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Manual Reference Pages  -  PDMENURC (5)


pdmenurc - menu definitions file for pdmenu


     Commands That May Be Used Anywhere
     Commands That Must Appear Inside Menus





The pdmenurc file defines menus for pdmenu(1) to display. Each menu consists of one or more menu entries. The first menu to appear in the file is displayed by pdmenu(1) when it starts up, and can have menu entries that call up submenus.


Here is a sample pdmenurc file:

#Set a pleasing color scheme.

#this is a comment
menu:main:Main Menu:Things to do at foobar
exec:_News::slrn -C
exec:_Directory _Listing:display:ls -l
exec:_Who’s online?:truncate:w
exec:_Finger:edit,truncate:finger ~finger who?:~

menu:games:Games:Some text-based games
exec:_Tetris for Terminals::/usr/games/tt
exit:_Back to main menu..

This will display a menu, with a submenu for games.


pdmenu(1) doesn’t care how the pdmenurc is indented; all whitespace is ignored. However, each command must be on its own line. The commands are grouped into two classes: those that appear only in menus, and those that can appear anywhere in the file.


These commands may appear in a menu, or outside of a menu. They take effect as soon as pdmenu(1) sees them.
menu This starts a menu. All items between this menu command and the next will comprise one menu. If a menu with the same id has already been defined earlier, then all items between this menu command and the next will be added to the menu. The syntax is:

menuid The id of the menu (each menu must have a unique id).
title The title of the menu.
  Text to be displayed at the bottom of the screen when the menu is active.

title This overrides the default title at the top of the screen. The syntax is:


color This changes the color of a part of the display. Later color commands override earlier color commands that would affect the same part of the display. The syntax is:

  The area of the screen which takes on the selected color scheme. Areas of the screen that can be set are:
  The space over which the menus appear.
title The line at the top of the screen.
base The line at the bottom of the screen.
menu The normal color of text in a menu.
selbar The selection bar in the menu, when over normal text.
shadow The shadow of a window
  The color of text in a menu that is a hotkey.
  The color of a hotkey when the selection bar is over it.
  The color of a menu window that is not currently active.
  The color to use in the foreground. Valid colors are:
black gray
red brightred
green brightgreen
brown yellow
blue brightblue
magenta brightmagenta
cyan brightcyan
lightgray white
  The color to use in the background. On most terminals, the background color can only be one of the colors listed in the first column above.

read This causes another menu definitions file to be read in and replace the read command. This is quite similar to #include in a c program. The syntax is:


Note that no checking is done to prevent recursive read commands, and that such a recursive command can crash pdmenu.

  This runs a command, and uses its output as a pdmenurc file, which is read in and replaces the preproc command. Typically a preprocessor such as m4 or cpp will be used. The syntax is:

preproc:command [args]

Note that no checking is done to prevent recursive preproc commands, and that such a recursive command can crash pdmenu.


These commands must always appear within a menu. They are only executed if the user selects them from the menu.
show This displays a submenu. The syntax is:

menuid The id of the menu to show, corresponding to the menuid given in the menu’s definition.
desc The description of the submenu to appear in the parent window.

To place a hotkey in the description, put a ’_’ before the character you want to become the hotkey. It is a good idea to differentiate submenus from commands in a menu by, for example, appending ".." to their descriptions.

flags Currently ignored.

nop This does nothing but place a blank line in the menu. Nop commands may not appear as the first command in a menu. Syntax:

text If this is present, it will appear in the menu where the nop is. Otherwise, the nop in the menu will be a blank line.

  This changes the helptext of the currently displayed menu. The syntax is:

helptext:desc:flags:help text
desc The text to appear on the menu.
flags Currently the only available flag is "command", which makes the help text be read in from a command in the help text field, instead of using the literal value of the field. The first line the command outputs becomes the new help text.

exit If only one menu is on the screen when this is selected, then pdmenu(1) will quit. Otherwise, this will take the user back to the parent menu of the menu they are currently in. Selecting an exit command in a menu is equivalent to pressing ’q’, unless you have ran pdmenu(1) with the -q switch. The syntax is:

desc The description of the menu item.

To place a hotkey in the description, put a ’_’ before the character you want to become the hotkey.

group This creates a menu entry that can run multiple commands at the same time. After the group command, list the commands that make up the group. Close the group with the endgroup command. When the group is selected from the menu, each command in the group will be run, in turn. Note that if a group caintains an exit command, processing will stop there even if there are more commands in the group. Group commands may not be nested. The syntax is:

desc The description of the menu item.

To place a hotkey in the description, put a ’_’ before the character you want to become the hotkey.

  This closes a group command. Every command between the opening group command and the endgroup comprises a group of commands.
exec This runs a command. The syntax is:

  The actual command to run when this item is selected.

