16.10. curses — Terminal handling for character-cell displays

The curses module provides an interface to the curses library, the de-facto standard for portable advanced terminal handling.

While curses is most widely used in the Unix environment, versions are available for Windows, DOS, and possibly other systems as well. This extension module is designed to match the API of ncurses, an open-source curses library hosted on Linux and the BSD variants of Unix.


Since version 5.4, the ncurses library decides how to interpret non-ASCII data using the nl_langinfo function. That means that you have to call locale.setlocale() in the application and encode Unicode strings using one of the system’s available encodings. This example uses the system’s default encoding:

import locale
locale.setlocale(locale.LC_ALL, '')
code = locale.getpreferredencoding()

Then use code as the encoding for str.encode() calls.

See also

Module curses.ascii
Utilities for working with ASCII characters, regardless of your locale settings.
Module curses.panel
A panel stack extension that adds depth to curses windows.
Module curses.textpad
Editable text widget for curses supporting Emacs-like bindings.
Curses Programming with Python
Tutorial material on using curses with Python, by Andrew Kuchling and Eric Raymond.

The Tools/demo/ directory in the Python source distribution contains some example programs using the curses bindings provided by this module.

16.10.1. Functions

The module curses defines the following exception:

exception curses.error

Exception raised when a curses library function returns an error.


Whenever x or y arguments to a function or a method are optional, they default to the current cursor location. Whenever attr is optional, it defaults to A_NORMAL.

The module curses defines the following functions:


Return the output speed of the terminal in bits per second. On software terminal emulators it will have a fixed high value. Included for historical reasons; in former times, it was used to write output loops for time delays and occasionally to change interfaces depending on the line speed.


Emit a short attention sound.


Return True or False, depending on whether the programmer can change the colors displayed by the terminal.


Enter cbreak mode. In cbreak mode (sometimes called “rare” mode) normal tty line buffering is turned off and characters are available to be read one by one. However, unlike raw mode, special characters (interrupt, quit, suspend, and flow control) retain their effects on the tty driver and calling program. Calling first raw() then cbreak() leaves the terminal in cbreak mode.


Return the intensity of the red, green, and blue (RGB) components in the color color_number, which must be between 0 and COLORS. A 3-tuple is returned, containing the R,G,B values for the given color, which will be between 0 (no component) and 1000 (maximum amount of component).


Return the attribute value for displaying text in the specified color. This attribute value can be combined with A_STANDOUT, A_REVERSE, and the other A_* attributes. pair_number() is the counterpart to this function.


Set the cursor state. visibility can be set to 0, 1, or 2, for invisible, normal, or very visible. If the terminal supports the visibility requested, the previous cursor state is returned; otherwise, an exception is raised. On many terminals, the “visible” mode is an underline cursor and the “very visible” mode is a block cursor.


Save the current terminal mode as the “program” mode, the mode when the running program is using curses. (Its counterpart is the “shell” mode, for when the program is not in curses.) Subsequent calls to reset_prog_mode() will restore this mode.


Save the current terminal mode as the “shell” mode, the mode when the running program is not using curses. (Its counterpart is the “program” mode, when the program is using curses capabilities.) Subsequent calls to reset_shell_mode() will restore this mode.


Insert an ms millisecond pause in output.


Update the physical screen. The curses library keeps two data structures, one representing the current physical screen contents and a virtual screen representing the desired next state. The doupdate() ground updates the physical screen to match the virtual screen.

The virtual screen may be updated by a noutrefresh() call after write operations such as addstr() have been performed on a window. The normal refresh() call is simply noutrefresh() followed by doupdate(); if you have to update multiple windows, you can speed performance and perhaps reduce screen flicker by issuing noutrefresh() calls on all windows, followed by a single doupdate().


Enter echo mode. In echo mode, each character input is echoed to the screen as it is entered.


De-initialize the library, and return terminal to normal status.


Return the user’s current erase character. Under Unix operating systems this is a property of the controlling tty of the curses program, and is not set by the curses library itself.


The filter() routine, if used, must be called before initscr() is called. The effect is that, during those calls, LINES is set to 1; the capabilities clear, cup, cud, cud1, cuu1, cuu, vpa are disabled; and the home string is set to the value of cr. The effect is that the cursor is confined to the current line, and so are screen updates. This may be used for enabling character-at-a-time line editing without touching the rest of the screen.


Flash the screen. That is, change it to reverse-video and then change it back in a short interval. Some people prefer such as ‘visible bell’ to the audible attention signal produced by beep().


Flush all input buffers. This throws away any typeahead that has been typed by the user and has not yet been processed by the program.


