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-- $Id: INSTALL,v 1.187 2015/07/16 23:59:08 tom Exp $
How to install Ncurses/Terminfo on your system
You should be reading the file INSTALL in a directory called ncurses-d.d, where
d.d is the current version number. There should be several subdirectories,
including `c++', `form', `man', `menu', 'misc', `ncurses', `panel', `progs',
and `test'. See the README file for a roadmap to the package.
If you are a distribution integrator or packager, please read and act on the
section titled IF YOU ARE A SYSTEM INTEGRATOR below.
If you are converting from BSD curses and do not have root access, be sure
to read the BSD CONVERSION NOTES section below.
If you are trying to build applications using gpm with ncurses,
read the USING NCURSES WITH GPM section below.
If you are running over the Andrew File System see the note below on
If you are cross-compiling, see the note below on BUILDING NCURSES WITH A
If you want to build the Ada95 binding, go to the Ada95 directory and
follow the instructions there. The Ada95 binding is not covered below.
You will need the following to build and install ncurses under UNIX:
* ANSI C compiler (gcc, for instance)
* sh (bash will do)
* awk (mawk or gawk will do)
* sed
* BSD or System V style install (a script is enclosed)
Ncurses has been also built in the OS/2 EMX environment.
1. First, decide whether you want ncurses to replace your existing library (in
which case you'll need super-user privileges) or be installed in parallel
with it.
The --prefix option to configure changes the root directory for installing
ncurses. The default is normally in subdirectories of /usr/local, except
for systems where ncurses is normally installed as a system library (see
"IF YOU ARE A SYSTEM INTEGRATOR"). Use --prefix=/usr to replace your
default curses distribution.
The package gets installed beneath the --prefix directory as follows:
In $(prefix)/bin: tic, infocmp, captoinfo, tset,
reset, clear, tput, toe, tabs
In $(prefix)/lib: libncurses*.* libcurses.a
In $(prefix)/share/terminfo: compiled terminal descriptions
In $(prefix)/include: C header files
Under $(prefix)/man: the manual pages
Note that the configure script attempts to locate previous installation of
ncurses, and will set the default prefix according to where it finds the
ncurses headers.
Do not use commands such as
make install prefix=XXX
to change the prefix after configuration, since the prefix value is used
for some absolute pathnames such as TERMINFO. Instead do this
make install DESTDIR=XXX
See also the discussion of --with-install-prefix.
2. Type `./configure' in the top-level directory of the distribution to
configure ncurses for your operating system and create the Makefiles.
Besides --prefix, various configuration options are available to customize
the installation; use `./configure --help' to list the available options.
If your operating system is not supported, read the PORTABILITY section in
the file ncurses/README for information on how to create a configuration
file for your system.
The `configure' script generates makefile rules for one or more object
models and their associated libraries:
libncurses.a (normal)
libcurses.a (normal, a link to libncurses.a)
This gets left out if you configure with --disable-overwrite. (shared)
libncurses_g.a (debug)
libncurses_p.a (profile) (libtool)
If you configure using the --enable-widec option, a "w" is appended to the
library names (e.g., libncursesw.a), and the resulting libraries support
wide-characters, e.g., via a UTF-8 locale. The corresponding header files
are compatible with the non-wide-character configuration; wide-character
features are provided by ifdef's in the header files. The wide-character
library interfaces are not binary-compatible with the non-wide-character
version. Building and running the wide-character code relies on a fairly
recent implementation of libiconv. We have built this configuration on
various systems using libiconv, sometimes requiring libutf8.
If you configure using the --with-pthread option, a "t" is appended to
the library names (e.g., libncursest.a, libncursestw.a).
If you do not specify any models, the normal and debug libraries will be
configured. Typing `configure' with no arguments is equivalent to:
./configure --with-normal --with-debug --enable-overwrite
./configure --with-shared
makes the shared libraries the default, resulting in
./configure --with-shared --with-normal --with-debug --enable-overwrite
If you want only shared libraries, type
./configure --with-shared --without-normal --without-debug
Rules for generating shared libraries are highly dependent upon the choice
of host system and compiler. We've been testing shared libraries on
several systems, but more work needs to be done to make shared libraries
work on other systems.
If you have libtool installed, you can type
./configure --with-libtool
to generate the appropriate static and/or shared libraries for your
platform using libtool.
You can make curses and terminfo fall back to an existing file of termcap
definitions by configuring with --enable-termcap. If you do this, the
library will search /etc/termcap before the terminfo database, and will
also interpret the contents of the TERM environment variable. See the
3. Type `make'. Ignore any warnings, no error messages should be produced.
This should compile the ncurses library, the terminfo compiler tic(1),
captoinfo(1), infocmp(1), toe(1), clear(1) tset(1), reset(1), and tput(1)
programs (see the manual pages for explanation of what they do), some test
programs, and the panels, menus, and forms libraries.
4. Run ncurses and several other test programs in the test directory to
verify that ncurses functions correctly before doing an install that
may overwrite system files. Read the file test/README for details on
the test programs.
NOTE: You must have installed the terminfo database, or set the
environment variable $TERMINFO to point to a SVr4-compatible terminfo
database before running the test programs. Not all vendors' terminfo
databases are SVr4-compatible, but most seem to be. Exceptions include
DEC's Digital Unix (formerly known as OSF/1).
If you run the test programs WITHOUT installing terminfo, ncurses may
read the termcap file and cache that in $HOME/.terminfo, which will
thereafter be used instead of the terminfo database. See the comments
on "--enable-getcap-cache", to see why this is a Bad Thing.
It is possible to configure ncurses to use other terminfo database formats.
A few are provided as examples in the include-directory (see --with-caps).
The ncurses program is designed specifically to test the ncurses library.
You can use it to verify that the screen highlights work correctly, that
cursor addressing and window scrolling works OK, etc.
5. Once you've tested, you can type `make install' to install libraries,
the programs, the terminfo database and the manual pages. Alternately, you
can type `make install' in each directory you want to install. In the
top-level directory, you can do a partial install using these commands:
'make install.progs' installs tic, infocmp, etc...
'make install.includes' installs the headers.
'make install.libs' installs the libraries (and the headers).
'make' installs the terminfo data. (Note: `tic' must
be installed before the terminfo data can be
'make' installs the manual pages.
# CAVEAT EMPTOR: `' run as root will NUKE any existing #
# terminfo database. If you have any custom or unusual entries SAVE them #
# before you install ncurses. I have a file called terminfo.custom for #
# this purpose. Don't forget to run tic on the file once you're done. #
The terminfo(5) manual page must be preprocessed with tbl(1) before
being formatted by nroff(1). Modern man(1) implementations tend to do
this by default, but you may want to look at your version's manual page
to be sure. You may also install the manual pages after preprocessing
with tbl(1) by specifying the configure option --with-manpage-tbl.
If the system already has a curses library that you need to keep using
you'll need to distinguish between it and ncurses. See the discussion of
--disable-overwrite. If ncurses is installed outside the standard
directories (/usr/include and /usr/lib) then all your users will need to
use the -I option to compile programs and -L to link them.
If you have another curses installed in your system and you accidentally
compile using its curses.h you'll end up with a large number of
undefined symbols at link time.
IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ROOT: Change directory to the `progs' subdirectory
and run the `capconvert' script. This script will deduce various things
about your environment and use them to build you a private terminfo tree,
so you can use ncurses applications.
