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Sat, 26 Feb 2011 18:28:17 -0500
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 tools.
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 curses.h.
* change _nc_has_mouse to has_mouse, reflect its use in C++ and
* add is_pad and is_subwin functions for opaque access to the WINDOW
* add tiparm, based on review of X/Open Curses Issue 7.
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 SP.
* improve the NCURSES_NO_UTF8_ACS feature by adding a check for an
extended terminfo capability U8.
* improve performance of tigetstr, etc., by using hashing code from
* 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 colors.
Improvements to Programs
* add tabs program.
* 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 setaf/setab strings from xterm+256color and
xterm+88color, and provide a reduced version which works with
* added entries:
+ bterm terminfo entry, based on bogl 0.1.18
+ cons25-debian entry
+ eterm-color entry
+ mlterm+256color entry, for mlterm 3.0.0
+ several screen-bce.xxx entries
+ screen.Eterm terminfo entry
+ vwmterm entry
+ xterm-utf8 entry as a demo of the U8 feature
* updated/improved entries:
+ use extended capabilities:
o add U8 feature to denote entries for terminal emulators
which do not support VT100 SI/SO when processing UTF-8
o add XT capability to entries for terminals that support
both xterm-style mouse- and title-controls, for screen
which special-cases TERM beginning with xterm or rxvt
+ improvements based on new checks in tic:
o fill in no-parameter forms of cursor-movement where a
parameterized form is available
o fill in missing cursor controls where the form of the
controls is ANSI
o add parameterized cursor-controls to linux-basic
o modify nsterm, xnuppc and tek4115 to make sgr/sgr0
o change several terminfo entries to make consistent use
of ANSI clear-all-tabs
+ extend ansi.sys pfkey capability from kf1-kf10 to kf1-kf48,
moving function key definitions from emx-base for
+ correct missing final 'p' in pfkey capability of
+ rename atari and st52 terminfo entries to atari-old,
st52-old, use newer entries from FreeMiNT.
+ repurpose gnome terminfo entries as vte, retaining gnome
variants for compatibility, but generally deprecating those
since the VTE library is what actually defines the behavior
of "gnome", etc., since 2003.
+ improve interix smso terminfo capability by using reverse
rather than bold.
+ correct initc capability of linux-c-nc end-of-range, make
similar change for dg+ccc and dgunix+ccc.
+ update minix terminfo entry.
+ updated nsterm* entries.
+ remove unnecessary kcan assignment to ^C from putty.
+ suppress ncv in screen and konsole-base entries, allowing
+ change ncv and op capabilities in sun-color terminfo entry to
match Sun's entry for this.
+ fix typo in rmso for tek4106 entry.
+ improve acsc string for vt52, show arrow keys.
+ add hard-reset for rs2 to wsvt25 to help ensure that reset
ends the alternate character set.
+ add ccc and initc capabilities to xterm-16color.
Major bug fixes
* ncurses library
+ wide character support
o modify length returned by getcchar to count the trailing
null which is documented in X/Open.
o fix an infinite recursion when adding a legacy-coding
8-bit value using insch.
o 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 video attributes.
o modify waddch_literal, updating 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.
o fixes in wins_nwstr and related functions to ensure that
special characters, i.e., control characters are handled
properly with the wide-character configuration.
o correct internal _nc_insert_ch to use _nc_insert_wch
when inserting wide characters, since the wins_wch
function that it used did not update the cursor
o add check if Gpm_Open returns a -2, e.g., for "xterm".
This is normally suppressed but can be overridden using
$NCURSES_GPM_TERMS. Ensure that Gpm_Close is called in
o add check in mouse-driver to disable connection if GPM
returns a zero, indicating that the connection is
o modify 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
o improve handling of color-pairs embedded in attributes
for the extended-colors configuration.
o add check for failure to open hashed-database needed for
o 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.
o modify declaration of cur_term when broken-linker is
used, but enable-reentrant is not, to match pre-5.7.
o correct limit-checks in derwin.
o remove old check in mvderwin which prevented moving a
derived window whose origin happened to coincide with
its parent's origin.
o correct limit-checks in newwin, to ensure that windows
have nonzero size.
o modify set_curterm to make broken-linker configuration
work with changes from 20090228.
o modify wgetch to ensure it checks SIGWINCH when it gets
an error in non-blocking mode.
o correct limit-check in wredrawln, accounting for
o fix a null-pointer check in _nc_format_slks in
lib_slk.c, from 20070704 changes.
o correct translation of "^" in _nc_infotocap, used to
transform terminfo to termcap strings.
o modify _nc_wgetch to check for a -1 in the fifo, e.g.,
after a SIGWINCH, and discard that value, to avoid
* 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 wide-character
set_field_buffer, broken in 20081018 changes.
+ correct layout of working window used to extract data in
wide-character configured by set_field_buffer
* 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 ncurses.
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 pkg-config's library directory.
control whether to allow EINTR to interrupt a read
operation in wgetch. This applies only to the
compile-in support for extended functions which
accept a SCREEN pointer, reducing the need for
juggling the global SP value with set_term and
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 pkg-config, optionally specifying its
tells the configure script to suppress the install
of ncurses' manpages.
suppress building test programs.
+ improved options:
o correct logic for --with-database, which was coded as an
o omit the opaque-functions from lib_gen.o when
--disable-ext-funcs is used.