After getch() returns KEY_MOUSE to signal a mouse event, this method should be call to retrieve the queued mouse event, represented as a 5-tuple (id, x, y, z, bstate). id is an ID value used to distinguish multiple devices, and x, y, z are the event’s coordinates. (z is currently unused.) bstate is an integer value whose bits will be set to indicate the type of event, and will be the bitwise OR of one or more of the following constants, where n is the button number from 1 to 4: BUTTONn_PRESSED, BUTTONn_RELEASED, BUTTONn_CLICKED, BUTTONn_DOUBLE_CLICKED, BUTTONn_TRIPLE_CLICKED, BUTTON_SHIFT, BUTTON_CTRL, BUTTON_ALT.


Return the current coordinates of the virtual screen cursor in y and x. If leaveok is currently true, then -1,-1 is returned.


Read window related data stored in the file by an earlier putwin() call. The routine then creates and initializes a new window using that data, returning the new window object.


Return True if the terminal can display colors; otherwise, return False.


Return True if the terminal has insert- and delete-character capabilities. This function is included for historical reasons only, as all modern software terminal emulators have such capabilities.


Return True if the terminal has insert- and delete-line capabilities, or can simulate them using scrolling regions. This function is included for historical reasons only, as all modern software terminal emulators have such capabilities.


Take a key value ch, and return True if the current terminal type recognizes a key with that value.


Used for half-delay mode, which is similar to cbreak mode in that characters typed by the user are immediately available to the program. However, after blocking for tenths tenths of seconds, an exception is raised if nothing has been typed. The value of tenths must be a number between 1 and 255. Use nocbreak() to leave half-delay mode.

curses.init_color(color_number, r, g, b)

Change the definition of a color, taking the number of the color to be changed followed by three RGB values (for the amounts of red, green, and blue components). The value of color_number must be between 0 and COLORS. Each of r, g, b, must be a value between 0 and 1000. When init_color() is used, all occurrences of that color on the screen immediately change to the new definition. This function is a no-op on most terminals; it is active only if can_change_color() returns 1.

curses.init_pair(pair_number, fg, bg)

Change the definition of a color-pair. It takes three arguments: the number of the color-pair to be changed, the foreground color number, and the background color number. The value of pair_number must be between 1 and COLOR_PAIRS - 1 (the 0 color pair is wired to white on black and cannot be changed). The value of fg and bg arguments must be between 0 and COLORS. If the color-pair was previously initialized, the screen is refreshed and all occurrences of that color-pair are changed to the new definition.


Initialize the library. Return a WindowObject which represents the whole screen.


If there is an error opening the terminal, the underlying curses library may cause the interpreter to exit.

curses.is_term_resized(nlines, ncols)

Return True if resize_term() would modify the window structure, False otherwise.


Return True if endwin() has been called (that is, the curses library has been deinitialized).


Return the name of the key numbered k. The name of a key generating printable ASCII character is the key’s character. The name of a control-key combination is a two-character string consisting of a caret followed by the corresponding printable ASCII character. The name of an alt-key combination (128-255) is a string consisting of the prefix ‘M-‘ followed by the name of the corresponding ASCII character.


Return the user’s current line kill character. Under Unix operating systems this is a property of the controlling tty of the curses program, and is not set by the curses library itself.


Return a string containing the terminfo long name field describing the current terminal. The maximum length of a verbose description is 128 characters. It is defined only after the call to initscr().


If yes is 1, allow 8-bit characters to be input. If yes is 0, allow only 7-bit chars.


Set the maximum time in milliseconds that can elapse between press and release events in order for them to be recognized as a click, and return the previous interval value. The default value is 200 msec, or one fifth of a second.


Set the mouse events to be reported, and return a tuple (availmask, oldmask). availmask indicates which of the specified mouse events can be reported; on complete failure it returns 0. oldmask is the previous value of the given window’s mouse event mask. If this function is never called, no mouse events are ever reported.


Sleep for ms milliseconds.

curses.newpad(nlines, ncols)

Create and return a pointer to a new pad data structure with the given number of lines and columns. A pad is returned as a window object.

A pad is like a window, except that it is not restricted by the screen size, and is not necessarily associated with a particular part of the screen. Pads can be used when a large window is needed, and only a part of the window will be on the screen at one time. Automatic refreshes of pads (such as from scrolling or echoing of input) do not occur. The refresh() and noutrefresh() methods of a pad require 6 arguments to specify the part of the pad to be displayed and the location on the screen to be used for the display. The arguments are pminrow, pmincol, sminrow, smincol, smaxrow, smaxcol; the p arguments refer to the upper left corner of the pad region to be displayed and the s arguments define a clipping box on the screen within which the pad region is to be displayed.

curses.newwin(nlines, ncols)
curses.newwin(nlines, ncols, begin_y, begin_x)

Return a new window, whose left-upper corner is at (begin_y, begin_x), and whose height/width is nlines/ncols.