If more than one user at your site does this, the space for the duplicate
trees is wasted. Try to get your site administrators to install a system-
wide terminfo tree instead.
See the BSD CONVERSION NOTES section below for a few more details.
6. The c++ directory has C++ classes that are built on top of ncurses and
panels. You must have c++ (and its libraries) installed before you can
compile and run the demo.
Use --without-cxx-binding to tell configure to not build the C++ bindings
and demo.
If you do not have C++, you must use the --without-cxx option to tell
the configure script to not attempt to determine the type of 'bool'
which may be supported by C++. IF YOU USE THIS OPTION, BE ADVISED THAT
The configure script provides a short list of its options when you type
./configure --help
The --help and several options are common to all configure scripts that are
generated with autoconf. Those are all listed before the line
--enable and --with options recognized:
The other options are specific to this package. We list them in alphabetic
With ncurses 5.1, we introduced a new function, assume_default_colors()
which allows applications to specify what the default foreground and
background color are assumed to be. Most color applications use
full-screen color; but a few do not color the background. While the
assumed values can be overridden by invoking assume_default_colors(),
you may find it useful to set the assumed values to the pre-5.1
convention, using this configure option.
Assume machine has little memory. The configure script attempts to
determine if your machine has enough memory (about 6Mb) to compile the
terminfo database without writing portions to disk. Some allocators
return deceptive results, so you may have to override the configure
script. Or you may be building tic for a smaller machine.
Disable compile-time optimization of predefined tables which puts
all of their strings into a very long string, to reduce relocation
Use only built-in data. The ncurses libraries normally read terminfo
and termcap data from disk. You can configure ncurses to have a
built-in database, aka "fallback" entries. Embedded applications may
have no need for an external database. Some, but not all of the
programs are useful in this configuration, e.g., reset and tput versus
infocmp and tic.
Do not install the terminal database. This is used to omit features
for packages, as done with --without-progs.
Disable function-extensions. Configure ncurses without the functions
that are not specified by XSI. See ncurses/modules for the exact
list of library modules that would be suppressed.
Compile without hashmap scrolling-optimization code. This algorithm is
the default.
The $HOME/.terminfo directory is normally added to ncurses' search
list for reading/writing terminfo entries, since that directory is
more likely writable than the system terminfo database. Use this
option to disable the feature altogether.
Disable compiler flags needed to use large-file interfaces.
Suppress the "w", "t" or "tw" suffixes which normally would be added
to the library names for the --enable-widec and --with-pthread options.
when using --with-libtool, control how the major/minor version numbers
are used for constructing the library name.
The default uses the -version-number feature of libtool, which makes
the library names compatible (though not identical) with the standard
build using --with-shared.
Use --disable-libtool-version to use the libtool -version-info feature.
This corresponds to the setting used before patch 20100515.
Starting with patch 20141115, using this option causes the configure
script to apply the top-level VERSION file to the ABI version used
for libtool.
For testing, compile-in code that frees memory that normally would not
be freed, to simplify analysis of memory-leaks.
Any implementation of curses must not free the memory associated with
a screen, since (even after calling endwin()), it must be available
for use in the next call to refresh(). There are also chunks of
memory held for performance reasons. That makes it hard to analyze
curses applications for memory leaks. To work around this, build a
debugging version of the ncurses library which frees those chunks
which it can, and provides the _nc_free_and_exit() function to free
the remainder and then exit. The ncurses utility and test programs
use this feature, e.g., via the ExitProgram() macro.
Because this lies outside of the library's intended usage, it is not
normally considered part of the ABI. If there were some (as yet
unplanned) extension which frees memory in a manner that would let the
library resume and reallocate memory, then that would not use a "_nc_"
The header files will ignore use of the _LP64 symbol to make chtype
and mmask_t types 32 bits (they may be long on 64-bit hosts, for
compatibility with older releases).
NOTE: this is potentially an ABI change, depending on existing
packages. The default for this option is "disabled" for ncurses
ABI 5, and "enabled" for ABI 6.
For testing, use functions rather than macros. The program will run
more slowly, but it is simpler to debug. This defines NCURSES_NOMACROS
at build time. See also the --enable-expanded option.
If you are installing ncurses on a system which contains another
development version of curses, or which could be confused by the loader
for another version, we recommend that you leave out the link to
-lcurses. The ncurses library is always available as -lncurses.
Disabling overwrite also causes the ncurses header files to be
installed into a subdirectory, e.g., /usr/local/include/ncurses,
rather than the include directory. This makes it simpler to avoid
compile-time conflicts with other versions of curses.h
Putting the header files into a subdirectory assumes that applications
will follow the (standard) practice of including the headers with
reference to the subdirectory name. For instance, the normal ncurses
header would be included using
#include <ncurses/curses.h>
#include <ncurses/term.h>
while the ncursesw headers would be found this way:
#include <ncursesw/curses.h>
#include <ncursesw/term.h>
In either case (with or without the --disable-overwrite option),
almost all applications are designed to include a related set of
curses header files from the same directory.
Manipulating the --includedir configure option to put header files
directly in a subdirectory of the normal include-directory defeats
this, and breaks builds of portable applications. Likewise, putting
some headers in /usr/include, and others in a subdirectory is a good
way to break builds.
When configured with --disable-overwrite, the installed header files'
embedded #include's are adjusted to use the same style of includes
noted above. In particular, the unctrl.h header is included from
curses.h, which means that a makefile which tells the compiler to
include directly from the subdirectory will fail to compile correctly.
Without some special effort, it will either fail to compile at all,
or the compiler may find a different unctrl.h file.
If --enable-rpath is given, the generated makefiles normally will
rebuild the libraries during install. Use this option to simply
copy whatever the linked produced.
This option is ignored if --enable-rpath is not given.
Compile with environment restriction, so certain environment variables
are not available when running as root, or via a setuid/setgid
application. These are (for example $TERMINFO) those that allow the
search path for the terminfo or termcap entry to be customized.
Normally the configure script helps link libraries found in unusual
places by adding an rpath option to the link command. If you are
building packages, this feature may be redundant. Use this option
to suppress the feature.
Compile without scroll-hints code. This option is ignored when
hashmap scrolling is configured, which is the default.
When building shared libraries, normally the tic library is linked to
depend upon the ncurses library (or equivalently, on the tinfo-library
if the --with-termlib option was given). The tic- and tinfo-library
ABIs do not depend on the --enable-widec option. Some packagers have
used this to reduce the number of library files which are packaged by
using only one copy of those libraries. To make this work properly,
the tic library must be built without an explicit dependency on the
underlying library (ncurses vs ncursesw, tinfo vs tinfow). Use this
configure option to do that.
For example
configure --with-ticlib --with-shared --disable-tic-depends
Portable programs should call tparm() using the fixed-length parameter
list documented in X/Open. ncurses provides varargs support for this
function. Use --disable-tparm-varargs to disable this support.
For testing, compile-in assertion code. This is used only for a few
places where ncurses cannot easily recover by returning an error code.
A few platforms have what we consider a broken linker: it cannot link
objects from an archive solely by referring to data objects in those
files, but requires a function reference. This configure option
changes several data references to functions to work around this
NOTE: With ncurses 5.1, this may not be necessary, since we are
told that some linkers interpret uninitialized global data as a
different type of reference which behaves as described above. We have
explicitly initialized all of the global data to work around the
Recognize BSD-style prefix padding. Some ancient BSD programs (such as
nethack) call tputs("50") to implement delays.
