Announcing ncurses 4.1

The ncurses (new curses) library is a freeware emulation of System V Release 4.0 curses. 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 is encouraging the keepers of Unix releases such as BSD/OS, freeBSD and netBSD to switch over to ncurses.

The ncurses code was developed under Linux. 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 tools.

The ncurses distribution is available via anonymous FTP at: and It is also carried on the GNU distribution site at

Features of ncurses

The ncurses package is fully compatible with SVr4 curses:

The ncurses package also has many useful extensions over SVr4:

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 memory-allocation tester.

The ncurses code has been tested with a wide variety of applications including:

the underlying application used in Slackware's setup, and the basis for similar applications on Linux.
the character-screen WWW browser
ncftp 2.0
file-transfer utility
New vi versions 1.50 are able to use ncurses versions 1.9.7 and later.
tape archive utility
Volks-Hypertext browser for the Jargon File

as well as some that use ncurses for the terminfo support alone:

terminal emulator
tin (unofficial) newsreader, supporting color, MIME

The ncurses distribution includes a selection of test programs (including a few games).

Who's Who and What's What

The original maintainer of ncurses is Zeyd Ben-Halim. Unfortunately, he can only work on the package part time. As a result, since 1.8.1, much of the enhancement work and documentation has been done by Eric S. Raymond. The current primary maintainers are Thomas Dickey and Juergen Pfeifer.

There is an ncurses mailing list. It is a majordomo list; to join, write to with a message containing the line:

             subscribe <name>@<host.domain>

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

Future Plans

We need people to help with these projects. If you are interested in working on them, please join the ncurses list.

The terminfo/termcap Database

The distribution includes and uses a copy of the terminfo-format terminal description file maintained by Eric Raymond. You can download either the termcap or terminfo versions of the terminal-type database from Eric's ncurses page,

Other Related Resources

You can find lots of information on terminal-related topics not covered in the terminfo file at Richard Shuford's archive.