tset(1) General Commands Manual tset(1)
tset, reset - terminal initialization
tset [-IQVcqrsw] [-] [-e ch] [-i ch] [-k ch] [-m mapping] [terminal]
reset [-IQVcqrsw] [-] [-e ch] [-i ch] [-k ch] [-m mapping] [terminal]
tset - initialization
This program initializes terminals.
First, tset retrieves the current terminal mode settings for your ter‐
minal. It does this by successively testing
· the standard error,
· standard output,
· standard input and
· ultimately “/dev/tty”
to obtain terminal settings. Having retrieved these settings, tset
remembers which file descriptor to use when updating settings.
Next, tset determines the type of terminal that you are using. This
determination is done as follows, using the first terminal type found.
1. The terminal argument specified on the command line.
2. The value of the TERM environmental variable.
3. (BSD systems only.) The terminal type associated with the standard
error output device in the /etc/ttys file. (On System-V-like UNIXes
and systems using that convention, getty does this job by setting TERM
according to the type passed to it by /etc/inittab.)
4. The default terminal type, “unknown”.
If the terminal type was not specified on the command-line, the -m
option mappings are then applied (see the section TERMINAL TYPE MAPPING
for more information). Then, if the terminal type begins with a ques‐
tion mark (“?”), the user is prompted for confirmation of the terminal
type. An empty response confirms the type, or, another type can be
entered to specify a new type. Once the terminal type has been deter‐
mined, the terminal description for the terminal is retrieved. If no
terminal description is found for the type, the user is prompted for
another terminal type.
Once the terminal description is retrieved,
· if the “-w” option is enabled, tset may update the terminal's win‐
If the window size cannot be obtained from the operating system,
but the terminal description (or environment, e.g., LINES and COL‐
UMNS variables specify this), use this to set the operating sys‐
tem's notion of the window size.
· if the “-c” option is enabled, the backspace, interrupt and line
kill characters (among many other things) are set
· unless the “-I” option is enabled, the terminal and tab initializa‐
tion strings are sent to the standard error output, and tset waits
one second (in case a hardware reset was issued).
· Finally, if the erase, interrupt and line kill characters have
changed, or are not set to their default values, their values are
displayed to the standard error output.
reset - reinitialization
When invoked as reset, tset sets the terminal modes to “sane” values:
· sets cooked and echo modes,
· turns off cbreak and raw modes,
· turns on newline translation and
· resets any unset special characters to their default values
before doing the terminal initialization described above. Also, rather
than using the terminal initialization strings, it uses the terminal
The reset command is useful after a program dies leaving a terminal in
an abnormal state:
· you may have to type
(the line-feed character is normally control-J) to get the terminal
to work, as carriage-return may no longer work in the abnormal
· Also, the terminal will often not echo the command.
The options are as follows:
-c Set control characters and modes.
-e Set the erase character to ch.
-I Do not send the terminal or tab initialization strings to the ter‐
-i Set the interrupt character to ch.
-k Set the line kill character to ch.
-m Specify a mapping from a port type to a terminal. See the section
TERMINAL TYPE MAPPING for more information.
-Q Do not display any values for the erase, interrupt and line kill
characters. Normally tset displays the values for control charac‐
ters which differ from the system's default values.
-q The terminal type is displayed to the standard output, and the
terminal is not initialized in any way. The option “-” by itself
is equivalent but archaic.
-r Print the terminal type to the standard error output.
-s Print the sequence of shell commands to initialize the environment
variable TERM to the standard output. See the section SETTING THE
ENVIRONMENT for details.
-V reports the version of ncurses which was used in this program, and
-w Resize the window to match the size deduced via setupterm(3X).
Normally this has no effect, unless setupterm is not able to
detect the window size.
The arguments for the -e, -i, and -k options may either be entered as
actual characters or by using the “hat” notation, i.e., control-h may
be specified as “^H” or “^h”.
If neither -c or -w is given, both options are assumed.
It is often desirable to enter the terminal type and information about
the terminal's capabilities into the shell's environment. This is done
using the -s option.
When the -s option is specified, the commands to enter the information
into the shell's environment are written to the standard output. If
the SHELL environmental variable ends in “csh”, the commands are for
csh, otherwise, they are for sh. Note, the csh commands set and unset
the shell variable noglob, leaving it unset. The following line in the
.login or .profile files will initialize the environment correctly:
eval `tset -s options ... `
When the terminal is not hardwired into the system (or the current sys‐
tem information is incorrect) the terminal type derived from the
/etc/ttys file or the TERM environmental variable is often something
generic like network, dialup, or unknown. When tset is used in a
startup script it is often desirable to provide information about the
type of terminal used on such ports.
The -m options maps from some set of conditions to a terminal type,
that is, to tell tset “If I'm on this port at a particular speed, guess
that I'm on that kind of terminal”.
The argument to the -m option consists of an optional port type, an
optional operator, an optional baud rate specification, an optional
colon (“:”) character and a terminal type. The port type is a string
(delimited by either the operator or the colon character). The opera‐
tor may be any combination of “>”, “<”, “@”, and “!”; “>” means greater
than, “<” means less than, “@” means equal to and “!” inverts the sense
of the test. The baud rate is specified as a number and is compared
with the speed of the standard error output (which should be the con‐
trol terminal). The terminal type is a string.
If the terminal type is not specified on the command line, the -m map‐
pings are applied to the terminal type. If the port type and baud rate
match the mapping, the terminal type specified in the mapping replaces
the current type. If more than one mapping is specified, the first
applicable mapping is used.