Compile with experimental $COLORFGBG code. That environment variable
is set by some terminal emulators as a hint to applications, by
advertising the default foreground and background colors. During
initialization, ncurses sets color pair 0 to match this.
The curses interface as documented in XSI is rather old, in fact
including features that precede ANSI C. The prototypes generally do
not make effective use of "const". When using stricter compilers (or
gcc with appropriate warnings), you may see warnings about the mismatch
between const and non-const data. We provide a configure option which
changes the interfaces to use const - quieting these warnings and
reflecting the actual use of the parameters more closely. The ncurses
library uses the symbol NCURSES_CONST for these instances of const,
and if you have asked for compiler warnings, will add gcc's const-qual
warning. There will still be warnings due to subtle inconsistencies
in the interface, but at a lower level.
NOTE: configuring ncurses with this option may detract from the
portability of your applications by encouraging you to use const in
places where the XSI curses interface would not allow them. Similar
issues arise when porting to SVr4 curses, which uses const in even
fewer places.
Use the option --disable-echo to make the build-log less verbose by
suppressing the display of the compile and link commands. This makes
it easier to see the compiler warnings. (You can always use "make -n"
to see the options that are used).
For testing, generate functions for certain macros to make them visible
as such to the debugger. See also the --disable-macros option.
Extend the cchar_t structure to allow more than 16 colors to be
encoded. This applies only to the wide-character (--enable-widec)
NOTE: using this option will make libraries which are not binary-
compatible with libncursesw 5.4. None of the interfaces change, but
applications which have an array of cchar_t's must be recompiled.
Modify the encoding of mouse state to make room for a 5th mouse button.
That allows one to use ncurses with a wheel mouse with xterm or
similar X terminal emulators.
NOTE: using this option will make libraries which are not binary-
compatible with libncursesw 5.4. None of the interfaces change, but
applications which have mouse mask mmask_t's must be recompiled.
Modify the file-format written by putwin() to use printable text rather
than binary files, allowing getwin() to read screen dumps written by
differently-configured ncurses libraries. The extended getwin() can
still read binary screen dumps from the "same" configuration of
ncurses. This does not change the ABI (the binary interface seen by
calling applications).
Use the 4.4BSD getcap code if available, or a bundled version of it to
fetch termcap entries. Entries read in this way cannot use (make
cross-references to) the terminfo tree, but it is faster than reading
If configured for one of the *BSD systems, this automatically uses
the hashed database system produced using cap_mkdb or similar tools.
In that case, there is no advantage in using the --enable-getcap-cache
See also the --with-hashed-db option.
Cache translated termcaps under the directory $HOME/.terminfo
NOTE: this sounds good - it makes ncurses run faster the second time.
But look where the data comes from - an /etc/termcap containing lots of
entries that are not up to date. If you configure with this option and
forget to install the terminfo database before running an ncurses
application, you will end up with a hidden terminfo database that
generally does not support color and will miss some function keys.
Compile-in cursor-optimization code that uses hard-tabs. We would make
this a standard feature except for the concern that the terminfo entry
may not be accurate, or that your stty settings have disabled the use
of tabs.
Compile-in experimental interop bindings. These provide generic types
for the form-library.
Controls whether the filesystem on which the terminfo database resides
supports mixed-case filenames (normal for UNIX, but not on other
systems). If you do not specify this option, the configure script
checks the current filesystem.
Compile-in support for the $NCURSES_NO_PADDING environment variable,
which allows you to suppress the effect of non-mandatory padding in
terminfo entries. This is the default, unless you have disabled the
extended functions.
If pkg-config is found (see --with-pkg-config), generate ".pc" files
for each of the libraries, and install them in pkg-config's library
add logic in threaded configuration to ensure that a read(2) system
call can be interrupted for SIGWINCH.
Compile experimental configuration which improves reentrant use of the
library by reducing global and static variables. This option is also
set if --with-pthread is used.
Enabling this option adds a "t" to the library names, except for the
special case when --enable-weak-symbols is also used.
Use rpath option when generating shared libraries, and (with some
restrictions) when linking the corresponding programs. This originally
(in 1997) applied mainly to systems using the GNU linker (read the
More recently it is useful for systems that require special treatment
shared libraries in "unusual" locations. The "system" libraries reside
in directories which are on the loader's default search-path. While
you may be able to use workarounds such as the $LD_LIBRARY_PATH
environment variable, they do not work with setuid applications since
the LD_LIBRARY_PATH variable would be unset in that situation.
This option does not apply to --with-libtool, since libtool makes
extra assumptions about rpath.
Compile with experimental safe-sprintf code. You may consider using
this if you are building ncurses for a system that has neither
vsnprintf() or vsprintf(). It is slow, however.
Compile support for ncurses' SIGWINCH handler. If your application has
its own SIGWINCH handler, ncurses will not use its own. The ncurses
handler causes wgetch() to return KEY_RESIZE when the screen-size
changes. This option is the default, unless you have disabled the
extended functions.
The term.h header declares a Booleans[] array typed "char". But it
stores signed values there and "char" is not necessarily signed.
Some packagers choose to alter the type of Booleans[] though this
is not strictly compatible. This option allows one to implement this
alteration without patching the source code.
Compile-in support for extended functions which accept a SCREEN pointer,
reducing the need for juggling the global SP value with set_term() and
Controls whether strlcat and strlcpy may be used. The same issue
applies to OpenBSD's warnings about snprintf, noting that this function
is weakly standardized.
Aside from stifling these warnings, there is no functional improvement
in ncurses.
If your system supports symbolic links, make tic use symbolic links
rather than hard links to save diskspace when writing aliases in the
terminfo database.
Compile-in support for user-definable terminal capabilities. Use the
-x option of tic and infocmp to treat unrecognized terminal
capabilities as user-defined strings. This option is the default,
unless you have disabled the extended functions.
Enable experimental terminal-driver. This is currently used for the
MinGW port, by providing a way to substitute the low-level terminfo
library with different terminal drivers.
Compile in support for reading terminal descriptions from termcap if no
match is found in the terminfo database. See also the --enable-getcap
and --enable-getcap-cache options.
Termcap support requires run-time parsing rather than loading
predigested data. If you have specified --with-ticlib, then you
cannot have termcap support since run-time parsing is done in the
tic library, which is intentionally not part of normal linkage
Turn on GCC compiler warnings. There should be only a few.
If the --with-pthread option is set, check if the compiler supports
weak-symbols. If it does, then name the thread-capable library without
the "t" (libncurses rather than libncursest), and provide for
dynamically loading the pthreads entrypoints at runtime. This allows
one to reduce the number of library files for ncurses.
Compile with experimental wgetch-events code. See ncurses/README.IZ
Compile with wide-character code. This makes a different version of
the libraries (e.g.,, which stores characters as
NOTE: applications compiled with this configuration are not compatible
with those built for 8-bit characters. You cannot simply make a
symbolic link to equate with
NOTE: the Ada95 binding may be built against either version of the the
ncurses library, but you must decide which: the binding installs the
same set of files for either version. Currently (2002/6/22) it does
not use the extended features from the wide-character code, so it is
probably better to not install the binding for that configuration.
Compile-in support experimental xmc (magic cookie) code.
Override the ABI version, which is used in shared library filenames.
Normally this is the same as the release version; some ports have
special requirements for compatibility.
This option does not affect linking with libtool, which uses the
release major/minor numbers.