By default, the window will extend from the specified position to the lower right corner of the screen.


Enter newline mode. This mode translates the return key into newline on input, and translates newline into return and line-feed on output. Newline mode is initially on.


Leave cbreak mode. Return to normal “cooked” mode with line buffering.


Leave echo mode. Echoing of input characters is turned off.


Leave newline mode. Disable translation of return into newline on input, and disable low-level translation of newline into newline/return on output (but this does not change the behavior of addch('\n'), which always does the equivalent of return and line feed on the virtual screen). With translation off, curses can sometimes speed up vertical motion a little; also, it will be able to detect the return key on input.


When the noqiflush() routine is used, normal flush of input and output queues associated with the INTR, QUIT and SUSP characters will not be done. You may want to call noqiflush() in a signal handler if you want output to continue as though the interrupt had not occurred, after the handler exits.


Leave raw mode. Return to normal “cooked” mode with line buffering.


Return a tuple (fg, bg) containing the colors for the requested color pair. The value of pair_number must be between 1 and COLOR_PAIRS - 1.


Return the number of the color-pair set by the attribute value attr. color_pair() is the counterpart to this function.


Equivalent to tputs(str, 1, putchar); emit the value of a specified terminfo capability for the current terminal. Note that the output of putp() always goes to standard output.


If flag is False, the effect is the same as calling noqiflush(). If flag is True, or no argument is provided, the queues will be flushed when these control characters are read.


Enter raw mode. In raw mode, normal line buffering and processing of interrupt, quit, suspend, and flow control keys are turned off; characters are presented to curses input functions one by one.


Restore the terminal to “program” mode, as previously saved by def_prog_mode().


Restore the terminal to “shell” mode, as previously saved by def_shell_mode().


Restore the state of the terminal modes to what it was at the last call to savetty().

curses.resize_term(nlines, ncols)

Backend function used by resizeterm(), performing most of the work; when resizing the windows, resize_term() blank-fills the areas that are extended. The calling application should fill in these areas with appropriate data. The resize_term() function attempts to resize all windows. However, due to the calling convention of pads, it is not possible to resize these without additional interaction with the application.

curses.resizeterm(nlines, ncols)

Resize the standard and current windows to the specified dimensions, and adjusts other bookkeeping data used by the curses library that record the window dimensions (in particular the SIGWINCH handler).


Save the current state of the terminal modes in a buffer, usable by resetty().

curses.setsyx(y, x)

Set the virtual screen cursor to y, x. If y and x are both -1, then leaveok is set.

curses.setupterm([termstr, fd])

Initialize the terminal. termstr is a string giving the terminal name; if omitted, the value of the TERM environment variable will be used. fd is the file descriptor to which any initialization sequences will be sent; if not supplied, the file descriptor for sys.stdout will be used.


Must be called if the programmer wants to use colors, and before any other color manipulation routine is called. It is good practice to call this routine right after initscr().

start_color() initializes eight basic colors (black, red, green, yellow, blue, magenta, cyan, and white), and two global variables in the curses module, COLORS and COLOR_PAIRS, containing the maximum number of colors and color-pairs the terminal can support. It also restores the colors on the terminal to the values they had when the terminal was just turned on.


Return a logical OR of all video attributes supported by the terminal. This information is useful when a curses program needs complete control over the appearance of the screen.


Return the value of the environment variable TERM, truncated to 14 characters.


Return the value of the Boolean capability corresponding to the terminfo capability name capname. The value -1 is returned if capname is not a Boolean capability, or 0 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal description.


Return the value of the numeric capability corresponding to the terminfo capability name capname. The value -2 is returned if capname is not a numeric capability, or -1 if it is canceled or absent from the terminal description.


Return the value of the string capability corresponding to the terminfo capability name capname. None is returned if capname is not a string capability, or is canceled or absent from the terminal description.

curses.tparm(str[, ...])

Instantiate the string str with the supplied parameters, where str should be a parameterized string obtained from the terminfo database. E.g. tparm(tigetstr("cup"), 5, 3) could result in b'\033[6;4H', the exact result depending on terminal type.


Specify that the file descriptor fd be used for typeahead checking. If fd is -1, then no typeahead checking is done.

The curses library does “line-breakout optimization” by looking for typeahead periodically while updating the screen. If input is found, and it is coming from a tty, the current update is postponed until refresh or doupdate is called again, allowing faster response to commands typed in advance. This function allows specifying a different file descriptor for typeahead checking.


Return a string which is a printable representation of the character ch. Control characters are displayed as a caret followed by the character, for example as ^C. Printing characters are left as they are.


Push ch so the next getch() will return it.


