Notcurses: blingful TUIs and character graphics
What it is: a library facilitating complex TUIs on modern terminal emulators, supporting vivid colors, multimedia, threads, and Unicode to the maximum degree possible. Things can be done with Notcurses that simply can't be done with NCURSES. It is furthermore fast as shit. What it is not: a source-compatible X/Open Curses implementation, nor a replacement for NCURSES on existing systems.
- c++ wrappers by marek habersack ([email protected])
- rust wrappers by José Luis Cruz ([email protected])
- python wrappers by igo95862 ([email protected])
- zig wrappers by Jakub Dundalek ([email protected])
for more information, see dankwiki and the man pages. in addition, there is Doxygen output. there is a mailing list which can be reached via [email protected]. i wrote a coherent guidebook, which is available for free download (or paperback purchase).
If you're running Notcurses applications in a Docker, please consult "Environment notes" below.
Notcurses abandons the X/Open Curses API bundled as part of the Single UNIX Specification. For some necessary background, consult Thomas E. Dickey's superb and authoritative NCURSES FAQ. As such, Notcurses is not a drop-in Curses replacement.
Wherever possible, Notcurses makes use of the Terminfo library shipped with NCURSES, benefiting greatly from its portability and thoroughness.
Notcurses opens up advanced functionality for the interactive user on workstations, phones, laptops, and tablets, possibly at the expense of e.g. some industrial and retail terminals. Fundamentally, Curses assumes the minimum and allows you (with effort) to step up, whereas Notcurses assumes the maximum and steps down (by itself) when necessary. The latter approach probably breaks on some older hardware, but the former approach results in new software looking like old hardware.
Why use this non-standard library?
Thread safety, and efficient use in parallel programs, has been a design consideration from the beginning.
A more orderly surface than that codified by X/Open: Exported identifiers are prefixed to avoid common namespace collisions. Where reasonable,
static inlineheader-only code is used. This facilitates compiler optimizations, and reduces loader time. Notcurses can be built without its multimedia functionality, requiring a significantly lesser set of dependencies.
All APIs natively support the Universal Character Set (Unicode). The
nccellAPI is based around Unicode's Extended Grapheme Cluster concept.
Visual features including images, fonts, video, high-contrast text, sprites, and transparent regions. All APIs natively support 24-bit color, quantized down as necessary for the terminal.
Much of the above can be had with NCURSES, but they're not what NCURSES was designed for. On the other hand, if you're targeting industrial or critical applications, or wish to benefit from time-tested reliability and portability, you should by all means use that fine library.
Minimum versions generally indicate the oldest version I've tested with; it may well be possible to use still older versions. Let me know of any successes!
- (build) CMake 3.14.0+ and a C11 compiler
- (OPTIONAL) (OpenImageIO, testing, C++ bindings): A C++17 compiler
- (build+runtime) From NCURSES: terminfo 6.1+
- (build+runtime) GNU libunistring 0.9.10+
- (OPTIONAL) (build+runtime) GNU Readline 8.0+
- (OPTIONAL) (build+runtime) From QR-Code-generator: libqrcodegen 1.5.0+
- (OPTIONAL) (build+runtime) From FFmpeg: libswscale 5.0+, libavformat 57.0+, libavutil 56.0+
- (OPTIONAL) (build+runtime) OpenImageIO 2.15.0+, requires C++
- (OPTIONAL) (testing) Doctest 2.3.5+
- (OPTIONAL) (documentation) pandoc 1.19.2+
- (OPTIONAL) (python bindings): Python 3.7+, CFFI 1.13.2+, pypandoc 1.5+
- (OPTIONAL) (rust bindings): rust 1.47.0+, bindgen 0.55.1+, pkg-config 0.3.18+, cty 0.2.1+
- (runtime) Linux 5.3+, FreeBSD 11+, DragonFly BSD 5.9+, Windows Vista+, or macOS 11.4+
Here's more information on building and installation.
Eight binaries are installed as part of Notcurses:
lsthat displays multimedia in the terminal
ncneofetch: a neofetch ripoff
ncplayer: renders visual media (images/videos)
nctetris: a tetris clone
notcurses-demo: some demonstration code
notcurses-info: detect and print terminal capabilities/diagnostics
notcurses-input: decode and print keypresses
notcurses-tester: unit testing
notcurses-demo from a checkout, provide the
data directory via the
-p argument. Demos requiring data files will otherwise abort. The base delay used in
notcurses-demo can be changed with
-d, accepting a floating-point multiplier. Values less than 1 will speed up the demo, while values greater than 1 will slow it down.
notcurses-tester likewise requires that
data, populated with the necessary data files, be specified with
-p. It can be run by itself, or via
-DUSE_PANDOC=on (the default), a full set of man pages and XHTML will be built from
doc/man. The following Markdown documentation is included directly:
- Per-release News for packagers, developers, and users.