Specify the Ada95 compiler command (default "gnatmake")
Tell where to install the Ada includes (default:
Tell where to install the Ada objects (default: PREFIX/lib/ada/adalib)
Build a shared library for Ada95 binding, if the compiler permits.
NOTE: You must also set the --with-shared option on some platforms
for a successful build. You need not use this option when you set
--with-shared, unless you want to use the Ada shared library.
If --without-cxx is specified, override the type used for the "bool"
declared in curses.h (normally the type is automatically chosen to
correspond with that in <stdbool.h>, or defaults to platform-specific
This option is provided by the same macro used for $BUILD_CC, etc.,
but is not directly used by ncurses.
If cross-compiling, specify a host C compiler, which is needed to
compile a few utilities which generate source modules for ncurses.
If you do not give this option, the configure script checks if the
$BUILD_CC variable is set, and otherwise defaults to gcc or cc.
If cross-compiling, specify the host C compiler-flags. You might need
to do this if the target compiler has unusual flags which confuse the
host compiler.
You can also set the environment variable $BUILD_CFLAGS rather than
use this option.
If cross-compiling, specify the host C preprocessor-flags. You might
need to do this if the target compiler has unusual flags which confuse
the host compiler.
You can also set the environment variable $BUILD_CPPFLAGS rather than
use this option.
If cross-compiling, specify the host linker-flags. You might need to
do this if the target linker has unusual flags which confuse the host
You can also set the environment variable $BUILD_LDFLAGS rather than
use this option.
If cross-compiling, the host libraries. You might need to do this if
the target environment requires unusual libraries.
You can also set the environment variable $BUILD_LIBS rather than
use this option.
Specify an alternate terminfo capabilities file, which makes the
configure script look for "include/Caps.XXX". A few systems, e.g.,
AIX 4.x use the same overall file-format as ncurses for terminfo
data, but use different alignments within the tables to support
legacy applications. For those systems, you can configure ncurses
to use a terminfo database which is compatible with the native
Override the size of the wide-character array in cchar_t structures.
Changing this will alter the binary interface. This defaults to 5.
Override type of chtype, which stores the video attributes and (if
--enable-widec is not given) a character. Prior to ncurses 5.5, this
was always unsigned long, but with ncurses 5.5, it may be unsigned.
Use this option if you need to preserve compatibility with 64-bit
executables, e.g., by setting "--with-chtype=long" (the configure
script supplies "unsigned").
When --with-shared is set, build libncurses++ as a shared library.
This implicitly relies upon building with gcc/g++, since other
compiler suites may have differences in the way shared libraries are
built. libtool by the way has similar limitations.
Specify the terminfo source file to install. Usually you will wish
to install ncurses' default (misc/terminfo.src). Certain systems
have special requirements, e.g, OS/2 EMX has a customized terminfo
source file.
For testing, compile and link with Conor Cahill's dbmalloc library.
This also sets the --disable-leaks option.
Generate debug-libraries (default). These are named by adding "_g"
to the root, e.g., libncurses_g.a
Specify the default terminfo database directory. This is normally
DATADIR/terminfo, e.g., /usr/share/terminfo.
For testing, compile and link with Gray Watson's dmalloc library.
This also sets the --disable-leaks option.
Limit exported symbols using libtool. The configure script
automatically chooses an appropriate ".sym" file, which lists the
symbols which are part of the ABI.
Add the given suffix to header- and library-names to simplify
installing incompatible ncurses libraries, e.g., those using a
different ABI. The renaming affects the name of the
include-subdirectory if --disable-overwrite is given.
Specify a list of fallback terminal descriptions which will be
compiled into the ncurses library. See CONFIGURING FALLBACK ENTRIES.
use Alessandro Rubini's GPM library to provide mouse support on the
Linux console. Prior to ncurses 5.5, this introduced a dependency on
the GPM library.
Currently ncurses uses the dlsym() function to bind to the library at
runtime, so it is only necessary that the library be present when
ncurses is built, to obtain the filename (or soname) used in the
corresponding dlopen() call. If you give a value for this option,
that overrides the configure check for the soname.
See also --without-dlsym
Use a hashed database for storing terminfo data rather than storing
each compiled entry in a separate binary file within a directory
In particular, this uses the Berkeley database 1.8.5 interface, as
provided by that and its successors db 2, 3, and 4. The actual
interface is slightly different in the successor versions of the
Berkeley database. The database should have been configured using
If you use this option for configuring ncurses, tic will only be able
to write entries in the hashed database. infocmp can still read
entries from a directory tree as well as reading entries from the
hashed database. To do this, infocmp determines whether the $TERMINFO
variable points to a directory or a file, and reads the directory-tree
or hashed database respectively.
You cannot have a directory containing both hashed-database and
filesystem-based terminfo entries.
Use the parameter value to give the install-prefix used for the
database, e.g.,
to find the corresponding include- and lib-directories under the
given directory. Alternatively, you can specify a directory leaf
name, e.g.,
to make the configure script look for files in a subdirectory such as
See also the --enable-getcap option.
Allows you to specify an alternate location for installing ncurses
after building it. The value you specify is prepended to the "real"
install location. This simplifies making binary packages. The
makefile variable DESTDIR is set by this option. It is also possible
to use
make install DESTDIR=XXX
since the makefiles pass that variable to subordinate makes.
NOTE: a few systems build shared libraries with fixed pathnames; this
option probably will not work for those configurations.
OS/2 EMX used a different naming convention from most Unix-like
platforms. It required that the "lib" part of a library name was
omitted. Newer EMX as part of eComStation does not follow that
convention. Use this option to override the configure script's
assumptions about the library-prefix. If this option is omitted, it
uses the original OS/2 EMX convention for that platform. Use
"--with-lib-prefix=lib" for the newer EMX in eComStation. Use
"--without-lib-prefix" to suppress it for other odd platforms.
Generate libraries with libtool. If this option is selected, then it
overrides all other library model specifications. Note that libtool
must already be installed, uses makefile rules dependent on GNU make,
and does not promise to follow the version numbering convention of
other shared libraries on your system. However, if the --with-shared
option does not succeed, you may get better results with this option.
If a parameter value is given, it must be the full pathname of the
particular version of libtool, e.g.,
It is possible to rebuild the configure script to use the automake
macros for libtool, e.g., AC_PROG_LIBTOOL. See the comments in
aclocal.m4 for CF_PROG_LIBTOOL, and ensure that you build configure
using the appropriate patch for autoconf from
Specify additional libtool options.
Tell the configure script you wish to create entries in the
man-directory for aliases to manpages which list them, e.g., the
functions in the panel manpage. This is the default. You can disable
it if your man program does this. You can also disable
--with-manpage-symlinks to install files containing a ".so" command
rather than symbolic links.
Tell the configure script how you would like to install man-pages. The
option value must be one of these: gzip, compress, BSDI, normal,
formatted. If you do not give this option, the configure script
attempts to determine which is the case.
Tell the configure script that you wish to rename the manpages while
installing. Currently the only distribution which does this is Debian.
The option value specifies the name of a file that lists the renamed
files, e.g., $srcdir/man/man_db.renames
Tell the configure script that you wish to make symbolic links in the
man-directory for aliases to the man-pages. This is the default, but
can be disabled for systems that provide this automatically. Doing
this on systems that do not support symbolic links will result in
copying the man-page for each alias.
Tell the configure script that you with to preprocess the manpages
by running them through tbl to generate tables understandable by
Override type of mmask_t, which stores the mouse mask. Prior to
ncurses 5.5, this was always unsigned long, but with ncurses 5.5, it
may be unsigned. Use this option if you need to preserve compatibility
with 64-bit executables.
