
that the --enable-leaks option is not the same as
- improve configure script macros
CF_LIBRARY_PATH by adding
LIBS values to the search-lists.
- improve configure macros
CF_GCC_WARNINGS to work with gcc 4.x's c89
alias, which gives warning messages for cases where older
versions would produce an error.
CF_WITH_LIBTOOL configure check to
allow unreleased libtool version numbers (e.g. which
include alphabetic chars, as well as digits, after the
- improve use of symbolic links in makefiles by using
-f" option if it is supported, to eliminate
temporary removal of the target
- add a configure-time check to pick a suitable value for
CC_SHARED_OPTS for Solaris.
- add -shared option to
-Bsharable is used, for *BSD's, without which "main" might
be one of the shared library's dependencies.
- modify configure script to allow building shared
libraries with gcc on AIX 5 or 6.
- suppress configure check for static/dynamic linker
flags for gcc on Solaris 10, since gcc is confused by
absence of static libc, and does not switch back to dynamic
mode before finishing the libraries.
- suppress configure check for static/dynamic linker
flags for gcc on Darwin.
misc/run_tic.in to create parent
directory, in case this is a new install of hashed
- modify configure check for tic program, used for
fallbacks, to a warning if not found. This makes it simpler
to use additonal scripts to bootstrap the fallbacks code
using tic from the build tree.
- test programs:
- add test/demo_terminfo, for comparison with
- improve test/ncurses.c 'F' test, show combining
characters in color.
- fix logic for 'V' in test/ncurses.c tests f/F.
- improve test/ncurses.c 'a test to put mouse droppings
in the proper window.
- modify ncurses 'F' test to demo wborder_set with
- modify ncurses 'f' test to demo wborder with colored
- improve test/ncurses.c 'a' test, using unctrl more
consistently to display meta-characters.
- correct use of
key_name in test/ncurses.c
'A' test, which only displays wide-characters, not
key-codes since 20070612.
- add test/clip_printw.c to illustrate how to use printw
- modify test-programs, e.g,. test/view.c, to address
subtle differences between Tru64/Solaris and HPUX/AIX
getcchar return values.
- add some test programs (and make these use the same
special keys by sharing
test/test_addstr.c test/test_addwstr.c test/test_addchstr.c
- add test/xterm-256color.dat
- modify test programs to allow them to be built with
- fixes for test programs to build/work on HPUX and AIX,
Features of Ncurses
The ncurses package is fully compatible with SVr4 (System V
Release 4) curses:
- All 257 of the SVr4 calls have been implemented (and are
- Full support for SVr4 curses features including keyboard
mapping, color, forms-drawing with ACS characters, and
automatic recognition of keypad and function keys.
- An emulation of the SVr4 panels library, supporting a stack
of windows with backing store, is included.
- An emulation of the SVr4 menus library, supporting a
uniform but flexible interface for menu programming, is
- An emulation of the SVr4 form library, supporting data
collection through on-screen forms, is included.
- Binary terminfo entries generated by the ncurses tic(1)
implementation are bit-for-bit-compatible with the entry format
SVr4 curses uses.
- The utilities have options to allow you to filter terminfo
entries for use with less capable
curses/terminfo versions such
as the HP/UX and AIX ports.
The ncurses package also has many useful extensions over
- The API is 8-bit clean and base-level conformant with the
X/OPEN curses specification, XSI curses (that is, it implements
all BASE level features, and most EXTENDED features). It
includes many function calls not supported under SVr4 curses
(but portability of all calls is documented so you can use the
SVr4 subset only).
- Unlike SVr3 curses, ncurses can write to the
rightmost-bottommost corner of the screen if your terminal has
an insert-character capability.
- Ada95 and C++ bindings.
- Support for mouse event reporting with X Window xterm and
FreeBSD and OS/2 console windows.
- Extended mouse support via Alessandro Rubini's gpm
- The function
wresize allows you to resize
windows, preserving their data.
- The function
use_default_colors allows you to
use the terminal's default colors for the default color pair,
achieving the effect of transparent colors.
- The functions
define_key allow you to better control the use of
function keys, e.g., disabling the ncurses KEY_MOUSE, or by
defining more than one control sequence to map to a given key
- Support for 256-color terminals, such as modern xterm, when
configured using the
- Support for 16-color terminals, such as aixterm
and modern xterm.
- Better cursor-movement optimization. The package now
features a cursor-local-movement computation more efficient
than either BSD's or System V's.
