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 capa-
bilities, such as programming function keys. For all other functionality, curses routines are more suitable and their use is recommended.
Initially, setupterm should be called. Note that setupterm is automatically called by initscr and newterm. This defines the set of termi-
nal-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, and
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 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
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, 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,
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
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 new
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
If setupterm is called repeatedly for the same terminal type, it will reuse the information. It maintains only one copy of a given termi-
nal's capabilities in memory. If it is called for different terminal types, setupterm allocates new storage for each set of terminal capa-
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, ref-
erences to any of the terminfo boolean, numeric, and string variables thereafter may refer to invalid memory locations until another se-
tupterm 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 exam-
ple, 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
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 se-
The vidputs routine displays the string on the terminal in the video attribute mode attrs, which is any combination of the attributes list-
ed 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, appli-
cations must provide a null pointer for that argument.
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 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 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, *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 com-
pletion, 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 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 condi-
tions 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 X/Open.
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,
o setupterm interprets a missing/empty TERM variable as the special value "unknown".
o setupterm allows explicit use of the the windows console driver by checking if $TERM is set to "#win32con" or an abbreviation of that
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 SystemV curs-
es), it was problematic because ncurses did not allow a reliable way to cleanup on receiving SIGTSTP. The current version uses output buf-
fers 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 vari-
able 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
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.
curses(3X), curs_initscr(3X), curs_kernel(3X), curs_termcap(3X), curs_variables(3X), term_variables(3X), putc(3), terminfo(5)