del_curterm, mvcur, putp, restartterm, set_curterm,
setterm, setupterm, tigetflag, tigetnum, tigetstr, tiparm,
tparm, tputs, vid_attr, vid_puts, vidattr, vidputs -
curses interfaces to terminfo database
int setupterm(char *term, int fildes, int *errret);
int setterm(char *term);
TERMINAL *set_curterm(TERMINAL *nterm);
int del_curterm(TERMINAL *oterm);
int restartterm(char *term, int fildes, int *errret);
char *tparm(char *str, ...);
int tputs(const char *str, int affcnt, int (*putc)(int));
int putp(const char *str);
int vidputs(chtype attrs, int (*putc)(int));
int vidattr(chtype attrs);
int vid_puts(attr_t attrs, short pair, void *opts, int (*putc)(int));
int vid_attr(attr_t attrs, short pair, void *opts);
int mvcur(int oldrow, int oldcol, int newrow, int newcol);
int tigetflag(char *capname);
int tigetnum(char *capname);
char *tigetstr(char *capname);
char *tiparm(const char *str, ...);
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 func-
tion keys. For all other functionality, curses routines
are more suitable and their use is recommended.
Initially, setupterm should be called. Note that se-
tupterm 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 defini-
tions), or by special functions. The header files curs-
es.h and term.h should be included (in this order) to get
the definitions for these strings, numbers, and flags.
The terminfo variables lines and columns are initialized
by setupterm as follows:
o If use_env(FALSE) has been called, values for lines
and columns specified in terminfo are used.
o Otherwise, if the environment variables LINES and COL-
UMNS exist, their values are used. If these environ-
ment variables do not exist and the program is running
in a window, the current window size is used. Other-
wise, 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 ex-
iting [see curs_kernel(3x)].
Programs which use cursor addressing should
o output enter_ca_mode upon startup and
o output exit_ca_mode before exiting.
Programs which execute shell subprocesses should
o call reset_shell_mode and output exit_ca_mode before
the shell is called and
o output enter_ca_mode and call reset_prog_mode after
returning from the shell.
The setupterm routine reads in the terminfo database, ini-
tializing the terminfo structures, but does not set up the
output virtualization structures used by curses. The ter-
minal 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 er-
rret. 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 applications.
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 std-
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 new programs.
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 ap-
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 allo-
cates new storage for each set of terminal capabilities.
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
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 re-
fer 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
The tparm routine instantiates the string str with parame-
ters 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 parame-
ters are integers (int) rather than longs.
The tputs routine applies padding information to the
string str and outputs it. 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 setupterm.
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 routine putc.
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
The mvcur routine provides low-level cursor motion. It
takes effect immediately (rather than at the next re-
Terminal Capability Functions
The tigetflag, tigetnum and tigetstr routines return the
value of the capability corresponding to the terminfo cap-
name 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 terminfo(5).
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 de-
The tigetnum routine returns
-2 if capname is not a numeric capability, or
-1 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal de-
The tigetstr routine returns
if capname is not a string capability, or
0 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal de-
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 vari-
char *boolnames, *boolcodes, *boolfnames
char *numnames, *numcodes, *numfnames
char *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 descriptions.
Routines that return pointers always return NULL on error.
X/Open defines no error conditions. In this implementa-
returns an error if its terminal parameter is
putp calls tputs, returning the same error-codes.
returns an error if the associated call to se-
tupterm returns an error.
returns an error if it cannot allocate enough
memory, or create the initial windows (stdscr,
curscr, newscr). Other error conditions are
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 X/Open.
setupterm copies the terminal name to the array ttytype.
This is not part of X/Open Curses, but is assumed by some
If configured to use the terminal-driver, e.g., for the
o setupterm interprets a missing/empty TERM variable as
the special value "unknown".
o setupterm allows explicit use of the the windows con-
sole driver by checking if $TERM is set to "#win32con"
or an abbreviation of that string.
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 ad-
dition to the limitation that the terminal was left in
block-buffered mode on exit (like SystemV 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) re-
turns 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 pa-
rameters, rather than a variable argument list. This im-
plementation uses a variable argument list, but can be
configured to use the fixed-parameter list. Portable ap-
plications 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 ap-
plication should touch and refresh the window before re-
suming normal curses calls. Both ncurses and System V Re-
lease 4 curses implement mvcur using the SCREEN data allo-
cated in either initscr or newterm. So though it is docu-
mented 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
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.
curses(3x), curs_initscr(3x), curs_kernel(3x), curs_term-
cap(3x), curs_variables(3x), term_variables(3x), putc(3),
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