Generate normal (i.e., static) libraries (default).
Note: on Linux, the configure script will attempt to use the GPM
library via the dlsym() function call. Use --without-dlsym to disable
this feature, or --without-gpm, depending on whether you wish to use
Override type of ospeed variable, which is part of the termcap
compatibility interface. In termcap, this is a 'short', which works
for a wide range of baudrates because ospeed is not the actual speed
but the encoded value, e.g., B9600 would be a small number such as 13.
However the encoding scheme originally allowed for values "only" up to
38400bd. A newer set of definitions past 38400bd is not encoded as
compactly, and is not guaranteed to fit into a short (see the function
cfgetospeed(), which returns a speed_t for this reason). In practice,
applications that required knowledge of the ospeed variable, i.e.,
those using termcap, do not use the higher speeds. Your application
(or system, in general) may or may not.
If ".pc" files are installed, optionally add a suffix to the files
and corresponding package names to separate unusual configurations.
If no option value is given (or if it is "none"), no suffix is added.
Check for pkg-config, optionally specifying its path.
If pkg-config was found, override the automatic check for its library
Generate profile-libraries These are named by adding "_p" to the root,
e.g., libncurses_p.a
Link with POSIX threads, set --enable-reentrant. The use_window() and
use_screen() functions will use mutex's, allowing rudimentary support
for multithreaded applications.
Compile-in RCS identifiers. Most of the C files have an identifier.
Override the release version, which may be used in shared library
filenames. This consists of a major and minor version number separated
by ".". Normally the major version number is the same as the ABI
version; some ports have special requirements for compatibility.
Generate shared-libraries. The names given depend on the system for
which you are building, typically using a ".so" suffix, along with
symbolic links that refer to the release version.
NOTE: Unless you override the configure script by setting the $CFLAGS
environment variable, these will not be built with the -g debugging
NOTE: For some configurations, e.g., installing a new version of
ncurses shared libraries on a machine which already has ncurses
shared libraries, you may encounter problems with the linker.
For example, it may prevent you from running the build tree's
copy of tic (for installing the terminfo database) because it
loads the system's copy of the ncurses shared libraries.
In that case, using the misc/shlib script may be helpful, since it
sets $LD_LIBRARY_PATH to point to the build tree, e.g.,
./misc/shlib make install
Alternatively, for most platforms, the linker accepts a list of
directories which will be searched for libraries at run-time. The
configure script allows you to modify this list using the
RPATH_LIST environment variable. It is a colon-separated list of
directories (default: the "libdir" set via the configure script).
If you set that to put "../lib" first in the list, the linker will
look first at the build-directory, and avoid conflict with libraries
already installed. One drawback to this approach is that libraries
can be accidentally searched in any "../lib" directory.
NOTE: If you use the --with-ada-sharedlib option, you should also
set this option, to ensure that C-language modules needed for the
Ada binding use appropriate compiler options.
Specify whether to use the release or ABI version for shared libraries.
This is normally chosen automatically based on the type of system
which you are building on. We use it for testing the configure script.
use FreeBSD sysmouse interface provide mouse support on the console.
For testing, override the derived host system-type which is used to
decide things such as the linker commands used to build shared
libraries. This is normally chosen automatically based on the type of
system which you are building on. We use it for testing the configure
Specify a search-list of terminfo directories which will be compiled
into the ncurses library (default: DATADIR/terminfo)
When building the ncurses library, organize this as two parts: the
curses library (libncurses) and the low-level terminfo library
(libtinfo). This is done to accommodate applications that use only
the latter. The terminfo library is about half the size of the total.
If an option value is given, that overrides the name of the terminfo
library. For instance, if the wide-character version is built, the
terminfo library would be named libtinfow. But the libtinfow interface
is upward compatible from libtinfo, so it would be possible to overlay with a "wide" version of by renaming it with
this option.
Specify a search-list of termcap files which will be compiled into the
ncurses library (default: /etc/termcap:/usr/share/misc/termcap)
When building the ncurses library, build a separate library for
the modules that are used only by the utility programs. Normally
those would be bundled with the termlib or ncurses libraries.
If an option value is given, that overrides the name of the tic
library. As in termlib, there is no ABI difference between the
"wide" and
NOTE: Overriding the name of the tic library may be useful if you are
also using the --with-termlib option to rename libtinfo. If you are
not doing that, renaming the tic library can result in conflicting
library dependencies for tic and other programs built with the tic
Override the type used for tparm() arguments, which normally is a
"long". However the function must assume that its arguments can hold a
pointer to char's which is not always workable for 64-bit platforms. A
better choice would be intptr_t, which was not available at the time
tparm's interface was defined.
If the option is not given, this defaults to "long".
Configure the trace() function as part of the all models of the ncurses
library. Normally it is part of the debug (libncurses_g) library only.
The Solaris, GNU and reportedly some other linkers (ld) accept a
"--version-script" option which tells the linker to annotate the
resulting objects with version identifiers.
Use "objdump -T" on a library to see the annotations.
The configure script attempts to automatically apply a suitable ".map"
file to provide this information for Linux. Solaris mapfiles differ:
a) comments are not accepted
b) wildcards are not accepted, except for a special case of "_*".
c) each symbol listed in the map file must exist in the library
The Solaris limitations conflict with the development goal of providing
a small set of ".map" files as examples, which cover the most common
configurations. Because that coverage is done by merging together
several builds, some symbols will be listed in the the ".map" files
that do not happen to be present in one configuration or another.
The sample ".map" (and ".sym") files are generated using a set of
scripts which build several configurations for each release version,
checking to see which of the "_nc_" symbols can be made local. In
addition to the ncurses libraries and programs, the symbols used
by the "tack" program are made global.
These sample ".map" files will not cover all possible combinations.
In some cases, e.g., when using the --with-weak-symbols option, you
may prefer to use a different ".map" file by setting this option's
Configure xterm's terminfo entries to use either BS (^H, i.e., ASCII
backspace) or DEL (^?, or 127). XXX can be BS (or bs, 8) or DEL
(or del, 127).
During installation, the makefile and scripts modifies the "xterm+kbs"
terminfo entry to use this setting.
For testing, compile with debug option.
This also sets the --disable-leaks option.
When using the --enable-reentrant option, ncurses redefines variables
that would be global in curses, e.g., LINES, as a macro that calls a
"wrapping" function which fetches the data from the current SCREEN
structure. Normally that function is named by prepending "_nc_" to the
variable's name. The function is technically private (since portable
applications would not refer directly to it). But according to one
line of reasoning, it is not the same type of "private" as functions
which applications should not call even via a macro. This configure
option lets you choose the prefix for these wrapped variables.
Suppress the configure script's check for Ada95, do not build the
Ada95 binding and related demo.
Don't install the ncurses header with the name "curses.h". Rather,
install as "ncurses.h" and modify the installed headers and manpages
Likewise, do not install an alias "curses" for the ncurses manpage.
XSI curses declares "bool" as part of the interface. C++ also declares
"bool". Neither specifies the size and type of booleans, but both
insist on the same name. We chose to accommodate this by making the
configure script check for the size and type (e.g., unsigned or signed)
that your C++ compiler uses for booleans. If you do not wish to use
ncurses with C++, use this option to tell the configure script to not
adjust ncurses bool to match C++.
