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* @Id: user_caps.5,v 1.12 2020/02/02 23:34:34 tom Exp @
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<H1 class="no-header">user_caps 5</H1>
<STRONG><A HREF="user_caps.5.html">user_caps(5)</A></STRONG> File Formats Manual <STRONG><A HREF="user_caps.5.html">user_caps(5)</A></STRONG>
user_caps - user-defined terminfo capabilities
<STRONG>tic</STRONG> <STRONG>-x,</STRONG> <STRONG>infocmp</STRONG> <STRONG>-x</STRONG>
Before ncurses 5.0, terminfo databases used a <EM>fixed</EM> <EM>repertoire</EM> of ter-
minal capabilities designed for the SVr2 terminal database in 1984, and
extended in stages through SVr4 (1989), and standardized in the Single
Unix Specification beginning in 1995.
Most of the <EM>extensions</EM> in this fixed repertoire were additions to the
tables of boolean, numeric and string capabilities. Rather than change
the meaning of an existing capability, a new name was added. The ter-
minfo database uses a binary format; binary compatibility was ensured
by using a header which gave the number of items in the tables for each
type of capability. The standardization was incomplete:
<STRONG>o</STRONG> The <EM>binary</EM> <EM>format</EM> itself is not described in the X/Open Curses doc-
umentation. Only the <EM>source</EM> <EM>format</EM> is described.
Library developers rely upon the SVr4 documentation, and reverse-
engineering the compiled terminfo files to match the binary format.
<STRONG>o</STRONG> Lacking a standard for the binary format, most implementations copy
the SVr2 binary format, which uses 16-bit signed integers, and is
limited to 4096-byte entries.
The format cannot represent very large numeric capabilities, nor
can it represent large numbers of special keyboard definitions.
<STRONG>o</STRONG> The tables of capability names differ between implementations.
Although they <EM>may</EM> provide all of the standard capability names, the
position in the tables differs because some features were added as
needed, while others were added (out of order) to comply with
While ncurses' repertoire of predefined capabilities is closest to
Solaris, Solaris's terminfo database has a few differences from the
list published by X/Open Curses. For example, ncurses can be con-
figured with tables which match the terminal databases for AIX, HP-
UX or OSF/1, rather than the default Solaris-like configuration.
<STRONG>o</STRONG> In SVr4 curses and ncurses, the terminal database is defined at
compile-time using a text file which lists the different terminal
In principle, the text-file can be extended, but doing this
requires recompiling and reinstalling the library. The text-file
used in ncurses for terminal capabilities includes details for var-
ious systems past the documented X/Open Curses features. For exam-
ple, ncurses supports these capabilities in each configuration:
(meml) lock memory above cursor
(memu) unlock memory
(box1) box characters primary set
The memory lock/unlock capabilities were included because they were
used in the X11R6 terminal description for <STRONG>xterm</STRONG>. The <EM>box1</EM> capa-
bility is used in tic to help with terminal descriptions written
During the 1990s, some users were reluctant to use terminfo in spite of
its performance advantages over termcap:
<STRONG>o</STRONG> The fixed repertoire prevented users from adding features for unan-
ticipated terminal improvements (or required them to reuse existing
capabilities as a workaround).
<STRONG>o</STRONG> The limitation to 16-bit signed integers was also mentioned.
Because termcap stores everything as a string, it could represent
Although termcap's extensibility was rarely used (it was never the
<EM>speaker</EM> who had actually used the feature), the criticism had a point.
ncurses 5.0 provided a way to detect nonstandard capabilities, deter-
mine their type and optionally store and retrieve them in a way which
did not interfere with other applications. These are referred to as
<EM>user-defined</EM> <EM>capabilities</EM> because no modifications to the toolset's
predefined capability names are needed.
The ncurses utilities <STRONG>tic</STRONG> and <STRONG>infocmp</STRONG> have a command-line option "-x"
to control whether the nonstandard capabilities are stored or
retrieved. A library function <STRONG>use_extended_names</STRONG> is provided for the
When compiling a terminal database, if "-x" is set, <STRONG>tic</STRONG> will store a
user-defined capability if the capability name is not one of the prede-
Because ncurses provides a termcap library interface, these user-
defined capabilities may be visible to termcap applications:
<STRONG>o</STRONG> The termcap interface (like all implementations of termcap)
requires that the capability names are 2-characters.