For example, consider the following mapping: dialup>9600:vt100. The
port type is dialup , the operator is >, the baud rate specification is
9600, and the terminal type is vt100. The result of this mapping is to
specify that if the terminal type is dialup, and the baud rate is
greater than 9600 baud, a terminal type of vt100 will be used.
If no baud rate is specified, the terminal type will match any baud
rate. If no port type is specified, the terminal type will match any
port type. For example, -m dialup:vt100 -m :?xterm will cause any
dialup port, regardless of baud rate, to match the terminal type vt100,
and any non-dialup port type to match the terminal type ?xterm. Note,
because of the leading question mark, the user will be queried on a
default port as to whether they are actually using an xterm terminal.
No whitespace characters are permitted in the -m option argument.
Also, to avoid problems with meta-characters, it is suggested that the
entire -m option argument be placed within single quote characters, and
that csh users insert a backslash character (“\”) before any exclama‐
tion marks (“!”).
A reset command appeared in 2BSD (April 1979), written by Kurt Shoens.
This program set the erase and kill characters to ^H (backspace) and @
respectively. Mark Horton improved that in 3BSD (October 1979), adding
intr, quit, start/stop and eof characters as well as changing the pro‐
gram to avoid modifying any user settings.
Later in 4.1BSD (December 1980), Mark Horton added a call to the tset
program using the -I and -Q options, i.e., using that to improve the
terminal modes. With those options, that version of reset did not use
the termcap database.
A separate tset command was provided in 2BSD by Eric Allman. While the
oldest published source (from 1979) provides both tset and reset, All‐
man's comments in the 2BSD source code indicate that he began work in
October 1977, continuing development over the next few years.
In September 1980, Eric Allman modified tset, adding the code from the
existing “reset” feature when tset was invoked as reset. Rather than
simply copying the existing program, in this merged version, tset used
the termcap database to do additional (re)initialization of the termi‐
nal. This version appeared in 4.1cBSD, late in 1982.
Other developers (e.g., Keith Bostic and Jim Bloom) continued to modify
tset until 4.4BSD was released in 1993.
The ncurses implementation was lightly adapted from the 4.4BSD sources
for a terminfo environment by Eric S. Raymond <email@example.com>.
Neither IEEE Std 1003.1/The Open Group Base Specifications Issue 7
(POSIX.1-2008) nor X/Open Curses Issue 7 documents tset or reset.
The AT&T tput utility (AIX, HPUX, Solaris) incorporated the terminal-
mode manipulation as well as termcap-based features such as resetting
tabstops from tset in BSD (4.1c), presumably with the intention of mak‐
ing tset obsolete. However, each of those systems still provides tset.
In fact, the commonly-used reset utility is always an alias for tset.
The tset utility provides for backward-compatibility with BSD environ‐
ments (under most modern UNIXes, /etc/inittab and getty(1) can set TERM
appropriately for each dial-up line; this obviates what was tset's most
important use). This implementation behaves like 4.4BSD tset, with a
few exceptions specified here.
A few options are different because the TERMCAP variable is no longer
supported under terminfo-based ncurses:
· The -S option of BSD tset no longer works; it prints an error mes‐
sage to the standard error and dies.
· The -s option only sets TERM, not TERMCAP.
There was an undocumented 4.4BSD feature that invoking tset via a link
named “TSET” (or via any other name beginning with an upper-case let‐
ter) set the terminal to use upper-case only. This feature has been
The -A, -E, -h, -u and -v options were deleted from the tset utility in
4.4BSD. None of them were documented in 4.3BSD and all are of limited
utility at best. The -a, -d, and -p options are similarly not docu‐
mented or useful, but were retained as they appear to be in widespread
use. It is strongly recommended that any usage of these three options
be changed to use the -m option instead. The -a, -d, and -p options
are therefore omitted from the usage summary above.
Very old systems, e.g., 3BSD, used a different terminal driver which
was replaced in 4BSD in the early 1980s. To accommodate these older
systems, the 4BSD tset provided a -n option to specify that the new
terminal driver should be used. This implementation does not provide
It is still permissible to specify the -e, -i, and -k options without
arguments, although it is strongly recommended that such usage be fixed
to explicitly specify the character.
As of 4.4BSD, executing tset as reset no longer implies the -Q option.
Also, the interaction between the - option and the terminal argument in
some historic implementations of tset has been removed.
The -c and -w options are not found in earlier implementations. How‐
ever, a different window size-change feature was provided in 4.4BSD.
· In 4.4BSD, tset uses the window size from the termcap description
to set the window size if tset is not able to obtain the window
size from the operating system.
· In ncurses, tset obtains the window size using setupterm, which may
be from the operating system, the LINES and COLUMNS environment
variables or the terminal description.
Obtaining the window size from the terminal description is common to
both implementations, but considered obsolescent. Its only practical
use is for hardware terminals. Generally speaking, a window size would
be unset only if there were some problem obtaining the value from the
operating system (and setupterm would still fail). For that reason,
the LINES and COLUMNS environment variables may be useful for working
around window-size problems. Those have the drawback that if the win‐
dow is resized, those variables must be recomputed and reassigned. To
do this more easily, use the resize(1) program.
The tset command uses these environment variables:
tells tset whether to initialize TERM using sh or csh syntax.
TERM Denotes your terminal type. Each terminal type is distinct,
though many are similar.
may denote the location of a termcap database. If it is not an
absolute pathname, e.g., begins with a “/”, tset removes the vari‐
able from the environment before looking for the terminal descrip‐
system port name to terminal type mapping database (BSD versions
terminal capability database
csh(1), sh(1), stty(1), curs_terminfo(3X), tty(4), terminfo(5),
This describes ncurses version 6.1 (patch 20180224).