tic Man page

tic General Commands Manual tic


tic – the terminfo entry-description compiler


tic [-01CDGIKLNTUVacfgqrstx] [-e names] [-o dir] [-Q[n]] [-R subset] [-v[n]] [-w[n]] file


The tic command translates a terminfo file from source format into com‐
piled format. The compiled format is necessary for use with the
library routines in ncurses(3NCURSES).

As described in term(5), the database may be either a directory tree
(one file per terminal entry) or a hashed database (one record per
entry). The tic command writes only one type of entry, depending on
how it was built:

· For directory trees, the top-level directory, e.g., /usr/share/ter‐
minfo, specifies the location of the database.

· For hashed databases, a filename is needed. If the given file is
not found by that name, but can be found by adding the suffix
“.db”, then that is used.

The default name for the hashed database is the same as the default
directory name (only adding a “.db” suffix).

In either case (directory or hashed database), tic will create the con‐
tainer if it does not exist. For a directory, this would be the “ter‐
minfo” leaf, versus a “terminfo.db” file.

The results are normally placed in the system terminfo database
/etc/terminfo. The compiled terminal description can be placed in a
different terminfo database. There are two ways to achieve this:

· First, you may override the system default either by using the -o
option, or by setting the variable TERMINFO in your shell environ‐
ment to a valid database location.

· Secondly, if tic cannot write in /etc/terminfo or the location
specified using your TERMINFO variable, it looks for the directory
$HOME/.terminfo (or hashed database $HOME/.terminfo.db); if that
location exists, the entry is placed there.

Libraries that read terminfo entries are expected to check in succes‐

· a location specified with the TERMINFO environment variable,

· $HOME/.terminfo,

· directories listed in the TERMINFO_DIRS environment variable,

· a compiled-in list of directories (no default value), and

· the system terminfo database (/etc/terminfo).


-0 restricts the output to a single line

-1 restricts the output to a single column

-a tells tic to retain commented-out capabilities rather than dis‐
carding them. Capabilities are commented by prefixing them with
a period. This sets the -x option, because it treats the com‐
mented-out entries as user-defined names. If the source is
termcap, accept the 2-character names required by version 6.
Otherwise these are ignored.

-C Force source translation to termcap format. Note: this differs
from the -C option of infocmp in that it does not merely
translate capability names, but also translates terminfo strings
to termcap format. Capabilities that are not translatable are
left in the entry under their terminfo names but commented out
with two preceding dots. The actual format used incorporates
some improvements for escaped characters from terminfo format.
For a stricter BSD-compatible translation, add the -K option.

If this is combined with -c, tic makes additional checks to
report cases where the terminfo values do not have an exact
equivalent in termcap form. For example:

· sgr usually will not convert, because termcap lacks the
ability to work with more than two parameters, and because
termcap lacks many of the arithmetic/logical operators used
in terminfo.

· capabilities with more than one delay or with delays before
the end of the string will not convert completely.

-c tells tic to only check file for errors, including syntax prob‐
lems and bad use links. If you specify -C (-I) with this
option, the code will print warnings about entries which, after
use resolution, are more than 1023 (4096) bytes long. Due to a
fixed buffer length in older termcap libraries, as well as buggy
checking for the buffer length (and a documented limit in ter‐
minfo), these entries may cause core dumps with other implemen‐

tic checks string capabilities to ensure that those with parame‐
ters will be valid expressions. It does this check only for the
predefined string capabilities; those which are defined with the
-x option are ignored.

-D tells tic to print the database locations that it knows about,
and exit. The first location shown is the one to which it would
write compiled terminal descriptions. If tic is not able to
find a writable database location according to the rules summa‐
rized above, it will print a diagnostic and exit with an error
rather than printing a list of database locations.

-e names
Limit writes and translations to the following comma-separated
list of terminals. If any name or alias of a terminal matches
one of the names in the list, the entry will be written or
translated as normal. Otherwise no output will be generated for
it. The option value is interpreted as a file containing the
list if it contains a ‘/’. (Note: depending on how tic was com‐
piled, this option may require -I or -C.)

-f Display complex terminfo strings which contain
if/then/else/endif expressions indented for readability.

-G Display constant literals in decimal form rather than their
character equivalents.

-g Display constant character literals in quoted form rather than
their decimal equivalents.

-I Force source translation to terminfo format.

-K Suppress some longstanding ncurses extensions to termcap format,
e.g., “\s” for space.

-L Force source translation to terminfo format using the long C
variable names listed in

-N Disable smart defaults. Normally, when translating from termcap
to terminfo, the compiler makes a number of assumptions about
the defaults of string capabilities reset1_string, car‐
riage_return, cursor_left, cursor_down, scroll_forward, tab,
newline, key_backspace, key_left, and key_down, then attempts to
use obsolete termcap capabilities to deduce correct values. It
also normally suppresses output of obsolete termcap capabilities
such as bs. This option forces a more literal translation that
also preserves the obsolete capabilities.

-odir Write compiled entries to given database location. Overrides
the TERMINFO environment variable.