When the capability is simple enough for use in a termcap applica-
tion, it is provided as a 2-character name.
<STRONG>o</STRONG> There are other user-defined capabilities which refer to features
not usable in termcap, e.g., parameterized strings that use more
than two parameters or use more than the trivial expression support
provided by termcap. For these, the terminfo database should have
only capability names with 3 or more characters.
<STRONG>o</STRONG> Some terminals can send distinct strings for special keys (cursor-,
keypad- or function-keys) depending on modifier keys (shift, con-
trol, etc.). While terminfo and termcap have a set of 60 prede-
fined function-key names, to which a series of keys can be
assigned, that is insufficient for more than a dozen keys multi-
plied by more than a couple of modifier combinations. The ncurses
database uses a convention based on <STRONG>xterm</STRONG> to provide extended spe-
Fitting that into termcap's limitation of 2-character names would
be pointless. These extended keys are available only with ter-
</PRE><H3><a name="h3-Recognized-capabilities">Recognized capabilities</a></H3><PRE>
The ncurses library uses the user-definable capabilities. While the
terminfo database may have other extensions, ncurses makes explicit
checks for these:
AX <EM>boolean</EM>, asserts that the terminal interprets SGR 39 and SGR 49
by resetting the foreground and background color, respectively,
to the default.
This is a feature recognized by the <STRONG>screen</STRONG> program as well.
E3 <EM>string</EM>, tells how to clear the terminal's scrollback buffer.
When present, the <STRONG><A HREF="clear.1.html">clear(1)</A></STRONG> program sends this before clearing the
The command "<STRONG>tput</STRONG> <STRONG>clear</STRONG>" does the same thing.
<EM>boolean</EM>, <EM>number</EM> <STRONG>or</STRONG> <EM>string</EM>, to assert that the <STRONG>set_a_foreground</STRONG>
and <STRONG>set_a_background</STRONG> capabilities correspond to <EM>direct</EM> <EM>colors</EM>,
using an RGB (red/green/blue) convention. This capability allows
the <STRONG>color_content</STRONG> function to return appropriate values without
requiring the application to initialize colors using <STRONG>init_color</STRONG>.
The capability type determines the values which ncurses sees:
implies that the number of bits for red, green and blue are
the same. Using the maximum number of colors, ncurses adds
two, divides that sum by three, and assigns the result to red,
green and blue in that order.
If the number of bits needed for the number of colors is not a
multiple of three, the blue (and green) components lose in
comparison to red.
tells ncurses what result to add to red, green and blue. If
ncurses runs out of bits, blue (and green) lose just as in the
explicitly list the number of bits used for red, green and
blue components as a slash-separated list of decimal integers.
Because there are several RGB encodings in use, applications
which make assumptions about the number of bits per color are
unlikely to work reliably. As a trivial case, for example, one
could define <STRONG>RGB#1</STRONG> to represent the standard eight ANSI colors,
i.e., one bit per color.
U8 <EM>number</EM>, asserts that ncurses must use Unicode values for line-
drawing characters, and that it should ignore the alternate char-
acter set capabilities when the locale uses UTF-8 encoding. For
more information, see the discussion of <STRONG>NCURSES_NO_UTF8_ACS</STRONG> in
Set this capability to a nonzero value to enable it.
XM <EM>string</EM>, override ncurses's built-in string which enables/disables
<STRONG>xterm</STRONG> mouse mode.
ncurses sends a character sequence to the terminal to initialize
mouse mode, and when the user clicks the mouse buttons or (in
certain modes) moves the mouse, handles the characters sent back
by the terminal to tell it what was done with the mouse.
The mouse protocol is enabled when the <EM>mask</EM> passed in the <STRONG>mouse-</STRONG>
<STRONG>mask</STRONG> function is nonzero. By default, ncurses handles the
responses for the X11 xterm mouse protocol. It also knows about
the <EM>SGR</EM> <EM>1006</EM> xterm mouse protocol, but must to be told to look
for this specifically. It will not be able to guess which mode
is used, because the responses are enough alike that only confu-
sion would result.