Only one ch can be pushed before getch() is called.


Update LINES and COLS. Useful for detecting manual screen resize.

New in version 3.5.


Push ch so the next get_wch() will return it.


Only one ch can be pushed before get_wch() is called.

New in version 3.3.

curses.ungetmouse(id, x, y, z, bstate)

Push a KEY_MOUSE event onto the input queue, associating the given state data with it.


If used, this function should be called before initscr() or newterm are called. When flag is False, the values of lines and columns specified in the terminfo database will be used, even if environment variables LINES and COLUMNS (used by default) are set, or if curses is running in a window (in which case default behavior would be to use the window size if LINES and COLUMNS are not set).


Allow use of default values for colors on terminals supporting this feature. Use this to support transparency in your application. The default color is assigned to the color number -1. After calling this function, init_pair(x, curses.COLOR_RED, -1) initializes, for instance, color pair x to a red foreground color on the default background.

curses.wrapper(func, ...)

Initialize curses and call another callable object, func, which should be the rest of your curses-using application. If the application raises an exception, this function will restore the terminal to a sane state before re-raising the exception and generating a traceback. The callable object func is then passed the main window ‘stdscr’ as its first argument, followed by any other arguments passed to wrapper(). Before calling func, wrapper() turns on cbreak mode, turns off echo, enables the terminal keypad, and initializes colors if the terminal has color support. On exit (whether normally or by exception) it restores cooked mode, turns on echo, and disables the terminal keypad.

16.10.2. Window Objects

Window objects, as returned by initscr() and newwin() above, have the following methods and attributes:

window.addch(ch[, attr])
window.addch(y, x, ch[, attr])


A character means a C character (an ASCII code), rather than a Python character (a string of length 1). (This note is true whenever the documentation mentions a character.) The built-in ord() is handy for conveying strings to codes.

Paint character ch at (y, x) with attributes attr, overwriting any character previously painter at that location. By default, the character position and attributes are the current settings for the window object.

window.addnstr(str, n[, attr])
window.addnstr(y, x, str, n[, attr])

Paint at most n characters of the string str at (y, x) with attributes attr, overwriting anything previously on the display.

window.addstr(str[, attr])
window.addstr(y, x, str[, attr])

Paint the string str at (y, x) with attributes attr, overwriting anything previously on the display.


Remove attribute attr from the “background” set applied to all writes to the current window.


Add attribute attr from the “background” set applied to all writes to the current window.


Set the “background” set of attributes to attr. This set is initially 0 (no attributes).

window.bkgd(ch[, attr])

Set the background property of the window to the character ch, with attributes attr. The change is then applied to every character position in that window:

  • The attribute of every character in the window is changed to the new background attribute.
  • Wherever the former background character appears, it is changed to the new background character.
window.bkgdset(ch[, attr])

Set the window’s background. A window’s background consists of a character and any combination of attributes. The attribute part of the background is combined (OR’ed) with all non-blank characters that are written into the window. Both the character and attribute parts of the background are combined with the blank characters. The background becomes a property of the character and moves with the character through any scrolling and insert/delete line/character operations.

window.border([ls[, rs[, ts[, bs[, tl[, tr[, bl[, br]]]]]]]])

Draw a border around the edges of the window. Each parameter specifies the character to use for a specific part of the border; see the table below for more details. The characters can be specified as integers or as one-character strings.


A 0 value for any parameter will cause the default character to be used for that parameter. Keyword parameters can not be used. The defaults are listed in this table:

Parameter Description Default value
ls Left side ACS_VLINE
rs Right side ACS_VLINE
bs Bottom ACS_HLINE
tl Upper-left corner ACS_ULCORNER
tr Upper-right corner ACS_URCORNER
bl Bottom-left corner ACS_LLCORNER
br Bottom-right corner ACS_LRCORNER
window.box([vertch, horch])

Similar to border(), but both ls and rs are vertch and both ts and bs are horch. The default corner characters are always used by this function.

window.chgat(num, attr)
window.chgat(y, x, attr)
window.chgat(y, x, num, attr)

Set the attributes of num characters at the current cursor position, or at position (y, x) if supplied. If no value of num is given or num = -1, the attribute will be set on all the characters to the end of the line. This function does not move the cursor. The changed line will be touched using the touchline() method so that the contents will be redisplayed by the next window refresh.


Like erase(), but also cause the whole window to be repainted upon next call to refresh().


If yes is 1, the next call to refresh() will clear the window completely.


Erase from cursor to the end of the window: all lines below the cursor are deleted, and then the equivalent of clrtoeol() is performed.


Erase from cursor to the end of the line.


Update the current cursor position of all the ancestors of the window to reflect the current cursor position of the window.

window.delch([y, x])

Delete any character at (y, x).