Suppress the configure script's check for C++, do not build the
C++ binding and related demo.
Disable development options. This does not include those that change
the interface, such as --enable-widec.
Do not use dlsym() to load GPM dynamically.
Tell the configure script to suppress the install of ncurses' manpages.
Tell the configure script to suppress the build of ncurses' application
programs (e.g., tic). The test applications will still be built if you
type "make", though not if you simply do "make install".
Tell the configure script to suppress the build of ncurses' test
Tell the configure script to use "xterm-old" for the entry used in
the terminfo database. This will work with variations such as
X11R5 and X11R6 xterm.
Because ncurses implements the X/Open Curses Specification, its interface
is fairly stable. That does not mean the interface does not change.
Changes are made to the documented interfaces when we find differences
between ncurses and X/Open or implementations which they certify (such as
Solaris). We add extensions to those interfaces to solve problems not
addressed by the original curses design, but those must not conflict with
the X/Open documentation.
Here are some of the major interface changes, and related problems which
you may encounter when building a system with different versions of
6.0 (??? ??, 2015)
5.9 (Apr 04, 2011)
5.8 (Feb 26, 2011)
Interface changes:
+ add an alternate library configuration, i.e., "terminal driver" to
support port to Windows, built with MinGW. There are two drivers
(terminfo and Windows console). The terminfo driver works on other
+ add a new set of functions which accept a SCREEN* parameter, in
contrast with the original set which use the global value "sp".
By default, these names end with "_sp", and are otherwise
functionally identical with the originals.
In addition to the "_sp" functions, there are a few new functions
associated with this feature: ceiling_panel, ground_panel,
If the library is not built with the sp-funcs extension, there
are no related interface changes.
+ add tiparm function based on review of X/Open Curses Issue 7.
+ change internal _nc_has_mouse function to public has_mouse function
Added extensions:
+ add a few more functions to support the NCURSES_OPAQUE feature:
get_escdelay, is_pad, is_subwin
Added internal functions (other than "_sp" variants):
Removed internal functions:
_nc_makenew (some configurations replace by _nc_makenew_sp)
Modified internal functions:
5.7 (November 2, 2008)
Interface changes:
+ generate linkable stubs for some macros:
+ Add new library configuration for tic-library (the non-curses portion
of the ncurses library used for the tic program as well as some
others such as tack. There is no API change, but makefiles would be
changed to use the tic-library built separately.
tack, distributed separately from ncurses, uses some of the internal
_nc_XXX functions, which are declared in the tic.h header file.
The reason for providing this separate library is that none of the
functions in it are suitable for threaded applications.
+ Add new library configuration (ncursest, ncurseswt) which provides
rudimentary support for POSIX threads. This introduces opaque
access functions to the WINDOW structure and adds a parameter to
several internal functions.
+ move most internal variables (except tic-library) into data blocks
_nc_globals and _nc_prescreen to simplify analysis. Those were
globally accessible, but since they were not part of the documented
API, there is no ABI change.
+ changed static tables of strings to be indices into long strings, to
improve startup performance. This changes parameter lists for some
of the internal functions.
Added extensions:
+ add NCURSES_OPAQUE definition in curses.h to control whether internal
details of the WINDOW structure are visible to an application. This
is always defined when the threaded library is built, and is optional
otherwise. New functions for this: is_cleared, is_idcok, is_idlok,
is_immedok, is_keypad, is_leaveok, is_nodelay, is_notimeout,
is_scrollok, is_syncok, wgetparent and wgetscrreg.
+ the threaded library (ncursest) also disallows direct updating of
global curses-level variables, providing functions (via macros) for
obtaining their value. A few of those variables can be modified by
the application, using new functions: set_escdelay, set_tabsize
+ added functions use_window() and use_screen() which wrap a mutex
(if threading is configured) around a call to a user-supplied
Added internal functions:
These are used for leak-testing, and are stubs for
ABI compatibility when ncurses is not configured for that
using the --disable-leaks configure script option:
Removed internal functions:
Modified internal functions:
Use new typedef TRIES to replace "struct tries":
5.6 (December 17, 2006)
Interface changes:
+ generate linkable stubs for some macros:
getbegx, getbegy, getcurx, getcury, getmaxx, getmaxy, getparx,
getpary, getpary,
and (for libncursesw)
Added extensions:
Added internal functions:
Also (if using the hashed database configuration):
Removed internal functions:
Modified internal functions:
5.5 (October 10, 2005)
Interface changes:
+ terminfo installs "xterm-new" as "xterm" entry rather than
"xterm-old" (aka xterm-r6).
+ terminfo data is installed using the tic -x option (few systems
still use ncurses 4.2).
+ modify C++ binding to work with newer C++ compilers by providing
initializers and using modern casts. Old-style header names are
still used in this release to allow compiling with not-so-old
+ form and menu libraries now work with wide-character data.
Applications which bypassed the form library and manipulated the
FIELD.buf data directly will not work properly with libformw, since
that no longer points to an array of char. The set_field_buffer()
and field_buffer() functions translate to/from the actual field
+ change SP->_current_attr to a pointer, adjust ifdef's to ensure that and have the same ABI. The reason for this
is that the corresponding data which belongs to the upper-level
ncurses library has a different size in each model.
+ winnstr() now returns multibyte character strings for the
wide-character configuration.
+ assume_default_colors() no longer requires that use_default_colors()
be called first.
+ data_ahead() now works with wide-characters.
+ slk_set() and slk_wset() now accept and store multibyte or
multicolumn characters.
+ start_color() now returns OK if colors have already been started.
start_color() also returns ERR if it cannot allocate memory.
+ pair_content() now returns -1 for consistency with init_pair() if it
corresponds to the default-color.
+ unctrl() now returns null if its parameter does not correspond
to an unsigned char.
Added extensions:
Experimental mouse version 2 supports wheel mice with buttons
4 and 5. This requires ABI 6 because it modifies the encoding
of mouse events.
Experimental extended colors allows encoding of 256 foreground
and background colors, e.g., with the xterm-256color or
xterm-88color terminfo entries. This requires ABI 6 because
it changes the size of cchar_t.
Added internal functions:
Removed internal functions:
Modified internal functions:
5.4 (February 8, 2004)
Interface changes:
+ add the remaining functions for X/Open curses wide-character support.
These are only available if the library is configured using the
--enable-widec option.
+ write getyx() and related 2-return macros in terms of getcury(),
getcurx(), etc.
+ simplify ifdef for bool declaration in curses.h
+ modify ifdef's in curses.h that disabled use of __attribute__() for
g++, since recent versions implement the cases which ncurses uses.
+ change some interfaces to use const:
Added extensions:
Added internal functions:
_nc_is_charable() wide
_nc_to_char() wide
_nc_to_widechar() wide
_nc_trace_bufcat() debug
Removed internal functions:
Modified internal functions:
5.3 (October 12, 2002)
Interface changes:
+ change type for bool used in headers to NCURSES_BOOL, which usually
is the same as the compiler's definition for 'bool'.
+ add all but two functions for X/Open curses wide-character support.
These are only available if the library is configured using the
--enable-widec option. Missing functions are
+ add environment variable $NCURSES_ASSUMED_COLORS to modify the
assume_default_colors() extension.
Added extensions:
Added internal functions:
_nc_altcharset_name() debug
_nc_retrace_bool() debug
_nc_retrace_unsigned() debug
_nc_trace_ttymode() debug
_nc_varargs() debug
_nc_visbufn() debug
Removed internal functions:
Modified internal functions:
_nc_freeall() debug
5.2 (October 21, 2000)
Interface changes:
+ revert termcap ospeed variable to 'short' (see discussion of the
--with-ospeed configure option).