TERMenvironment variable and various terminal emulators.
- Notes on contributing and hacking.
- There's a semi-complete reference guide.
- A list of other TUI libraries.
- Abbreviated history and thanks.
- Differences from Curses and adapting Curses programs.
If you (understandably) want to avoid the large Pandoc stack, but still enjoy manual page goodness, I publish a tarball with generated man/XHTML along with each release. Download it, and install the contents as you deem fit.
TERMvariable is wrong, or that terminfo definition is out-of-date, you're going to have a very bad time. Use only
TERMvalues appropriate for your terminal. If this variable is undefined, or Notcurses can't load the specified Terminfo entry, it will refuse to start, and you will not be going to space today.
Notcurses queries the terminal on startup, enabling some advanced features based on the determined terminal (and even version). Basic capabilities, however, are taken from Terminfo. So if you have, say, Kitty, but
TERM=vt100, you're going to be able to draw RGBA bitmap graphics, but be able to use the alternate screen (despite the latter being supported by every Kitty version). So
TERMand an up-to-date Terminfo database remain important.
LANGenvironment variable is set to a UTF8-encoded locale, and that this locale has been generated. This usually means
en_US.UTF-8. The first part (
en_US) ought exist as a directory or symlink in
/usr/share/locales. This usually requires editing
locale-gen. On Debian systems, this can be accomplished with
dpkg-reconfigure locales, and enabling the desired locale. The default locale is stored somewhere like
If your terminal has an option about default interpretation of "ambiguous-width characters" (this is actually a technical term from Unicode), ensure it is set to Wide, not narrow (if that doesn't work, ensure it is set to Narrow, heh).
If your terminal supports 3x8bit RGB color via
setbf(most modern terminals), but exports neither the
Tcterminfo capability, you can export the
COLORTERMenvironment variable as
24bit. Note that some terminals accept a 24-bit specification, but map it down to fewer colors. RGB is unconditionally enabled whenever most modern terminals are identified.
Glyph width, and indeed whether a glyph can be displayed at all, is dependent in part on the font configuration. Ideally, your font configuration has a glyph for every Unicode EGC, and each glyph's width matches up with the C library's
wcswidth() result for the EGC. If this is not the case, you'll likely get blanks or � (U+FFFD, REPLACEMENT CHARACTER) for missing characters, and subsequent characters on the line may be misplaced.
It is worth knowing that several terminals draw the block characters directly, rather than loading them from a font. This is generally desirable. Quadrants and sextants are not the place to demonstrate your design virtuosity. To inspect your environment's rendering of drawing characters, run
notcurses-info. The desired output ought look something like this:
If things break or seem otherwise lackluster, please consult the Environment Notes section! You need to have a correct
LANG definition, and probably want
The demo fails in the middle of Check that your
TERMvalue is correct for your terminal.
introdoes a palette fade, which is prone to breaking under incorrect
TERMvalues. If you're not using
TERMshould not be
Can I have Notcurses without this huge multimedia stack?Yes! Build with
Can I build this individual Notcurses program without aforementioned multimedia stack?Again yes! Use
ncdirect_core_init()in place of
ncdirect_init(), and link with
-lnotcurses-core. Your application will likely start a few milliseconds faster; more importantly, it will link against minimal Notcurses installations.
Notcurses looks like absolute crap in
screendoesn't support RGB colors (at least as of 4.08.00); if you have
COLORTERMdefined, you'll have a bad time. If you have a
screenthat was compiled with
--enable-colors256, try exporting
TERM=screen-256coloras opposed to
Notcurses looks like absolute crap in Yeah it sure does. I'm not yet sure what's up.
Why didn't you just render everything to Sixel?That's not a TUI; it's a slow and inflexible GUI. Many terminal emulators don't support Sixel. Sixel doesn't work well with mouse selection. Sixel has a limited color palette. With that said, both Sixel and the Kitty bitmap protocol are well-supported.
I'm not seeing You've almost certainly failed to mask
NCKEY_RESIZE until I press some other key.
SIGWINCHin some thread, and that thread is receiving the signal instead of the thread which called
notcurses_getc_blocking(). As a result, the
poll()is not interrupted. Call
pthread_sigmask()before spawning any threads.
Using the C++ wrapper, how can I ensure that the As noted in the C++ FAQ, wrap it in an artificial scope (this assumes your
NotCurses destructor is run when I return from
NotCursesis scoped to
How do I hide a plane I want to make visible later?In order of least to most performant: move it offscreen using
ncplane_move_yx(), move it underneath an opaque plane with
ncplane_move_below(), or move it off-pile with
Why isn't there an
ncplane_box_yx()? Do you hate orthogonality, you dullard?
ncplane_box()and friends already have far too many arguments, you monster.