Delete the line under the cursor. All following lines are moved up by one line.

window.derwin(begin_y, begin_x)
window.derwin(nlines, ncols, begin_y, begin_x)

An abbreviation for “derive window”, derwin() is the same as calling subwin(), except that begin_y and begin_x are relative to the origin of the window, rather than relative to the entire screen. Return a window object for the derived window.

window.echochar(ch[, attr])

Add character ch with attribute attr, and immediately call refresh() on the window.

window.enclose(y, x)

Test whether the given pair of screen-relative character-cell coordinates are enclosed by the given window, returning True or False. It is useful for determining what subset of the screen windows enclose the location of a mouse event.


Encoding used to encode method arguments (Unicode strings and characters). The encoding attribute is inherited from the parent window when a subwindow is created, for example with window.subwin(). By default, the locale encoding is used (see locale.getpreferredencoding()).

New in version 3.3.


Clear the window.


Return a tuple (y, x) of co-ordinates of upper-left corner.


Return the given window’s current background character/attribute pair.

window.getch([y, x])

Get a character. Note that the integer returned does not have to be in ASCII range: function keys, keypad keys and so on return numbers higher than 256. In no-delay mode, -1 is returned if there is no input, else getch() waits until a key is pressed.

window.get_wch([y, x])

Get a wide character. Return a character for most keys, or an integer for function keys, keypad keys, and other special keys.

New in version 3.3.

window.getkey([y, x])

Get a character, returning a string instead of an integer, as getch() does. Function keys, keypad keys and other special keys return a multibyte string containing the key name. In no-delay mode, an exception is raised if there is no input.


Return a tuple (y, x) of the height and width of the window.


Return the beginning coordinates of this window relative to its parent window into two integer variables y and x. Return -1, -1 if this window has no parent.

window.getstr([y, x])

Read a string from the user, with primitive line editing capacity.


Return a tuple (y, x) of current cursor position relative to the window’s upper-left corner.

window.hline(ch, n)
window.hline(y, x, ch, n)

Display a horizontal line starting at (y, x) with length n consisting of the character ch.


If flag is False, curses no longer considers using the hardware insert/delete character feature of the terminal; if flag is True, use of character insertion and deletion is enabled. When curses is first initialized, use of character insert/delete is enabled by default.


If called with yes equal to 1, curses will try and use hardware line editing facilities. Otherwise, line insertion/deletion are disabled.


If flag is True, any change in the window image automatically causes the window to be refreshed; you no longer have to call refresh() yourself. However, it may degrade performance considerably, due to repeated calls to wrefresh. This option is disabled by default.

window.inch([y, x])

Return the character at the given position in the window. The bottom 8 bits are the character proper, and upper bits are the attributes.

window.insch(ch[, attr])
window.insch(y, x, ch[, attr])

Paint character ch at (y, x) with attributes attr, moving the line from position x right by one character.


Insert nlines lines into the specified window above the current line. The nlines bottom lines are lost. For negative nlines, delete nlines lines starting with the one under the cursor, and move the remaining lines up. The bottom nlines lines are cleared. The current cursor position remains the same.


Insert a blank line under the cursor. All following lines are moved down by one line.

window.insnstr(str, n[, attr])
window.insnstr(y, x, str, n[, attr])

Insert a character string (as many characters as will fit on the line) before the character under the cursor, up to n characters. If n is zero or negative, the entire string is inserted. All characters to the right of the cursor are shifted right, with the rightmost characters on the line being lost. The cursor position does not change (after moving to y, x, if specified).

window.insstr(str[, attr])
window.insstr(y, x, str[, attr])

Insert a character string (as many characters as will fit on the line) before the character under the cursor. All characters to the right of the cursor are shifted right, with the rightmost characters on the line being lost. The cursor position does not change (after moving to y, x, if specified).

window.instr(y, x[, n])

Return a string of characters, extracted from the window starting at the current cursor position, or at y, x if specified. Attributes are stripped from the characters. If n is specified, instr() returns a string at most n characters long (exclusive of the trailing NUL).


Return True if the specified line was modified since the last call to refresh(); otherwise return False. Raise a curses.error exception if line is not valid for the given window.


Return True if the specified window was modified since the last call to refresh(); otherwise return False.


If yes is 1, escape sequences generated by some keys (keypad, function keys) will be interpreted by curses. If yes is 0, escape sequences will be left as is in the input stream.


If yes is 1, cursor is left where it is on update, instead of being at “cursor position.” This reduces cursor movement where possible. If possible the cursor will be made invisible.