The <STRONG>XM</STRONG> capability has a single parameter. If nonzero, the mouse
protocol should be enabled. If zero, the mouse protocol should
be disabled. ncurses inspects this capability if it is present,
to see whether the 1006 protocol is used. If so, it expects the
responses to use the <EM>SGR</EM> <EM>1006</EM> xterm mouse protocol.
The xterm mouse protocol is used by other terminal emulators.
The terminal database uses building-blocks for the various xterm
mouse protocols which can be used in customized terminal descrip-
The terminal database building blocks for this mouse feature also
have an experimental capability <EM>xm</EM>. The "xm" capability
describes the mouse response. Currently there is no interpreter
which would use this information to make the mouse support com-
<EM>xm</EM> shows the format of the mouse responses. In this experimental
capability, the parameters are
<EM>p4</EM> state, e.g., pressed or released
<EM>p5</EM> y-ordinate starting region
<EM>p6</EM> x-ordinate starting region
<EM>p7</EM> y-ordinate ending region
<EM>p8</EM> x-ordinate ending region
Here are examples from the terminal database for the most com-
monly used xterm mouse protocols:
xterm+x11mouse|X11 xterm mouse protocol,
</PRE><H3><a name="h3-Extended-key-definitions">Extended key-definitions</a></H3><PRE>
Several terminals provide the ability to send distinct strings for com-
binations of modified special keys. There is no standard for what
those keys can send.
Since 1999, <STRONG>xterm</STRONG> has supported <EM>shift</EM>, <EM>control</EM>, <EM>alt</EM>, and <EM>meta</EM> modifiers
which produce distinct special-key strings. In a terminal description,
ncurses has no special knowledge of the modifiers used. Applications
can use the <EM>naming</EM> <EM>convention</EM> established for <STRONG>xterm</STRONG> to find these spe-
cial keys in the terminal description.
Starting with the curses convention that <EM>key</EM> <EM>names</EM> begin with "k" and
that shifted special keys are an uppercase name, ncurses' terminal
database defines these names to which a suffix is added:
kDC special form of kdch1 (delete character)
kDN special form of kcud1 (cursor down)
kEND special form of kend (End)
kHOM special form of khome (Home)
kLFT special form of kcub1 (cursor-left or cursor-back)
kNXT special form of knext (Next, or Page-Down)
kPRV special form of kprev (Prev, or Page-Up)
kRIT special form of kcuf1 (cursor-right, or cursor-forward)
kUP special form of kcuu1 (cursor-up)
These are the suffixes used to denote the modifiers:
4 Shift + Alt
6 Shift + Control
7 Alt + Control
8 Shift + Alt + Control
10 Meta + Shift
11 Meta + Alt
12 Meta + Alt + Shift
13 Meta + Ctrl
14 Meta + Ctrl + Shift
15 Meta + Ctrl + Alt
16 Meta + Ctrl + Alt + Shift
None of these are predefined; terminal descriptions can refer to <EM>names</EM>
which ncurses will allocate at runtime to <EM>key-codes</EM>. To use these keys
in an ncurses program, an application could do this:
<STRONG>o</STRONG> using a list of extended key <EM>names</EM>, ask <STRONG><A HREF="curs_terminfo.3x.html">tigetstr(3x)</A></STRONG> for their val-
<STRONG>o</STRONG> given the list of values, ask <STRONG><A HREF="key_defined.3x.html">key_defined(3x)</A></STRONG> for the <EM>key-code</EM>
which would be returned for those keys by <STRONG><A HREF="curs_getch.3x.html">wgetch(3x)</A></STRONG>.
The "-x" extension feature of <STRONG>tic</STRONG> and <STRONG>infocmp</STRONG> has been adopted in Net-
BSD curses. That implementation stores user-defined capabilities, but
makes no use of these capabilities itself.
</PRE><H2><a name="h2-SEE-ALSO">SEE ALSO</a></H2><PRE>
<STRONG><A HREF="tic.1m.html">tic(1m)</A></STRONG>, <STRONG><A HREF="infocmp.1m.html">infocmp(1m)</A></STRONG>.
Thomas E. Dickey
beginning with ncurses 5.0 (1999)
<li><a href="#h3-Recognized-capabilities">Recognized capabilities</a></li>
<li><a href="#h3-Extended-key-definitions">Extended key-definitions</a></li>
<li><a href="#h2-SEE-ALSO">SEE ALSO</a></li>