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Terminal utility that reads words from stdin or a file and creates an interactive selection window at the cursor location without clearing the screen. The selected word(s) are sent to stdout for further processing.

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Aug 9, 2015
Apr 24, 2020
Apr 24, 2020
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What is it?

smenu is a selection filter just like sed is an editing filter.

This tool takes words from standard input or from a file and presents them on the screen in different layouts in a scrolling window. A cursor that you can easily move lets you select one or more of them.

Note that the screen is not previously cleared when the scrolling window of smenu is displayed.

I tried to make its use as simple as possible. It supports the UTF-8 encoding and should work on all terminals managed by the terminfo database.

Please use the included man page to learn more about this little program.

The wiki ( contains screenshots and animations that detail some concepts and features of smenu.

How to build it?

smenu can be built on any system on which a working terminfo development platform is available. This includes every Unix and Unix-like system I am aware of.

Please use the provided script to build the executable. This script accepts the same arguments as the GNU configure script, type --help to see them.

The script is also provided if you need to generate a new configure script from and The GNU autotools will need to be installed for this script to work.

How to install it?

Once the build process has finished, a simple make install with the appropriate privileges will do it.

Some examples.

Linux example.

This program should work on most Unix but if you are using Linux, try to type the following line at a shell prompt (here: "$ " ):

$ R=$(grep Vm /proc/$$/status \
      | smenu -n20 -W $':\t\n' -q -c -b -g -s /VmH)
$ echo $R

Something like this should now be displayed with the program waiting for commands: (numbers are mine, yours will be different)

VmPeak¦    23840 kB
VmSize¦    23836 kB
VmLck ¦        0 kB
VmHWM ¦     2936 kB
VmRSS ¦     2936 kB
VmData¦     1316 kB
VmStk ¦      136 kB
VmExe ¦       28 kB
VmLib ¦     3956 kB
VmPTE ¦       64 kB
VmSwap¦        0 kB

A cursor should be under "VmHWM ".

After having moved the cursor to " 136 kB" and ended the program with <Enter>, the shell variable R should contain: " 136 kB".

Unix example.

The following command, which is Unix brand agnostic, should give you a scrolling window if you have more than 10 accounts on your Unix with a UID lower than 100:

$ R=$(awk -F: '$3 < 100 {print $1,$3,$4,$NF}' /etc/passwd \
      | smenu -n10 -c)
$ echo $R

On mine (LANG and LC_ALL set to POSIX) it displays:

at      25 25  /bin/bash      \
sys     0  3   /usr/bin/ksh   +
bin     1  1   /bin/bash      |
daemon  2  2   /bin/bash      |
ftp     40 49  /bin/bash      |
games   12 100 /bin/bash      |
lp      4  7   /bin/bash      |
mail    8  12  /bin/false     |
named   44 44  /bin/false     |
ntp     74 108 /bin/false     v

Note the presence of a scrollbar.

Warning for post v0.9.15 versions.

These versions use a new options system called ctxopt which may contain bugs. Please report them so they can be fixed in the next release of smenu or ctxopt (

Command line arguments may also need to be rearranged in some cases because of this new option management system. Sorry for the extra work this might entail.

Testing and reporting.

The included testing system is relatively young, please be indulgent.

IMPORTANT the testing system has some dependencies, please read the test/README.rst before going further.

NOTE running all the tests by running ./ in the tests directory will take some time (around 21 min for now).

NOTE on some systems like *BSD some tests may fail. This can be explained by differences in posix/libc/... implementations. This can notably occur when some specific regular expressions or uncommon UTF-8 byte sequences are used.

If a test fails for unknown reason, then please send me its directory name and the relevant .bad file.

If you are hit by a bug that no test covers, then you can create a new test in the tests directory in an existing or new directory: read the tests/README.rst file, use an existing test as model, create an .in file and a .tst file and send them to me as well as the produced files.


Contributions are welcome but discuss your proposal in an issue first, or with the maintainer.

Special thanks.

I want to thank those who took the time to package smenu for their preferred operating system or distribution. You will find their names here:


Terminal utility that reads words from stdin or a file and creates an interactive selection window at the cursor location without clearing the screen. The selected word(s) are sent to stdout for further processing.





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