If yes is 0, cursor will always be at “cursor position” after an update.

window.move(new_y, new_x)

Move cursor to (new_y, new_x).

window.mvderwin(y, x)

Move the window inside its parent window. The screen-relative parameters of the window are not changed. This routine is used to display different parts of the parent window at the same physical position on the screen.

window.mvwin(new_y, new_x)

Move the window so its upper-left corner is at (new_y, new_x).


If yes is 1, getch() will be non-blocking.


If yes is 1, escape sequences will not be timed out.

If yes is 0, after a few milliseconds, an escape sequence will not be interpreted, and will be left in the input stream as is.


Mark for refresh but wait. This function updates the data structure representing the desired state of the window, but does not force an update of the physical screen. To accomplish that, call doupdate().

window.overlay(destwin[, sminrow, smincol, dminrow, dmincol, dmaxrow, dmaxcol])

Overlay the window on top of destwin. The windows need not be the same size, only the overlapping region is copied. This copy is non-destructive, which means that the current background character does not overwrite the old contents of destwin.

To get fine-grained control over the copied region, the second form of overlay() can be used. sminrow and smincol are the upper-left coordinates of the source window, and the other variables mark a rectangle in the destination window.

window.overwrite(destwin[, sminrow, smincol, dminrow, dmincol, dmaxrow, dmaxcol])

Overwrite the window on top of destwin. The windows need not be the same size, in which case only the overlapping region is copied. This copy is destructive, which means that the current background character overwrites the old contents of destwin.

To get fine-grained control over the copied region, the second form of overwrite() can be used. sminrow and smincol are the upper-left coordinates of the source window, the other variables mark a rectangle in the destination window.


Write all data associated with the window into the provided file object. This information can be later retrieved using the getwin() function.

window.redrawln(beg, num)

Indicate that the num screen lines, starting at line beg, are corrupted and should be completely redrawn on the next refresh() call.


Touch the entire window, causing it to be completely redrawn on the next refresh() call.

window.refresh([pminrow, pmincol, sminrow, smincol, smaxrow, smaxcol])

Update the display immediately (sync actual screen with previous drawing/deleting methods).

The 6 optional arguments can only be specified when the window is a pad created with newpad(). The additional parameters are needed to indicate what part of the pad and screen are involved. pminrow and pmincol specify the upper left-hand corner of the rectangle to be displayed in the pad. sminrow, smincol, smaxrow, and smaxcol specify the edges of the rectangle to be displayed on the screen. The lower right-hand corner of the rectangle to be displayed in the pad is calculated from the screen coordinates, since the rectangles must be the same size. Both rectangles must be entirely contained within their respective structures. Negative values of pminrow, pmincol, sminrow, or smincol are treated as if they were zero.

window.resize(nlines, ncols)

Reallocate storage for a curses window to adjust its dimensions to the specified values. If either dimension is larger than the current values, the window’s data is filled with blanks that have the current background rendition (as set by bkgdset()) merged into them.


Scroll the screen or scrolling region upward by lines lines.


Control what happens when the cursor of a window is moved off the edge of the window or scrolling region, either as a result of a newline action on the bottom line, or typing the last character of the last line. If flag is false, the cursor is left on the bottom line. If flag is true, the window is scrolled up one line. Note that in order to get the physical scrolling effect on the terminal, it is also necessary to call idlok().

window.setscrreg(top, bottom)

Set the scrolling region from line top to line bottom. All scrolling actions will take place in this region.


Turn off the standout attribute. On some terminals this has the side effect of turning off all attributes.


Turn on attribute A_STANDOUT.

window.subpad(begin_y, begin_x)
window.subpad(nlines, ncols, begin_y, begin_x)

Return a sub-window, whose upper-left corner is at (begin_y, begin_x), and whose width/height is ncols/nlines.

window.subwin(begin_y, begin_x)
window.subwin(nlines, ncols, begin_y, begin_x)

Return a sub-window, whose upper-left corner is at (begin_y, begin_x), and whose width/height is ncols/nlines.

By default, the sub-window will extend from the specified position to the lower right corner of the window.


Touch each location in the window that has been touched in any of its ancestor windows. This routine is called by refresh(), so it should almost never be necessary to call it manually.


If called with flag set to True, then syncup() is called automatically whenever there is a change in the window.


Touch all locations in ancestors of the window that have been changed in the window.


Set blocking or non-blocking read behavior for the window. If delay is negative, blocking read is used (which will wait indefinitely for input). If delay is zero, then non-blocking read is used, and -1 will be returned by getch() if no input is waiting. If delay is positive, then getch() will block for delay milliseconds, and return -1 if there is still no input at the end of that time.

window.touchline(start, count[, changed])

Pretend count lines have been changed, starting with line start. If changed is supplied, it specifies whether the affected lines are marked as having been changed (changed=1) or unchanged (changed=0).


