GNU Readline

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GNU Readline
Original author(s) Brian Fox
Developer(s) Chet Ramey
Initial release 1989; 25 years ago (1989)
Stable release 6.3 / February 26, 2014; 8 months ago (2014-02-26)
Written in C
Operating system Various
Type Library
License GNU General Public License
Website Official website

GNU Readline is a software library that provides line-editing and history capabilities for interactive programs with a command-line interface, such as Bash. It is currently maintained by Chet Ramey as part of the GNU Project.

It allows users to move the text cursor, search the command history, control a kill ring (a more flexible version of a copy/paste clipboard) and use tab completion on a text terminal.

Readline key bindings are taken from the text editor Emacs, but can be customized. As a cross-platform library, readline allows applications on various systems to exhibit identical line-editing behavior.

Choice of the GPL as GNU Readline's license[edit]

GNU Readline is notable for being a free software library which is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) instead of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL). Free software libraries are often licensed under the LGPL, for example, the GNU C Library, GNU gettext and FLTK.

A developer of an application who chooses to link to an LGPL licensed library when building a new application is required to have the LGPL licensed library which it uses remain under the LGPL when distributing the combined resulting application. The part of the combined application excluding the LGPL licensed library can remain under the original license.[1] This is in contrast to a developer choosing to use a GPL licensed library to create a new application, in which case the entire combined resulting application is required to be licensed under the GPL when distributed, to comply with section 5 of the GPL.[2][3]

Implications of GNU Readline's GPL license[edit]

An important example of an application changing its licensing to comply with the copyleft conditions of GNU Readline is CLISP, an implementation of Common Lisp. Originally released in 1987, it changed to the GPL license in 1992,[4] after an email exchange between one of CLISP's original authors, Bruno Haible, and Richard Stallman, in which Stallman argued[5] that the linking of readline in CLISP meant that Haible was required to re-license CLISP under the GPL if he wished to distribute the implementation of CLISP which used readline.[6]

Alternative command line editing libraries which are permissively licensed can be used by software projects which want to implement command line editing functionality, but wish to remain under a permissive license. For example, the Glasgow Haskell Compiler uses Haskeline (which is licenced under the 3 clause BSD license).

Sample code[edit]

The following code is in C and must be compiled with a -lreadline compiler flag:

#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <readline/readline.h>
#include <readline/history.h>
 
int main()
{
    char* input, shell_prompt[100];
 
    // Configure readline to auto-complete paths when the tab key is hit.
    rl_bind_key('\t', rl_complete);
 
    for(;;) {
        // Create prompt string from user name and current working directory.
        snprintf(shell_prompt, sizeof(shell_prompt), "%s:%s $ ", getenv("USER"), getcwd(NULL, 1024));
 
        // Display prompt and read input (n.b. input must be freed after use)...
        input = readline(shell_prompt);
 
        // Check for EOF.
        if (!input)
            break;
 
        // Add input to history.
        add_history(input);
 
        // Do stuff...
 
        // Free input.
        free(input);
    }
}

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "GNU Lesser General Public License". The GNU Lesser General Public License v3.0 - GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  2. ^ "GNU General Public License". The GNU General Public License v3.0 - GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. 2007. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  3. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU licenses". Frequently Asked Questions about the GNU Licenses - GNU Project. Free Software Foundation. 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  4. ^ "CLISP copyright notice". CLISP repository. 1992. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  5. ^ "Why CLISP is under GPL". CLISP repository. 1992. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  6. ^ "License - why GNU GPL?". Frequently Asked Questions (With Answers) about CLISP. CLISP team. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 

External links[edit]