- Super hardware scrolling support. The screen-update code
incorporates a novel, simple, and cheap algorithm that enables
it to make optimal use of hardware scrolling, line-insertion,
and line-deletion for screen-line movements. This algorithm is
more powerful than the 4.4BSD curses
- Real support for terminals with the magic-cookie glitch.
The screen-update code will refrain from drawing a highlight if
the magic- cookie unattributed spaces required just before the
beginning and after the end would step on a non-space
character. It will automatically shift highlight boundaries
when doing so would make it possible to draw the highlight
without changing the visual appearance of the screen.
- It is possible to generate the library with a list of
pre-loaded fallback entries linked to it so that it can serve
those terminal types even when no terminfo tree or termcap file
is accessible (this may be useful for support of
screen-oriented programs that must run in single-user
- The tic(1)/captoinfo utility provided with ncurses has the
ability to translate many termcaps from the XENIX, IBM and
AT&T extension sets.
- A BSD-like tset(1) utility is provided.
- The ncurses library and utilities will automatically read
terminfo entries from $HOME/.terminfo if it exists, and compile
to that directory if it exists and the user has no write access
to the system directory. This feature makes it easier for users
to have personal terminfo entries without giving up access to
the system terminfo directory.
- You may specify a path of directories to search for
compiled descriptions with the environment variable
TERMINFO_DIRS (this generalizes the feature provided by
TERMINFO under stock System V.)
- In terminfo source files, use capabilities may refer not
just to other entries in the same source file (as in System V)
but also to compiled entries in either the system terminfo
directory or the user's $HOME/.terminfo directory.
- A script (capconvert) is provided to help
BSD users transition from termcap to terminfo. It gathers the
information in a TERMCAP environment variable and/or a
~/.termcap local entries file and converts it to an equivalent
local terminfo tree under $HOME/.terminfo.
- Automatic fallback to the /etc/termcap file can be compiled
in when it is not possible to build a terminfo tree. This
feature is neither fast nor cheap, you don't want to use it
unless you have to, but it's there.
- The table-of-entries utility toe makes it
easy for users to see exactly what terminal types are available
on the system.
- The library meets the XSI requirement that every macro
entry point have a corresponding function which may be linked
(and will be prototype-checked) if the macro definition is
- An HTML "Introduction to Programming with NCURSES" document
provides a narrative introduction to the curses programming
State of the Package
Numerous bugs present in earlier versions have been fixed; the
library is far more reliable than it used to be. Bounds checking
in many `dangerous' entry points has been improved. The code is
now type-safe according to gcc -Wall. The library has been
checked for malloc leaks and arena corruption by the Purify
The ncurses code has been tested with a wide variety of
applications including (versions starting with those noted):
- Curses Development Kit
- the underlying application used in Slackware's setup, and
the basis for similar applications on GNU/Linux.
- the character-screen WWW browser
- Midnight Commander
- file manager
- mail utility
- file-transfer utility
- New vi versions 1.50 are able to use ncurses versions 1.9.7
- Lynx-like info browser. https://alioth.debian.org/projects/pinfo/
- newsreader, supporting color, MIME http://www.tin.org/
as well as some that use ncurses for the terminfo support
- terminal emulator
The ncurses distribution includes a selection of test programs
(including a few games).
Who's Who and What's What
Zeyd Ben-Halim started it from a previous package pcurses,
written by Pavel Curtis. Eric S. Raymond continued development.
Jürgen Pfeifer wrote most of the form and menu libraries.
Ongoing work is being done by Thomas Dickey. Thomas
Dickey acts as the maintainer for the Free Software Foundation,
which holds the copyright on ncurses. Contact the current
maintainers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To join the ncurses mailing list, please write email to
email@example.com containing the line:
This list is open to anyone interested in helping with the
development and testing of this package.
Beta versions of ncurses and patches to the current release
are made available at ftp://invisible-island.net/ncurses/ .
- Extended-level XPG4 conformance, with internationalization
- Ports to more systems, including DOS and Windows.
We need people to help with these projects. If you are
interested in working on them, please join the ncurses list.
Other Related Resources
The distribution provides a newer version of the
terminfo-format terminal description file once maintained by
Raymond . Unlike the older version, the termcap and
terminfo data are provided in the same file, and provides several
user-definable extensions beyond the X/Open specification.
You can find lots of information on terminal-related topics
not covered in the terminfo file at
Richard Shuford's archive .