Pretend the whole window has been changed, for purposes of drawing optimizations.


Mark all lines in the window as unchanged since the last call to refresh().

window.vline(ch, n)
window.vline(y, x, ch, n)

Display a vertical line starting at (y, x) with length n consisting of the character ch.

16.10.3. Constants

The curses module defines the following data members:


Some curses routines that return an integer, such as getch(), return ERR upon failure.


Some curses routines that return an integer, such as napms(), return OK upon success.


A string representing the current version of the module. Also available as __version__.

Several constants are available to specify character cell attributes:

Attribute Meaning
A_ALTCHARSET Alternate character set mode.
A_BLINK Blink mode.
A_BOLD Bold mode.
A_DIM Dim mode.
A_NORMAL Normal attribute.
A_REVERSE Reverse background and foreground colors.
A_STANDOUT Standout mode.
A_UNDERLINE Underline mode.

Keys are referred to by integer constants with names starting with KEY_. The exact keycaps available are system dependent.

Key constant Key
KEY_MIN Minimum key value
KEY_BREAK Break key (unreliable)
KEY_DOWN Down-arrow
KEY_UP Up-arrow
KEY_LEFT Left-arrow
KEY_RIGHT Right-arrow
KEY_HOME Home key (upward+left arrow)
KEY_BACKSPACE Backspace (unreliable)
KEY_F0 Function keys. Up to 64 function keys are supported.
KEY_Fn Value of function key n
KEY_DL Delete line
KEY_IL Insert line
KEY_DC Delete character
KEY_IC Insert char or enter insert mode
KEY_EIC Exit insert char mode
KEY_CLEAR Clear screen
KEY_EOS Clear to end of screen
KEY_EOL Clear to end of line
KEY_SF Scroll 1 line forward
KEY_SR Scroll 1 line backward (reverse)
KEY_NPAGE Next page
KEY_PPAGE Previous page
KEY_STAB Set tab
KEY_CTAB Clear tab
KEY_CATAB Clear all tabs
KEY_ENTER Enter or send (unreliable)
KEY_SRESET Soft (partial) reset (unreliable)
KEY_RESET Reset or hard reset (unreliable)
KEY_LL Home down or bottom (lower left)
KEY_A1 Upper left of keypad
KEY_A3 Upper right of keypad
KEY_B2 Center of keypad
KEY_C1 Lower left of keypad
KEY_C3 Lower right of keypad
KEY_BTAB Back tab
KEY_BEG Beg (beginning)
KEY_COMMAND Cmd (command)
KEY_PREVIOUS Prev (previous)
KEY_REFERENCE Ref (reference)
KEY_SBEG Shifted Beg (beginning)
KEY_SCANCEL Shifted Cancel
KEY_SCOMMAND Shifted Command
KEY_SCOPY Shifted Copy
KEY_SCREATE Shifted Create
KEY_SDC Shifted Delete char
KEY_SDL Shifted Delete line
KEY_SEND Shifted End
KEY_SEOL Shifted Clear line
KEY_SEXIT Shifted Dxit
KEY_SFIND Shifted Find
KEY_SHELP Shifted Help
KEY_SHOME Shifted Home
KEY_SIC Shifted Input
KEY_SLEFT Shifted Left arrow
KEY_SMESSAGE Shifted Message
KEY_SMOVE Shifted Move
KEY_SNEXT Shifted Next
KEY_SOPTIONS Shifted Options
KEY_SPRINT Shifted Print
KEY_SREDO Shifted Redo
KEY_SREPLACE Shifted Replace
KEY_SRIGHT Shifted Right arrow
KEY_SRSUME Shifted Resume
KEY_SSAVE Shifted Save
KEY_SSUSPEND Shifted Suspend
KEY_SUNDO Shifted Undo
KEY_MOUSE Mouse event has occurred
KEY_RESIZE Terminal resize event
KEY_MAX Maximum key value

On VT100s and their software emulations, such as X terminal emulators, there are normally at least four function keys (KEY_F1, KEY_F2, KEY_F3, KEY_F4) available, and the arrow keys mapped to KEY_UP, KEY_DOWN, KEY_LEFT and KEY_RIGHT in the obvious way. If your machine has a PC keyboard, it is safe to expect arrow keys and twelve function keys (older PC keyboards may have only ten function keys); also, the following keypad mappings are standard:

Keycap Constant
Insert KEY_IC
Delete KEY_DC

The following table lists characters from the alternate character set. These are inherited from the VT100 terminal, and will generally be available on software emulations such as X terminals. When there is no graphic available, curses falls back on a crude printable ASCII approximation.


These are available only after initscr() has been called.

