How To Install ncurses Library on a Linux

I need to compile an application with ncurses library and header files. How do I install install ncurses libs and header files on a Linux operating system? How do I write a simple hello world program using the ncurses and compile it on a Linux?

GNU ncurses is software API for controlling writing to the console screen under Unix, Linux and other operating systems. You can create text-based user interfaces (TUI) on a Linux or Unix-like system using ncurses library. [donotprint]
Tutorial details
Difficulty Easy (rss)
Root privileges Yes
Requirements None
Time 5m

Installing the ncurses library in Debian/Ubuntu Linux

  1. You need to install the following two packages:
    libncurses5-dev : Developer’s libraries for ncurses
    libncursesw5-dev : Developer’s libraries for ncursesw
  2. Open the Terminal application.
  3. Type the following apt-get command to install ncurses header and libs:
    sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev

Sample outputs:

Fig.01: Install ncurses library using apt-get

Installing the ncurses library in CentOS/RHEL/Scientific Linux 6.x/7.x+ and Fedora Linux 21 or older

  1. You need to install the following package:
    ncurses-devel : Developer's libraries for ncurses
  2. Open the Terminal application.
  3. Type the following yum command to install ncurses header and libs:
    sudo yum install ncurses-devel

Sample outputs:

Fig.02: Install ncurses library using yum

Installing the ncurses library in Fedora Linux 22.x+

  1. You need to install the following package:
    ncurses-devel : Developer's libraries for ncurses
  2. Open the Terminal application.
  3. Type the following dnf command to install ncurses header and libs:
    sudo dnf install ncurses-devel

How do compile C program and use the ncurses library?

Create a test program called hello.c as follows:

#include <ncurses.h>
int main(void){	
	initscr();			/* Start curses mode 		  */
	printw("Hello World !!!");	/* Print Hello World		  */
	refresh();			/* Print it on to the real screen */
	getch();			/* Wait for user input */
	endwin();			/* End curses mode		  */
	return 0;

First, make sure you install GNU/GCC C compiler on a Linux:

To link to the ncurses library pass the -lncurses option to gcc/cc command:
$ cc -o output input.c -lncurses
$ cc -o hello hello.c -lncurses

Run it:
$ ./hello
Sample outputs:

Hello World !!!

Here is another program:

  (c) Copyright Paul Griffiths 1999
  Moving windows with ncurses.
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <curses.h>
int main(void) {
    WINDOW * mainwin, * childwin;
    int      ch;
    /*  Set the dimensions and initial
	position for our child window   */
    int      width = 23, height = 7;
    int      rows  = 25, cols   = 80;
    int      x = (cols - width)  / 2;
    int      y = (rows - height) / 2;
    /*  Initialize ncurses  */
    if ( (mainwin = initscr()) == NULL ) {
	fprintf(stderr, "Error initialising ncurses.\n");
    /*  Switch of echoing and enable keypad (for arrow keys)  */
    keypad(mainwin, TRUE);
    /*  Make our child window, and add
	a border and some text to it.   */
    childwin = subwin(mainwin, height, width, y, x);
    box(childwin, 0, 0);
    mvwaddstr(childwin, 1, 4, "Move the window");
    mvwaddstr(childwin, 2, 2, "with the arrow keys");
    mvwaddstr(childwin, 3, 6, "or HOME/END");
    mvwaddstr(childwin, 5, 3, "Press 'q' to quit");
    /*  Loop until user hits 'q' to quit  */
    while ( (ch = getch()) != 'q' ) {
	switch ( ch ) {
	case KEY_UP:
	    if ( y > 0 )
	case KEY_DOWN:
	    if ( y < (rows - height) )
	case KEY_LEFT:
	    if ( x > 0 )
	case KEY_RIGHT:
	    if ( x < (cols - width) )
	case KEY_HOME:
	    x = 0;
	    y = 0;
	case KEY_END:
	    x = (cols - width);
	    y = (rows - height);
	mvwin(childwin, y, x);
    /*  Clean up after ourselves  */
    return EXIT_SUCCESS;

Compile and run it as follows:
$ cc -o curwin1 curwin1.c -lncurses
$ ./curwin1

Sample outputs:

Fig.03: Basic window operations in action using ncurses

See this page and GNU ncurses project home page for more information.

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🐧 5 comments so far... add one

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5 comments… add one
  • Bonzodog Sep 6, 2015 @ 18:25

    One of the very earliest O’Reilly books was gloriously entitled “Programming with curses”.

    As if there was any other way………………………

  • santosh kumar dash Dec 14, 2015 @ 16:12

    I have some problem about installing ncurses library on ubuntu 14.04 ,
    i am trying this below two command but no result…
    1. sudo apt-get install ncurses-dev
    2. sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursecw5-dev
    please help me

  • Tom Feb 7, 2016 @ 10:38

    I could not get this to work on Ubuntu 15. A terminal window pops up, but it’s just a terminal window. Nothing like what the tutorial suggests it should look like. I can’t do anything in the terminal, just ctrl+c to kill it.

    • bonzai Sep 26, 2016 @ 20:26

      mvwin(childwin, y, x);

  • yongching Nov 24, 2016 @ 10:20

    when i type , sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev, it said couldnt find package libncurses5-dev…how to solve?

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