5.1 (July 8, 2000)
Interface changes:
+ made the extended terminal capabilities
(configure --enable-tcap-names) a standard feature. This should
be transparent to applications that do not require it.
+ removed the trace() function and related trace support from the
production library.
+ modified, undef'ing some symbols to avoid conflict
with C++ STL.
Added extensions: assume_default_colors().
5.0 (October 23, 1999)
Interface changes:
+ implemented the wcolor_set() and slk_color() functions.
+ move macro winch to a function, to hide details of struct ldat
+ corrected prototypes for slk_* functions, using chtype rather than
+ the slk_attr_{set,off,on} functions need an additional void*
parameter according to XSI.
+ modified several prototypes to correspond with 1997 version of X/Open
Curses: [w]attr_get(), [w]attr_set(), border_set() have different
parameters. Some functions were renamed or misspelled:
erase_wchar(), in_wchntr(), mvin_wchntr(). Some developers have used
Added extensions: keybound(), curses_version().
Terminfo database changes:
+ change translation for termcap 'rs' to terminfo 'rs2', which is
the documented equivalent, rather than 'rs1'.
The problems are subtler in recent releases.
a) This release provides users with the ability to define their own
terminal capability extensions, like termcap. To accomplish this,
we redesigned the TERMTYPE struct (in term.h). Very few
applications use this struct. They must be recompiled to work with
the 5.0 library.
a) If you use the extended terminfo names (i.e., you used configure
--enable-tcap-names), the resulting terminfo database can have some
entries which are not readable by older versions of ncurses. This
is a bug in the older versions:
+ the terminfo database stores booleans, numbers and strings in
arrays. The capabilities that are listed in the arrays are
specified by X/Open. ncurses recognizes a number of obsolete and
extended names which are stored past the end of the specified
+ a change to read_entry.c in 951001 made the library do an lseek()
call incorrectly skipping data which is already read from the
string array. This happens when the number of strings in the
terminfo data file is greater than STRCOUNT, the number of
specified and obsolete or extended strings.
+ as part of alignment with the X/Open final specification, in the
990109 patch we added two new terminfo capabilities:
set_a_attributes and set_pglen_inch). This makes the indices for
the obsolete and extended capabilities shift up by 2.
+ the last two capabilities in the obsolete/extended list are memu
and meml, which are found in most terminfo descriptions for xterm.
When trying to read this terminfo entry, the spurious lseek()
causes the library to attempt to read the final portion of the
terminfo data (the text of the string capabilities) 4 characters
past its starting point, and reads 4 characters too few. The
library rejects the data, and applications are unable to
initialize that terminal type.
FIX: remove memu and meml from the xterm description. They are
obsolete, not used by ncurses. (It appears that the feature was
added to xterm to make it more like hpterm).
This is not a problem if you do not use the -x option of tic to
create a terminfo database with extended names. Note that the
user-defined terminal capabilities are not affected by this bug,
since they are stored in a table after the older terminfo data ends,
and are invisible to the older libraries.
c) Some developers did not wish to use the C++ binding, and used the
configure --without-cxx option. This causes problems if someone
uses the ncurses library from C++ because that configure test
determines the type for C++'s bool and makes ncurses match it, since
both C++ and curses are specified to declare bool. Calling ncurses
functions with the incorrect type for bool will cause execution
errors. In 5.0 we added a configure option "--without-cxx-binding"
which controls whether the binding itself is built and installed.
4.2 (March 2, 1998)
Interface changes:
+ correct prototype for termattrs() as per XPG4 version 2.
+ add placeholder prototypes for color_set(), erasewchar(),
term_attrs(), wcolor_set() as per XPG4 version 2.
+ add macros getcur[xy] getbeg[xy] getpar[xy], which are defined in
SVr4 headers.
New extensions: keyok() and define_key().
Terminfo database changes:
+ corrected definition in curses.h for ACS_LANTERN, which was 'I'
rather than 'i'.
4.1 (May 15, 1997)
We added these extensions: use_default_colors(). Also added
configure option --enable-const, to support the use of const where
X/Open should have, but did not, specify.
The terminfo database content changed the representation of color for
most entries that use ANSI colors. SVr4 curses treats the setaf/setab
and setf/setb capabilities differently, interchanging the red/blue
colors in the latter.
4.0 (December 24, 1996)
We bumped to version 4.0 because the newly released Linux dynamic
loader ( did not load shared libraries whose ABI and REL
versions were inconsistent. At that point, ncurses ABI was 3.4 and the
REL was 1.9.9g, so we made them consistent.
1.9.9g (December 1, 1996)
This fixed most of the problems with 1.9.9e, and made these interface
+ remove tparam(), which had been provided for compatibility with
some termcap. tparm() is standard, and does not conflict with
application's fallback for missing tparam().
+ turn off hardware echo in initscr(). This changes the sense of the
echo() function, which was initialized to echoing rather than
nonechoing (the latter is specified). There were several other
corrections to the terminal I/O settings which cause applications to
behave differently.
+ implemented several functions (such as attr_on()) which were
available only as macros.
+ corrected several typos in (i.e., the mvXXXX macros).
+ corrected prototypes for delay_output(),
has_color, immedok() and idcok().
+ corrected misspelled getbkgd(). Some applications used the
misspelled name.
+ added _yoffset to WINDOW. The size of WINDOW does not impact
applications, since they use only pointers to WINDOW structs.
These changes were made to the terminfo database:
+ removed boolean 'getm' which was available as an extended name.
We added these extensions: wresize(), resizeterm(), has_key() and
1.9.9e (March 24, 1996)
not recommended (a last-minute/untested change left the forms and
menus libraries unusable since they do not repaint the screen).
Foreground/background colors are combined incorrectly, working properly
only on a black background. When this was released, the X/Open
specification was available only in draft form.
Some applications (such as lxdialog) were "fixed" to work with the
incorrect color scheme.
Configuration and Installation:
On platforms where ncurses is assumed to be installed in /usr/lib,
the configure script uses "/usr" as a default:
GNU/Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Cygwin
For other platforms, the default is "/usr/local". See the discussion
of the "--disable-overwrite" option.
The location of the terminfo is set indirectly by the "--datadir"
configure option, e.g., /usr/share/terminfo, given a datadir of
/usr/share. You may want to override this if you are installing
ncurses libraries in nonstandard locations, but wish to share the
terminfo database.
Normally the ncurses library is configured in a pure-terminfo mode;
that is, with the --disable-termcap option. This makes the ncurses
library smaller and faster. The ncurses library includes a termcap
emulation that queries the terminfo database, so even applications that
use raw termcap to query terminal characteristics will win (providing
you recompile and relink them!).
If you must configure with termcap fallback enabled, you may also wish
to use the --enable-getcap option. This speeds up termcap-based
startups, at the expense of not allowing personal termcap entries to
reference the terminfo tree. See comments in
ncurses/tinfo/read_termcap.c for further details.
Note that if you have $TERMCAP set, ncurses will use that value
to locate termcap data. In particular, running from xterm will
set $TERMCAP to the contents of the xterm's termcap entry.
If ncurses sees that, it will not examine /etc/termcap.