-Qn Rather than show source in terminfo (text) format, print the
compiled (binary) format in hexadecimal or base64 form, depend‐
ing on the option’s value:

1 hexadecimal

2 base64

3 hexadecimal and base64

-q Suppress comments and blank lines when showing translated

Restrict output to a given subset. This option is for use with
archaic versions of terminfo like those on SVr1, Ultrix, or
HP/UX that do not support the full set of SVR4/XSI Curses ter‐
minfo; and outright broken ports like AIX 3.x that have their
own extensions incompatible with SVr4/XSI. Available subsets
are “SVr1”, “Ultrix”, “HP”, “BSD” and “AIX”; see terminfo(5) for

-r Force entry resolution (so there are no remaining tc capabili‐
ties) even when doing translation to termcap format. This may
be needed if you are preparing a termcap file for a termcap
library (such as GNU termcap through version 1.3 or BSD termcap
through 4.3BSD) that does not handle multiple tc capabilities
per entry.

-s Summarize the compile by showing the database location into
which entries are written, and the number of entries which are

-T eliminates size-restrictions on the generated text. This is
mainly useful for testing and analysis, since the compiled
descriptions are limited (e.g., 1023 for termcap, 4096 for ter‐

-t tells tic to discard commented-out capabilities. Normally when
translating from terminfo to termcap, untranslatable capabili‐
ties are commented-out.

-U tells tic to not post-process the data after parsing the source
file. Normally, it infers data which is commonly missing in older
terminfo data, or in termcaps.

-V reports the version of ncurses which was used in this program, and

-vn specifies that (verbose) output be written to standard error trace
information showing tic’s progress. The optional parameter n is a
number from 1 to 10, inclusive, indicating the desired level of
detail of information. If n is omitted, the default level is 1.
If n is specified and greater than 1, the level of detail is

The debug flag levels are as follows:

1 Names of files created and linked

2 Information related to the “use” facility

3 Statistics from the hashing algorithm

5 String-table memory allocations

7 Entries into the string-table

8 List of tokens encountered by scanner

9 All values computed in construction of the hash table

If the debug level n is not given, it is taken to be one.

-wn specifies the width of the output. The parameter is optional. If
it is omitted, it defaults to 60.

-x Treat unknown capabilities as user-defined. That is, if you sup‐
ply a capability name which tic does not recognize, it will infer
its type (boolean, number or string) from the syntax and make an
extended table entry for that. User-defined capability strings
whose name begins with “k” are treated as function keys.


file contains one or more terminfo terminal descriptions in source
format [see terminfo(5)]. Each description in the file
describes the capabilities of a particular terminal.

If file is “-”, then the data is read from the standard input.
The file parameter may also be the path of a character-device.

All but one of the capabilities recognized by tic are documented in
terminfo(5). The exception is the use capability.

When a use=entry-name field is discovered in a terminal entry currently
being compiled, tic reads in the binary from /etc/terminfo to complete
the entry. (Entries created from file will be used first. tic dupli‐
cates the capabilities in entry-name for the current entry, with the
exception of those capabilities that explicitly are defined in the cur‐
rent entry.

When an entry, e.g., entry_name_1, contains a use=entry_name_2 field,
any canceled capabilities in entry_name_2 must also appear in
entry_name_1 before use= for these capabilities to be canceled in

Total compiled entries cannot exceed 4096 bytes. The name field cannot
exceed 512 bytes. Terminal names exceeding the maximum alias length
(32 characters on systems with long filenames, 14 characters otherwise)
will be truncated to the maximum alias length and a warning message
will be printed.

There is some evidence that historic tic implementations treated
description fields with no whitespace in them as additional aliases or
short names. This tic does not do that, but it does warn when descrip‐
tion fields may be treated that way and check them for dangerous char‐

Unlike the SVr4 tic command, this implementation can actually compile
termcap sources. In fact, entries in terminfo and termcap syntax can
be mixed in a single source file. See terminfo(5) for the list of
termcap names taken to be equivalent to terminfo names.

The SVr4 manual pages are not clear on the resolution rules for use
capabilities. This implementation of tic will find use targets any‐
where in the source file, or anywhere in the file tree rooted at TER‐
MINFO (if TERMINFO is defined), or in the user’s $HOME/.terminfo data‐
base (if it exists), or (finally) anywhere in the system’s file tree of
compiled entries.

The error messages from this tic have the same format as GNU C error
messages, and can be parsed by GNU Emacs’s compile facility.

The -0, -1, -C, -G, -I, -N, -R, -T, -V, -a, -e, -f, -g, -o, -r, -s, -t
and -x options are not supported under SVr4. The SVr4 -c mode does not
report bad use links.

System V does not compile entries to or read entries from your
$HOME/.terminfo database unless TERMINFO is explicitly set to it.

Compiled terminal description database.


infocmp, captoinfo, infotocap, toe, ncurses(3NCURSES),
term(5). terminfo(5).

This describes ncurses version 6.0 (patch 20160213).


Eric S. Raymond and
Thomas E. Dickey