+ *-config scripts:
o modify adacurses-config to look for ".ali" files in the
o correct install for the Ada95 tree, which omitted
libAdaCurses.a used in adacurses-config.
o change install for adacurses-config to provide
additional flavors such as adacursesw-config, for
o modify scripts to generate ncurses*-config and pc-files
to add dependency for tinfo library.
o use ncurses*-config scripts if available for
o correct name for termlib in ncurses*-config, e.g., if it
is renamed to provide a single file for ncurses/ncursesw
o generate manpages for the *-config scripts, adapted from
o modify install-rule for manpages so that *-config
manpages will install when building with --srcdir.
o build-fixes for OpenSolaris aka Solaris 11, for
wide-character configuration as well as for rpath
feature in *-config scripts.
o use $includedir symbol in misc/ncurses-config.in, add
o improve install-rules for pc-files.
o create the pkg-config library directory if needed.
o fix typo "==" where "=" is needed in ncurses-config.in
and gen-pkgconfig.in files.
o modify gen-pkgconfig.in to eliminate a dependency on
rpath when deciding whether to add $LIBS to --libs
output; that should be shown for the ncurses and tinfo
libraries without taking rpath into account.
o modify handling of $PKG_CONFIG_LIBDIR to use only the
first item in a possibly colon-separated list.
+ other packaging issues
o add make-tar.sh scripts to Ada95 and test subdirectories
to help with making those separately distributable.
o add Ada95/configure script, to use in tar-file created
o remove tar-copy.sh and related configure/Makefile
chunks, since the Ada95 binding is now installed using
rules in Ada95/src.
+ 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_hash and make_keys, improving
cross-compilation of ncursesw.
+ simplify include-dependencies of make_hash and make_keys, to
reduce the need for setting BUILD_CPPFLAGS in cross-compiling
when the build- and target-machines differ.
+ correct cross-compiling configure check for CF_MKSTEMP macro,
by adding a check cache variable set by AC_CHECK_FUNC.
* library dependencies:
+ revise wadd_wch and 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 naming.
* building the Ada95 tree:
+ changes to use gnatmake project files in the Ada95 tree.
+ 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 test_make
+ move Ada95-related logic into aclocal.m4, since additional
checks will be needed to distinguish old/new implementations
+ add test_make / test_clean / test_install rules in Ada95/src
+ change install-path for adainclude directory to
/usr/share/ada (was /usr/lib/ada).
* other configure/build issues:
+ make CCHARW_MAX value configurable, noting that changing this
would change the size of cchar_t, and would be
+ improve comparison of program-names when checking for linked
flavors such as "reset" by ignoring the executable suffix.
+ drop mkdirs.sh, use "mkdir -p".
+ drop misc/ncu-indent and misc/jpf-indent; they are provided
by an external package cindent.
+ change makefiles to use $ARFLAGS rather than $AR_OPTS,
provide a configure check to detect whether a "-" is needed
before "ar" options.
+ modify CF_DISABLE_LEAKS configure macro so that the
--enable-leaks option is not the same as --disable-leaks.
+ improve configure script macros CF_HEADER_PATH and
CF_LIBRARY_PATH by adding CFLAGS, CPPFLAGS and LDFLAGS, LIBS
values to the search-lists.
+ improve configure macros CF_GCC_VERSION and CF_GCC_WARNINGS
to work with gcc 4.x's c89 alias, which gives warning
messages for cases where older versions would produce an
+ modify CF_WITH_LIBTOOL configure check to allow unreleased
libtool version numbers (e.g. which include alphabetic chars,
as well as digits, after the final '.').
+ improve use of symbolic links in makefiles by using "-f"
option if it is supported, to eliminate temporary removal of
+ add a configure-time check to pick a suitable value for
CC_SHARED_OPTS for Solaris.
+ add -shared option to MK_SHARED_LIB when -Bsharable is used,
for *BSD's, without which "main" might be one of the shared
+ 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.
+ modify misc/run_tic.in to create parent directory, in case
this is a new install of hashed database.
+ 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 demo_termcap.
+ improve test/ncurses.c 'F' test, show combining characters in
+ fix logic for 'V' in test/ncurses.c tests f/F.
+ improve test/ncurses.c 'a test to put mouse droppings in the
+ modify ncurses 'F' test to demo wborder_set with colored
+ modify ncurses 'f' test to demo wborder with colored lines.
+ 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
+ add some test programs (and make these use the same special
keys by sharing linedata.h functions): test/test_addstr.c
+ add test/xterm-256color.dat
+ modify test programs to allow them to be built with NetBSD
+ fixes for test programs to build/work on HPUX and AIX, etc.
Features of Ncurses
The ncurses package is fully compatible with SVr4 (System V Release 4)
* 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 included.
* 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 SVr4:
* 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
* 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 package.
* The function wresize allows you to resize windows, preserving
* The function use_default_colors allows you to use the terminal's
default colors for the default color pair, achieving the effect of
* The functions keyok and 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 --enable-ext-colors option.
* 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 quickch routine.
* 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 mode).
* The tic(1)/captoinfo utility provided with ncurses has the ability
to translate many termcaps from the XENIX, IBM and AT&T extension
* 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
* 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
* 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
* 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 disabled with
* 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 memory-allocation tester.
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
New vi versions 1.50 are able to use ncurses versions 1.9.7 and
Lynx-like info browser.
newsreader, supporting color, MIME http://www.tin.org/
as well as some that use ncurses for the terminfo support alone:
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. Juergen 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 address@hidden
To join the ncurses mailing list, please write email to
address@hidden 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 Eric Raymond . Unlike
the older version, the termcap and terminfo data are provided in the
same file, and provides several user-definable extensions beyond the
You can find lots of information on terminal-related topics not
covered in the terminfo file at Richard Shuford's archive .
Thomas E. Dickey <address@hidden>
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