Keyboard Mapping:
The terminfo file assumes that Shift-Tab generates \E[Z (the ECMA-48
reverse-tabulation sequence) rather than ^I. Here are the loadkeys -d
mappings that will set this up:
keycode 15 = Tab Tab
alt keycode 15 = Meta_Tab
shift keycode 15 = F26
string F26 ="\033[Z"
Naming the Console Terminal
In various systems there has been a practice of designating the system
console driver type as `console'. Please do not do this! It
complicates peoples' lives, because it can mean that several different
terminfo entries from different operating systems all logically want to
be called `console'.
Please pick a name unique to your console driver and set that up
in the /etc/inittab table or local equivalent. Send the entry to the
terminfo maintainer (listed in the misc/terminfo file) to be included
in the terminfo file, if it's not already there. See the
term(7) manual page included with this distribution for more on
conventions for choosing type names.
Here are some recommended primary console names:
linux -- Linux console driver
freebsd -- FreeBSD
netbsd -- NetBSD
bsdos -- BSD/OS
If you are responsible for integrating ncurses for one of these
distributions, please either use the recommended name or get back
to us explaining why you don't want to, so we can work out nomenclature
that will make users' lives easier rather than harder.
The terminfo database file included with this distribution assumes you
are running a modern xterm based on XFree86 (i.e., xterm-new). The
earlier X11R6 entry (xterm-r6) and X11R5 entry (xterm-r5) is provided
as well. See the --without-xterm-new configure script option if you
are unable to update your system.
In order to support operation of ncurses programs before the terminfo
tree is accessible (that is, in single-user mode or at OS installation
time) the ncurses library can be compiled to include an array of
pre-fetched fallback entries. This must be done on a machine which
has ncurses' infocmp and terminfo database installed (as well as
ncurses' tic and infocmp programs).
These entries are checked by setupterm() only when the conventional
fetches from the terminfo tree and the termcap fallback (if configured)
have been tried and failed. Thus, the presence of a fallback will not
shadow modifications to the on-disk entry for the same type, when that
entry is accessible.
By default, there are no entries on the fallback list. After you have
built the ncurses suite for the first time, you can change the list
(the process needs infocmp(1)). To do so, use the script
ncurses/tinfo/ The configure script option
--with-fallbacks does this (it accepts a comma-separated list of the
names you wish, and does not require a rebuild).
If you wanted (say) to have linux, vt100, and xterm fallbacks, you
might use the commands
cd ncurses;
tinfo/ \
../misc/terminfo.src \
`which tic` \
linux vt100 xterm >fallback.c
The first three parameters of the script are normally supplied by
the configured makefiles via the "--with-fallbacks" option. They
1) the location of the terminfo database
2) the source for the terminfo entries
3) the location of the tic program, used to create a terminfo
Then just rebuild and reinstall the library as you would normally.
You can restore the default empty fallback list with
tinfo/ \
../misc/terminfo.src \
`which tic` \
The overhead for an empty fallback list is one trivial stub function.
Any non-empty fallback list is const-ed and therefore lives in sharable
text space. You can look at the comment trailing each initializer in
the generated ncurses/fallback.c file to see the core cost of the
fallbacks. A good rule of thumb for modern vt100-like entries is that
each one will cost about 2.5K of text space.
If you need to support really ancient BSD programs, you probably
want to configure with the --enable-bsdpad option. What this does
is enable code in tputs() that recognizes a numeric prefix on a
capability as a request for that much trailing padding in milliseconds.
There are old BSD programs that do things like tputs("50").
(If you are distributing ncurses as a support-library component of
an application you probably want to put the remainder of this section
in the package README file.)
The following note applies only if you have configured ncurses with
------------------------------- CUT HERE --------------------------------
If you are installing this application privately (either because you
have no root access or want to experiment with it before doing a root
installation), there are a couple of details you need to be aware of.
They have to do with the ncurses library, which uses terminfo rather
than termcap for describing terminal characteristics.
Though the ncurses library is terminfo-based, it will interpret your
TERMCAP variable (if present), any local termcap files you reference
through it, and the system termcap file. However, in order to avoid
slowing down your application startup, it will only do this once per
terminal type!
The first time you load a given terminal type from your termcap
database, the library initialization code will automatically write it
in terminfo format to a subdirectory under $HOME/.terminfo. After
that, the initialization code will find it there and do a (much
faster) terminfo fetch.
Usually, all this means is that your home directory will silently grow
an invisible .terminfo subdirectory which will get filled in with
terminfo descriptions of terminal types as you invoke them. If anyone
ever installs a global terminfo tree on your system, this will quietly
stop happening and your $HOME/.terminfo will become redundant.
The objective of all this logic is to make converting from BSD termcap
as painless as possible without slowing down your application (termcap
compilation is expensive).
If you don't have a TERMCAP variable or custom personal termcap file,
you can skip the rest of this dissertation.
If you *do* have a TERMCAP variable and/or a custom personal termcap file
that defines a terminal type, that definition will stop being visible
to this application after the first time you run it, because it will
instead see the terminfo entry that it wrote to $HOME/terminfo the
first time around.
Subsequently, editing the TERMCAP variable or personal TERMCAP file
will have no effect unless you explicitly remove the terminfo entry
under $HOME/terminfo. If you do that, the entry will be recompiled
from your termcap resources the next time it is invoked.
To avoid these complications, use infocmp(1) and tic(1) to edit the
terminfo directory directly.
------------------------------- CUT HERE --------------------------------
AFS treats each directory as a separate logical filesystem, you
can't hard-link across them. The --enable-symlinks option copes
with this by making tic use symbolic links.
Ncurses 4.1 and up can be configured to use GPM (General Purpose Mouse)
which is used with Linux console. Be aware that GPM is commonly
installed as a shared library which contains a wrapper for the curses
wgetch() function (libcurses.o). Some integrators have simplified
linking applications by combining all or part of into the file, producing symbol conflicts with ncurses (specifically
the wgetch function). This was originally the BSD curses, but
generally whatever curses library exists on the system.
You may be able to work around this problem by linking as follows:
cc -o foo foo.o -lncurses -lgpm -lncurses
but the linker may not cooperate, producing mysterious errors.
See the FAQ, as well as the discussion under the --with-gpm option:
Ncurses can be built with a cross-compiler. Some parts must be built
with the host's compiler since they are used for building programs
(e.g., ncurses/make_hash and ncurses/make_keys) that generate tables
that are compiled into the ncurses library. The essential thing to do
is set the BUILD_CC environment variable to your host's compiler, and
run the configure script configuring for the cross-compiler.
The configure options --with-build-cc, etc., are provided to make this
simpler. Since make_hash and make_keys use only ANSI C features, it
is normally not necessary to provide the other options such as
--with-build-libs, but they are provided for completeness.
Note that all of the generated source-files which are part of ncurses
will be made if you use
make sources
This would be useful in porting to an environment which has little
support for the tools used to generate the sources, e.g., sed, awk and
When ncurses has been successfully cross-compiled, you may want to use
"make install" (with a suitable target directory) to construct an
install tree. Note that in this case (as with the --with-fallbacks
option), ncurses uses the development platform's tic to do the
"make" portion.
The system's tic program is used to install the terminal database,
even for cross-compiles. For best results, the tic program should
be from the most current version of ncurses.
Send any feedback to the ncurses mailing list at To subscribe send mail to with body that reads:
subscribe ncurses <your-email-address-here>
The Hacker's Guide in the doc directory includes some guidelines
on how to report bugs in ways that will get them fixed most quickly.
-- vile:txtmode