Why doesn't Notcurses support 10- or 16-bit color?Notcurses supports 24 bits of color, spread across three eight-bit channels. You presumably mean 10-bit-per-channel color. I needed those six bits for other things. When terminals support it, Notcurses might support it.
The name is dumb.That's not a question?
I'm not finding qrcodegen on BSD, despite having installed Try
cmake -DCMAKE_REQUIRED_INCLUDES=/usr/local/include. This is passed by
Do you support musl?I try to! You'll need at least 1.20.
I only seem to blit in ASCII, and/or can't emit Unicode beyond ASCII in general.Your
LANGenvironment variable is underdefined or incorrectly defined, or the necessary locale is not present on your machine (it is also possible that you explicitly supplied
NCOPTION_INHIBIT_SETLOCALE, but never called
setlocale(3), in which case don't do that).
I pretty much always need an Besides the massive redundancy this would entail,
ncplane when using a
nccell. Why doesn't the latter hold a pointer to the former?
nccellneeds to remain as small as possible, and you almost always have the
ncplanehandy if you've got a reference to a valid
notcurses-demo, but my table numbers don't match the Notcurses banner numbers, you charlatan.
notcurses-demorenders several frames beyond the actual demos.
When my program exits, I don't have a cursor, or text is invisible, or colors are weird, ad nauseam.Ensure you're calling
ncdirect_stop()on all exit paths, including fatal signals (note that, by default, Notcurses installs handlers for most fatal signals to do exactly this).
How can I use Direct Mode in conjunction with libreadline?Pass
ncdirect_init(), and ensure you do not pass
NCDIRECT_OPTION_NO_READLINE. If you'd like, set
rl_attempted_completion_functionprior to calling
ncdirect_init(). With that said, consider using a Notcurses
Will there ever be Java wrappers?I should hope not. If you want a Java solution, try Autumn Lamonte's Jexer.
Given that the glyph channel is initialized as transparent for a plane, shouldn't the foreground and background be initialized as transparent, also?Probably (they are instead by default initialized to opaque). This would change some of the most longstanding behavior of Notcurses, though, so it isn't happening.
Why does my right-to-left text appear left-to-right?Notcurses doesn't honor the BiDi state machine, and in fact forces left-to-right with BiDi codes. Likewise, ultra-wide glyphs will have interesting effects. ﷽!
I get linker errors when statically linking.Are you linking all necessary libraries? Use
pkg-config --static --libs notcurses(or
--libs notcurses-core) to discover them.
Can I avoid manually exporting Sure. Add
sshd_configon the remote server. Yes, this will probably require root on the remote server. Don't blame me, man; I didn't do it.
How about *arbitrary image manipulation here* functionality?I'm not going to beat ImageMagick et al. on image manipulation, but you can load an
ncvisualfrom RGBA memory using
My program locks up during initialization.Notcurses interrogates the terminal. If the terminal doesn't reply to standard interrogations, file a Notcurses bug, send upstream a patch, or use a different terminal. No known terminal emulators exhibit this behavior.
Why no It would consume a precious bit. You can use
ncchannels_reverse()to correctly invert fore- and background colors.
How do I mix Rendered and Direct mode?You really don't want to. You can stream a subprocess to a plane with the
How can I clear the screen on startup in Rendered mode when not using the alternate screen?Call
Why do the stats show more Linux framebuffer bitmap bytes written than total bytes written to the terminal?Linux framebuffer graphics aren't implemented via terminal writes, but instead writes directly into a memory map.
- BiDi in Terminal Emulators
- The Xterm FAQ
- The NCURSES FAQ
- ECMA-35 Character Code Structure and Extension Techniques (ISO/IEC 2022)
- ECMA-43 8-bit Coded Character Set Structure and Rules
- ECMA-48 Control Functions for Coded Character Sets (ISO/IEC 6429)
- Unicode 13.1 Full Emoji List
- Unicode Standard Annex #29 Text Segmentation
- Unicode Standard Annex #15 Normalization Forms
- mintty tips
- The TTY demystified
- Dark Corners of Unicode
- UTF-8 Decoder Capability and Stress Test
- Emoji: how do you get from U+1F355 to
- Glyph Hell: An introduction to glyphs, as used and defined in the FreeType engine
- Text Rendering Hates You
- My wiki's Sixel page and Kitty's extensions.
- Linux man pages: console_codes(4), termios(3), ioctl_tty(2), ioctl_console(2)
- The Microsoft Windows Console Reference
- NCURSES man pages: terminfo(5), user_caps(5)
“Our fine arts were developed, their types and uses were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours. But the amazing growth of our techniques, the adaptability and precision they have attained, the ideas and habits they are creating, make it a certainty that profound changes are impending in the ancient craft of the Beautiful.” —Paul Valéry