These low-level routines must be called by programs that have to deal
directly with the terminfo database to handle certain terminal
capabilities, such as programming function keys. For all other
functionality, curses routines are more suitable and their use is
Initially, setupterm should be called. Note that setupterm is
automatically called by initscr and newterm. This defines the set of
terminal-dependent variables [listed in terminfo(5)].
Each initialization routine provides applications with the terminal
capabilities either directly (via header definitions), or by special
functions. The header files curses.h and term.h should be included
(in this order) to get the definitions for these strings, numbers,
The terminfo variables lines and columns are initialized by setupterm
· If use_env(FALSE) has been called, values for lines and columns
specified in terminfo are used.
· Otherwise, if the environment variables LINES and COLUMNS exist,
their values are used. If these environment variables do not
exist and the program is running in a window, the current window
size is used. Otherwise, if the environment variables do not
exist, the values for lines and columns specified in the terminfo
database are used.
Parameterized strings should be passed through tparm to instantiate
them. All terminfo strings [including the output of tparm] should be
printed with tputs or putp. Call reset_shell_mode to restore the tty
modes before exiting [see curs_kernel(3X)].
Programs which use cursor addressing should
· output enter_ca_mode upon startup and
· output exit_ca_mode before exiting.
Programs which execute shell subprocesses should
· call reset_shell_mode and output exit_ca_mode before the shell is
· output enter_ca_mode and call reset_prog_mode after returning
from the shell.
The setupterm routine reads in the terminfo database, initializing
the terminfo structures, but does not set up the output
virtualization structures used by curses. The terminal type is the
character string term; if term is null, the environment variable TERM
is used. All output is to file descriptor fildes which is
initialized for output. If errret is not null, then setupterm
returns OK or ERR and stores a status value in the integer pointed to
by errret. A return value of OK combined with status of 1 in errret
is normal. If ERR is returned, examine errret:
1 means that the terminal is hardcopy, cannot be used for curses
setupterm determines if the entry is a hardcopy type by checking
the hc (hardcopy) capability.
0 means that the terminal could not be found, or that it is a
generic type, having too little information for curses
applications to run.
setupterm determines if the entry is a generic type by checking
the gn (generic) capability.
-1 means that the terminfo database could not be found.
If errret is null, setupterm prints an error message upon finding an
error and exits. Thus, the simplest call is:
setupterm((char *)0, 1, (int *)0);,
which uses all the defaults and sends the output to stdout.
The setterm routine was replaced by setupterm. The call:
setupterm(term, 1, (int *)0)
provides the same functionality as setterm(term). The setterm
routine is provided for BSD compatibility, and is not recommended for
The Terminal State
The setupterm routine stores its information about the terminal in a
TERMINAL structure pointed to by the global variable cur_term. If it
detects an error, or decides that the terminal is unsuitable
(hardcopy or generic), it discards this information, making it not
available to applications.
If setupterm is called repeatedly for the same terminal type, it will
reuse the information. It maintains only one copy of a given
terminal's capabilities in memory. If it is called for different
terminal types, setupterm allocates new storage for each set of
The set_curterm routine sets cur_term to nterm, and makes all of the
terminfo boolean, numeric, and string variables use the values from
nterm. It returns the old value of cur_term.
The del_curterm routine frees the space pointed to by oterm and makes
it available for further use. If oterm is the same as cur_term,
references to any of the terminfo boolean, numeric, and string
variables thereafter may refer to invalid memory locations until
another setupterm has been called.
The restartterm routine is similar to setupterm and initscr, except
that it is called after restoring memory to a previous state (for
example, when reloading a game saved as a core image dump).
restartterm assumes that the windows and the input and output options
are the same as when memory was saved, but the terminal type and baud
rate may be different. Accordingly, restartterm saves various tty
state bits, calls setupterm, and then restores the bits.
The tparm routine instantiates the string str with parameters pi. A
pointer is returned to the result of str with the parameters applied.
tiparm is a newer form of tparm which uses <stdarg.h> rather than a
fixed-parameter list. Its numeric parameters are integers (int)
rather than longs.
The tputs routine applies padding information to the string str and
· The str must be a terminfo string variable or the return value
from tparm, tgetstr, or tgoto.
· affcnt is the number of lines affected, or 1 if not applicable.
· putc is a putchar-like routine to which the characters are
passed, one at a time.
The putp routine calls tputs(str, 1, putchar). Note that the output
of putp always goes to stdout, not to the fildes specified in
The vidputs routine displays the string on the terminal in the video
attribute mode attrs, which is any combination of the attributes
listed in curses(3X). The characters are passed to the putchar-like
The vidattr routine is like the vidputs routine, except that it
outputs through putchar.
