libedit or editline

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libedit is a replacement or alternative to the GNU readline commandline editing functionality. libedit is released under a BSD style licence, so you can use it in your proprietary code.

I found it difficult to get information on libedit, so I decided to write this page to have a central location for all the information I've found.

Where to get it

The main web site that has the latest version can be found at This seems to be the location of the most recent version (2.10), though I haven't tested anything past version 2.6. I also found versions at sourceforge ( ), but this version is 0.3 and it appears the maintainer simply posted the version and hasn't done any work to update it. I have also found a 1.12 version at implements the readline function, but I haven't been able to compile it (it was made for a 2001 debian system).

libedit vs editline

Editline appears to be the decendent of libedit. In the sourceforge version I've found an implementation of the readline function to provide compatibility with the readline library. Newer versions of libedit don't implement this interface, but still provide much of the same functionality. The man page for libedit is however still referred to as editline.

How to Use libedit

The only documentation comes in a man page without being very informative to how to use it. I was able to piece together a simple program using this man page and code from a package which was developed to use libedit called eltclsh. Most of what I wanted was a history with emacs line editing functionality. Below you will find simple code that sits in a loop and echos the command you entered.

  cc -g test.c -o test -ledit -ltermcap

/* This will include all our libedit functions.  If you use C++ don't
forget to use the C++ extern "C" to get it to compile.


/* To print out the prompt you need to use a function.  This could be
made to do something special, but I opt to just have a static prompt.
char * prompt(EditLine *e) {
  return "test> ";

int main(int argc, char *argv[]) {

  /* This holds all the state for our line editor */
  EditLine *el;

  /* This holds the info for our history */
  History *myhistory;

  /* Temp variables */
  int count;
  const char *line;
  int keepreading = 1;
  HistEvent ev;

  /* Initialize the EditLine state to use our prompt function and
  emacs style editing. */
  el = el_init(argv[0], stdin, stdout, stderr);
  el_set(el, EL_PROMPT, &prompt);
  el_set(el, EL_EDITOR, "emacs");

  /* Initialize the history */
  myhistory = history_init();
  if (myhistory == 0) {
    fprintf(stderr, "history could not be initialized\n");
    return 1;

  /* Set the size of the history */
  history(myhistory, &ev, H_SETSIZE, 800);

  /* This sets up the call back functions for history functionality */
  el_set(el, EL_HIST, history, myhistory);

  while (keepreading) {
    /* count is the number of characters read.
       line is a const char* of our command line with the tailing \n */
    line = el_gets(el, &count);

    /* In order to use our history we have to explicitly add commands
    to the history */
    if (count > 0) {
      history(myhistory, &ev, H_ENTER, line);
      printf("You typed \"%s\"\n", line);

  /* Clean up our memory */

  return 0;