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menu(3MENU) menu(3MENU)


menu - curses extension for programming menus


#include <menu.h>


The menu library provides terminal-independent facilities for composing menu systems on character-cell terminals. The library includes: item routines, which create and modify menu items; and menu routines, which group items into menus, display menus on the screen, and handle interaction with the user.

The menu library uses the curses libraries, and a curses initialization routine such as initscr must be called before using any of these functions. To use the menu library, link with the options -lmenu -lcurses.

Current Default Values for Item Attributes

The menu library maintains a default value for item attributes. You can get or set this default by calling the appropriate get_ or set_ routine with a NULL item pointer. Changing this default with a set_ function affects future item creations, but does not change the rendering of items already created.

Routine Name Index

The following table lists each menu routine and the name of the manual page on which it is described.

curses Routine Name Manual Page Name
current_item menu_current(3MENU)
free_item menu_new(3MENU)
free_menu new(3MENU)
item_count items(3MENU)
item_description menu_name(3MENU)
item_index menu_current(3MENU)
item_init hook(3MENU)
item_name menu_name(3MENU)
item_opts menu_opts(3MENU)
item_opts_off menu_opts(3MENU)
item_opts_on menu_opts(3MENU)
item_term hook(3MENU)
item_userptr menu_userptr(3MENU)
item_value menu_value(3MENU)
item_visible menu_visible(3MENU)
menu_back attributes(3MENU)
menu_driver driver(3MENU)
menu_fore attributes(3MENU)
menu_format format(3MENU)
menu_grey attributes(3MENU)
menu_init hook(3MENU)
menu_items items(3MENU)
menu_mark mark(3MENU)
menu_opts opts(3MENU)
menu_opts_off opts(3MENU)
menu_opts_on opts(3MENU)
menu_pad attributes(3MENU)
menu_pattern pattern(3MENU)
menu_request_by_name requestname(3MENU)
menu_request_name requestname(3MENU)
menu_spacing spacing(3MENU)
menu_sub win(3MENU)
menu_term hook(3MENU)
menu_userptr userptr(3MENU)
menu_win win(3MENU)
new_item menu_new(3MENU)
new_menu new(3MENU)
pos_menu_cursor cursor(3MENU)
post_menu post(3MENU)
scale_menu win(3MENU)
set_current_item menu_current(3MENU)
set_item_init hook(3MENU)
set_item_opts menu_opts(3MENU)
set_item_term hook(3MENU)
set_item_userptr menu_userptr(3MENU)
set_item_value menu_value(3MENU)
set_menu_back attributes(3MENU)
set_menu_fore attributes(3MENU)
set_menu_format format(3MENU)
set_menu_grey attributes(3MENU)
set_menu_init hook(3MENU)
set_menu_items items(3MENU)
set_menu_mark mark(3MENU)
set_menu_opts menu_opts(3MENU)
set_menu_pad attributes(3MENU)
set_menu_pattern pattern(3MENU)
set_menu_spacing spacing(3MENU)
set_menu_sub win(3MENU)
set_menu_term hook(3MENU)
set_menu_userptr userptr(3MENU)
set_menu_win win(3MENU)
set_top_row menu_current(3MENU)
top_row menu_current(3MENU)
unpost_menu post(3MENU)


Routines that return pointers return NULL on error. Routines that return an integer return one of the following error codes:

The routine succeeded.
Routine detected an incorrect or out-of-range argument.
Routine was called from an initialization or termination function.
Character failed to match.
Menu is too large for its window.
No items are connected to the menu.
The menu has not been posted.
The designated item cannot be selected.
The menu is already posted.
The menu driver could not process the request.
System error occurred (see errno(3)).
The menu driver code saw an unknown request code.


The header file <menu.h> automatically includes the header files <curses.h> and <eti.h>.

In your library list, libmenu.a should be before libncurses.a; that is, you should say “-lmenu -lncurses”, not the other way around (which would give a link-error when using static libraries).


These routines emulate the System V menu library. They were not supported on Version 7 or BSD versions.

The menu facility was documented in SVr4.2 in Character User Interface Programming (UNIX SVR4.2).

It is not part of X/Open Curses.

Aside from ncurses, there are few implementations:

  • systems based on SVr4 source code, e.g., Solaris.
  • NetBSD curses.


Juergen Pfeifer. Manual pages and adaptation for ncurses by Eric S. Raymond.


ncurses(3NCURSES) and related pages whose names begin “menu_” for detailed descriptions of the entry points.

This describes ncurses version 6.4 (patch 20221231).