The vid_attr and vid_puts routines correspond to vidattr and vidputs,
respectively. They use a set of arguments for representing the video
attributes plus color, i.e., one of type attr_t for the attributes
and one of short for the color_pair number. The vid_attr and
vid_puts routines are designed to use the attribute constants with
the WA_ prefix. The opts argument is reserved for future use.
Currently, applications must provide a null pointer for that
The mvcur routine provides low-level cursor motion. It takes effect
immediately (rather than at the next refresh).
Terminal Capability Functions
The tigetflag, tigetnum and tigetstr routines return the value of the
capability corresponding to the terminfo capname passed to them, such
as xenl. The capname for each capability is given in the table
column entitled capname code in the capabilities section of
These routines return special values to denote errors.
The tigetflag routine returns
-1 if capname is not a boolean capability, or
0 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal description.
The tigetnum routine returns
-2 if capname is not a numeric capability, or
-1 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal description.
The tigetstr routine returns
if capname is not a string capability, or
0 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal description.
Terminal Capability Names
These null-terminated arrays contain the short terminfo names
("codes"), the termcap names, and the long terminfo names ("fnames")
for each of the predefined terminfo variables:
char *boolnames, *boolcodes, *boolfnameschar *numnames, *numcodes, *numfnameschar *strnames, *strcodes, *strfnames
Routines that return an integer return ERR upon failure and OK (SVr4
only specifies "an integer value other than ERR") upon successful
completion, unless otherwise noted in the preceding routine
Routines that return pointers always return NULL on error.
X/Open defines no error conditions. In this implementation
returns an error if its terminal parameter is null.
putp calls tputs, returning the same error-codes.
returns an error if the associated call to setupterm
returns an error.
returns an error if it cannot allocate enough memory, or
create the initial windows (stdscr, curscr, newscr). Other
error conditions are documented above.
returns an error if the string parameter is null. It does
not detect I/O errors: X/Open states that tputs ignores the
return value of the output function putc.
X/Open notes that vidattr and vidputs may be macros.
The function setterm is not described by X/Open and must be
considered non-portable. All other functions are as described by
setupterm copies the terminal name to the array ttytype. This is not
part of X/Open Curses, but is assumed by some applications.
If configured to use the terminal-driver, e.g., for the MinGW port,
· setupterm interprets a missing/empty TERM variable as the special
· setupterm allows explicit use of the the windows console driver
by checking if $TERM is set to “#win32con” or an abbreviation of
Older versions of ncurses assumed that the file descriptor passed to
setupterm from initscr or newterm uses buffered I/O, and would write
to the corresponding stream. In addition to the limitation that the
terminal was left in block-buffered mode on exit (like System V
curses), it was problematic because ncurses did not allow a reliable
way to cleanup on receiving SIGTSTP. The current version uses output
buffers managed directly by ncurses. Some of the low-level functions
described in this manual page write to the standard output. They are
not signal-safe. The high-level functions in ncurses use alternate
versions of these functions using the more reliable buffering scheme.
In System V Release 4, set_curterm has an int return type and returns
OK or ERR. We have chosen to implement the X/Open Curses semantics.
In System V Release 4, the third argument of tputs has the type int(*putc)(char).
At least one implementation of X/Open Curses (Solaris) returns a
value other than OK/ERR from tputs. That returns the length of the
string, and does no error-checking.
X/Open Curses prototypes tparm with a fixed number of parameters,
rather than a variable argument list. This implementation uses a
variable argument list, but can be configured to use the fixed-
parameter list. Portable applications should provide 9 parameters
after the format; zeroes are fine for this purpose.
In response to comments by Thomas E. Dickey, X/Open Curses Issue 7
proposed the tiparm function in mid-2009.
X/Open notes that after calling mvcur, the curses state may not match
the actual terminal state, and that an application should touch and
refresh the window before resuming normal curses calls. Both ncurses
and System V Release 4 curses implement mvcur using the SCREEN data
allocated in either initscr or newterm. So though it is documented
as a terminfo function, mvcur is really a curses function which is
not well specified.
X/Open states that the old location must be given for mvcur. This
implementation allows the caller to use -1's for the old ordinates.
In that case, the old location is unknown.
Other implementions may not declare the capability name arrays. Some
provide them without declaring them. X/Open does not specify them.
Extended terminal capability names, e.g., as defined by @TIC@ -x, are
not stored in the arrays described here.
This page is part of the ncurses (new curses) project. Information
about the project can be found at
⟨https://www.gnu.org/software/ncurses/ncurses.html⟩. If you have a
bug report for this manual page, send it to
firstname.lastname@example.org. This page was obtained from the
project's upstream Git mirror of the CVS repository
⟨git://ncurses.scripts.mit.edu/ncurses.git⟩ on 2017-03-13. If you
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you believe there is a better or more up-to-date source for the page,
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