ACS code Meaning
ACS_BBSS alternate name for upper right corner
ACS_BLOCK solid square block
ACS_BOARD board of squares
ACS_BSBS alternate name for horizontal line
ACS_BSSB alternate name for upper left corner
ACS_BSSS alternate name for top tee
ACS_BTEE bottom tee
ACS_CKBOARD checker board (stipple)
ACS_DARROW arrow pointing down
ACS_DEGREE degree symbol
ACS_GEQUAL greater-than-or-equal-to
ACS_HLINE horizontal line
ACS_LANTERN lantern symbol
ACS_LARROW left arrow
ACS_LEQUAL less-than-or-equal-to
ACS_LLCORNER lower left-hand corner
ACS_LRCORNER lower right-hand corner
ACS_LTEE left tee
ACS_NEQUAL not-equal sign
ACS_PI letter pi
ACS_PLMINUS plus-or-minus sign
ACS_PLUS big plus sign
ACS_RARROW right arrow
ACS_RTEE right tee
ACS_S1 scan line 1
ACS_S3 scan line 3
ACS_S7 scan line 7
ACS_S9 scan line 9
ACS_SBBS alternate name for lower right corner
ACS_SBSB alternate name for vertical line
ACS_SBSS alternate name for right tee
ACS_SSBB alternate name for lower left corner
ACS_SSBS alternate name for bottom tee
ACS_SSSB alternate name for left tee
ACS_SSSS alternate name for crossover or big plus
ACS_STERLING pound sterling
ACS_TTEE top tee
ACS_UARROW up arrow
ACS_ULCORNER upper left corner
ACS_URCORNER upper right corner
ACS_VLINE vertical line

The following table lists the predefined colors:

Constant Color
COLOR_CYAN Cyan (light greenish blue)
COLOR_MAGENTA Magenta (purplish red)

16.11. curses.textpad — Text input widget for curses programs

The curses.textpad module provides a Textbox class that handles elementary text editing in a curses window, supporting a set of keybindings resembling those of Emacs (thus, also of Netscape Navigator, BBedit 6.x, FrameMaker, and many other programs). The module also provides a rectangle-drawing function useful for framing text boxes or for other purposes.

The module curses.textpad defines the following function:

curses.textpad.rectangle(win, uly, ulx, lry, lrx)

Draw a rectangle. The first argument must be a window object; the remaining arguments are coordinates relative to that window. The second and third arguments are the y and x coordinates of the upper left hand corner of the rectangle to be drawn; the fourth and fifth arguments are the y and x coordinates of the lower right hand corner. The rectangle will be drawn using VT100/IBM PC forms characters on terminals that make this possible (including xterm and most other software terminal emulators). Otherwise it will be drawn with ASCII dashes, vertical bars, and plus signs.

16.11.1. Textbox objects

You can instantiate a Textbox object as follows:

class curses.textpad.Textbox(win)

Return a textbox widget object. The win argument should be a curses WindowObject in which the textbox is to be contained. The edit cursor of the textbox is initially located at the upper left hand corner of the containing window, with coordinates (0, 0). The instance’s stripspaces flag is initially on.

Textbox objects have the following methods:


This is the entry point you will normally use. It accepts editing keystrokes until one of the termination keystrokes is entered. If validator is supplied, it must be a function. It will be called for each keystroke entered with the keystroke as a parameter; command dispatch is done on the result. This method returns the window contents as a string; whether blanks in the window are included is affected by the stripspaces attribute.


Process a single command keystroke. Here are the supported special keystrokes:

Keystroke Action
Control-A Go to left edge of window.
Control-B Cursor left, wrapping to previous line if appropriate.
Control-D Delete character under cursor.
Control-E Go to right edge (stripspaces off) or end of line (stripspaces on).
Control-F Cursor right, wrapping to next line when appropriate.
Control-G Terminate, returning the window contents.
Control-H Delete character backward.
Control-J Terminate if the window is 1 line, otherwise insert newline.
Control-K If line is blank, delete it, otherwise clear to end of line.
Control-L Refresh screen.
Control-N Cursor down; move down one line.
Control-O Insert a blank line at cursor location.
Control-P Cursor up; move up one line.

Move operations do nothing if the cursor is at an edge where the movement is not possible. The following synonyms are supported where possible:

Constant Keystroke
KEY_LEFT Control-B
KEY_UP Control-P
KEY_DOWN Control-N

All other keystrokes are treated as a command to insert the given character and move right (with line wrapping).


Return the window contents as a string; whether blanks in the window are included is affected by the stripspaces member.


This attribute is a flag which controls the interpretation of blanks in the window. When it is on, trailing blanks on each line are ignored; any cursor motion that would land the cursor on a trailing blank goes to the end of that line instead, and trailing blanks are stripped when the window contents are gathered.