Linux tput command

Updated: 05/04/2019 by Computer Hope
tput command

On Unix-like operating systems, the tput command initializes a terminal or queries the terminfo database.

This document covers the Linux version of tput.


The tput utility uses the terminfo database to make the values of terminal-dependent capabilities and information available to the shell, to initialize or reset the terminal, or return the long name of the requested terminal type. The result depends upon the capability's type:

string tput writes the string to the standard output. No trailing newline is supplied.
integer tput writes the decimal value to the standard output, with a trailing newline.
boolean tput sets the exit code (0 for TRUE if the terminal has the capability, 1 for FALSE if it does not), and writes nothing to the standard output.

Before using a value returned on the standard output, the application should test the exit code (for example, $?; see sh for details) to be sure it is 0. (See the Exit Codes and Diagnostics sections.) For a complete list of capabilities and the capname associated with each, see the manual for terminfo.


tput [-Ttype] capname [params ... ]
tput [-Ttype] init
tput [-Ttype] reset
tput [-Ttype] longname
tput -S <<
tput -V


-Ttype Indicates the type of terminal. Normally this option is unnecessary, because the default is taken from the environment variable TERM. If -T is specified, then the shell variables LINES and COLUMNS will be ignored, and the operating system will not be queried for the actual screen size.
capname Indicates the capability from the terminfo database. When termcap (the terminal capability database) support is compiled in, the termcap name for the capability is also accepted.
params If the capability is a string that takes parameters, the arguments params will be instantiated into the string.

Most parameters are numbers. Only a few terminfo capabilities require string parameters; tput uses a table to decide which to pass as strings. If no parameters are given for the capability, tput writes the string without performing the substitution.
-S Allows more than one capability per invocation of tput. The capabilities must be passed to tput from the standard input instead of from the command line (see example, below). Only one capname is allowed per line. The -S option changes the meaning of the 0 and 1 boolean and string exit codes (see the Exit Codes section).

Again, tput uses a table and the presence of parameters in its input to decide whether, and how, to interpret the parameters.
-V Reports the version of ncurses (a text interface programming library) which was used in this program, and exits.
init If the terminfo database is present and an entry for the user's terminal exists (see -Ttype, above), the following will occur:

  • If present, the terminal's initialization strings will be output as detailed in the terminfo section on Tabs and Initialization,
  • Any delays (e.g., newline) specified in the entry will be set in the tty driver,
  • Tabs expansion will be turned on or off according to the specification in the entry, and
  • If tabs are not expanded, standard tabs will be set, every 8 spaces.
If an entry does not contain the information needed for any of the four above activities, that activity will silently be skipped.
reset Instead of putting out initialization strings, the terminal's reset strings will be output if present (rs1, rs2, rs3, rf). If the reset strings are not present, but initialization strings are, the initialization strings will be output. Otherwise, reset acts identically to init.
longname If the terminfo database is present and an entry for the user's terminal exists (see -Ttype above), then the long name of the terminal will be put out. The long name is the last name in the first line of the terminal's description in the terminfo database.

If tput is invoked by a link named reset, this has the same effect as tput reset. See tset for comparison, which has similar behavior.

Exit Codes

If the -S option is used, tput checks for errors from each line, and if any errors are found, will set the exit code to 4 plus the number of lines with errors. If no errors are found, the exit code is 0. No indication of which line failed can be given so exit code 1 will never appear. Exit codes 2, 3, and 4 retain their usual interpretation. If the -S option is not used, the exit code depends on the type of capname:

boolean A value of 0 is set for TRUE and 1 for FALSE.
string A value of 0 is set if the capname is defined for this terminal type (the value of capname is returned on standard output); a value of 1 is set if capname is not defined for this terminal type (nothing is written to standard output).
integer A value of 0 is always set, whether or not capname is defined for this terminal type. To determine if capname is defined for this terminal type, the user must test the value written to standard output. A value of -1 means that capname is not defined for this terminal type.
other The reset or init may fail to find their respective files. In that case, the exit code is set to 4 + errno.

Any other exit code indicates an error, as listed in the Diagnostics section.


tput prints the following error messages and sets the corresponding exit codes:

0 The capname is a numeric variable that is not specified in the terminfo database for this terminal type, e.g., tput -T450 lines and tput -T2621 xmc.
1 No error message is printed; see the Exit Codes section.
2 Usage error.
3 Unknown terminal type or no terminfo database.
4 Unknown terminfo capability capname.
>4 Error occurred as per the -S option.


/etc/terminfo The compiled terminal description database.
/usr/share/tabset/* Tab settings for some terminals, in a format appropriate to be output to the terminal (escape sequences that set margins and tabs); for more information, see the manual for terminfo.


tput init

Initialize the terminal according to the type of terminal in the environment variable TERM. This command should be included in the .profile file after the environment variable TERM has been exported.

tput -T5620 reset

Reset an AT&T 5620 terminal, overriding the type of terminal in the environment variable TERM.

tput cup 0 0

Send the sequence to move the cursor to row 0, column 0 (the upper left corner of the screen, usually known as the "home" cursor position).

tput clear

Echo the clear-screen sequence for the current terminal.

tput cols

Print the number of columns for the current terminal.

tput -T450 cols

Print the number of columns for the 450 terminal.

bold=`tput smso` offbold=`tput rmso`

Set the shell variables bold, to begin stand-out mode sequence, and offbold, to end standout mode sequence, for the current terminal. This command might be followed by a prompt: echo "${bold}Please type in your name: ${offbold}\c".

tput hc

Set exit code to indicate if the current terminal is a hard copy terminal.

tput cup 23 4

Send the sequence to move the cursor to row 23, column 4.

tput cup

Send the terminfo string for cursor-movement, with no parameters substituted.

tput longname

Print the long name from the terminfo database for the type of terminal specified in the environment variable TERM.

clear — Clear the screen.
stty — Set options for your terminal display.
tabs — Set tab stops on a terminal.