Normally, pdmenu(1) passes the command to system(3) for exacution. However, if the first token of the command is "exec", then the command is executed directly with the execvp(3) system call. As such, the pdmenu(1) process is wholly replaced by the command.

desc The description of the command that appears in the menu.

To place a hotkey in the description, put a ’_’ before the character you want to become the hotkey.

flags How to run this command, and what to do with its output. Any number of the following flags can be specified, in any order, separated by commas. (for example, "display,edit")

Some of the flags conflict with each over, for example, ’display’ and ’pause’ cannot both be used at the same time. If conflicting flags are specified, Pdmenu will just pick one of them and use it.

Note that to maintain backward compatability with old versions of Pdmenu, the flags can be formatted differently: as a sequence of characters, each character a flag and corrisponding to the first character of the long flag name, and nothing separating the characters. However, this format is obsolete and hard to understand, and should no longer be used.
  By default the screen is cleared and the terminal is reset to normal before pdmenu(1) runs a command from the menu, and after the command exits, the screen is redrawn. If this flag is set, the screen is not cleared or redrawn. Use it if you have a command on the menu that does not produce any output to the screen. (Conflicts with: ’pause’)
pause Pause after the command exits. Use this if you need to see the output of the command. (Conflicts with: ’noclear’, ’display’, ’truncate’, ’makemenu’, and ’setenv’)
  Display the output of the command in a window. If this flag is set, the ’pause’ flag is disabled, and the ’noclear’ flag is automatically set. If the command outputs lines that are too long, they will be wrapped inside the window. (Conflicts with: ’pause’, ’truncate’, ’makemenu’, ’setenv’)
  Like ’display’, except the output of the command is truncated to fit in the window, not wrapped. (Conflicts with: ’pause’, ’display’, ’mmakemenu’, ’setenv’)
edit Edit the command interactively.

When this flag is set, the command to be run is scanned for any tags of the format ~title:default~. For each that is found, a text entry window is displayed, with the title equal to the contents of the title field, and the default text equal to the contents of the default field.

To use the ’~’ or ’:’ characters in the command without having them interpreted as tag delimiters, escape them with a ’\’ character. (Ie, ’\~’ and ’\:’)

Security warning! Any exec command that uses the ’edit’ flag will be a security hole. The user need only to enter text with a ’;’ in it, and they can run an arbitrary command after the semicolon!

There is no fix for this security problem at this time. If the user running pdmenu(1) is not a trusted user (if they are a guest user, say), do not allow them access to any exec commands that have the ’edit’ flag set.

  This flag lets you generate menus on the fly as pdmenu(1) is running. It runs the command, then processes the output of the command as if it were a pdmenurc file.

Here is a sample use of this flag. It creates a menu of people who are logged on, and lets you talk to one of them. Notice the use of remove to clear the menu after we use it.

exec::makemenu: \
echo "menu:talk:Talk"; \
for u in ‘users‘; do \
echo "exec:$u::talk $u"; \

(Conflicts with: ’display’, ’truncate’, ’pause’, ’display’, ’setenv’)

setenv Set an environment variable.

This flag causes pdmenu(1) to set a variable in its own environment. pdmenu(1) runs the exec command, and looks at the command’s output. The first line should be in the format
Where VAR is the environment variable to set, and value is the new value for the variable.

For example, use "echo PWD=/tmp" to set the current working directory to /tmp. (Conflicts with: ’makemenu’, ’display’, ’truncate’, and ’pause’)

remove This removes a menu from Pdmenu’s list of menus. You should never attempt to remove a menu that is currently being displayed on screen. The syntax is:


desc The description of the command that appears in the menu.

To place a hotkey in the description, put a ’_’ before the character you want to become the hotkey.

flags Currently ignored.
menuid The id of the menu to remove. If the menu wih id menuid does not exist, no error is reported.
This command is typically used after creating and using a new menu via the
’makemenu’ flag to exec, to remove a menu that is no longer needed. For example, if you have the followng pdmenurc:

menu:main:Main Menu
exec::makemenu: \
echo menu:sample:Dir; \
echo exec:_Directory:pause:ls

Each time the user selects "Test" from the Main Menu, the menu that appears has another Directory command on it. If you don’t want this to happen, and you want only one Directory command to be on the menu, add a command to remove the menu after it is used, like this:

menu:main:Main Menu
exec::makemenu: \
echo menu:sample:Dir; \
echo exec:_Directory:pause:ls


If a line ends with ’#146;, pdmenu(1) will read in the next line as part of the same logical line.

If you want the ’:’ character to appear in a field, you may escape out the ’:’ character by placing ’#146; before it. You don’t need to do this if the field is the last field in a line.


Default config file.
If this exists, it overrides /usr/local/etc/pdmenurc.


Joey Hess, <>.


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pdmenu PDMENURC (5) April 05 2016

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