Announcing ncurses 5.5

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 .
It is also available at .

Release Notes

This release is designed to be upward compatible from ncurses 5.0 through 5.4; very few applications will require recompilation, depending on the platform. These are the highlights from the change-log since ncurses 5.4 release.

Interface changes:

New features and improvements:

Major bug fixes:


Features of Ncurses

The ncurses package is fully compatible with SVr4 (System V Release 4) curses:

The ncurses package also has many useful extensions over SVr4:

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
Midnight Commander
file manager
mail utility
file-transfer utility
New vi versions 1.50 are able to use ncurses versions 1.9.7 and later.
Lynx-like info browser.
newsreader, supporting color, MIME
Volks-Hypertext browser for the Jargon File

as well as some that use ncurses for the terminfo support alone:

terminal emulator

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. Jürgen 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

To join the ncurses mailing list, please write email to containing the line:

             subscribe <name>@<host.domain>

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 .

Future Plans

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 maintained by Eric Raymond . Unlike the older version, the termcap and terminfo data are provided in the same file.

You can find lots of information on terminal-related topics not covered in the terminfo file at Richard Shuford's archive .