tads-io Function Set

The tads-io function set provides access to the user interface provided by the TADS 3 Interpreter host applications, as well as file input/output functions. The tads-io function set is available only in T3 implementations that are hosted within a TADS 3 Interpreter environment, so a program that uses this function set will only run in a TADS Interpreter.

The tads-io function set is separate from the tads-gen function set to allow programmers to choose an alternative input/output and user interface function set, if desired, while still using the more general tads-gen functions. Most programs will probably want to use the tads-gen set because of the many data conversion and manipulation functions it contains, even if they're using an alternative user interface.

To use this set of functions in your program, #include <tadsio.h>, or simply #include <tads.h> (which includes both <tadsio.h> and <tadsgen.h>, for the full set of TADS intrinsics). If you're using the adv3 library, you can simply #include <adv3.h>, since that automatically includes the basic system headers.

Banner API

The tads-io function set incorporates a set of functions known as the Banner API. These functions let you divide the interpreter's application window into several independent subwindows. The adv3 library uses this to implement a number of special UI effects, including the standard adventure game "status line" feature.

Using the Banner API requires some knowledge of the underlying display model, which is described in detail in the Banner Model section.

tads-io functions


Clears the banner's display. Removes all text from the banner, and moves the output position back to the upper left corner of the banner's window.

bannerCreate(parent, where, other, windowType, align, size, sizeUnits, style)

Creates a new banner window with the given parameters.

parent is the handle of an existing banner that is to serve as the parent of the new banner, or nil if the new banner is to be a child of the main game window. The new banner's space is obtained by splitting the parent window.

where and other together indicate where the banner goes in the parent's list of children, which determines how the new banner is laid out relative to the other children of the same parent (see the screen Layout overview above). where can be one of the following values:

Note that the child list order specified via where and other is not permanent; it merely determines where the new banner goes in the current child list of the given parent. For example, specifying BannerFirst does not mean that the banner will remain the first child forever; it merely puts it at the start of the current list. If banner A is created with BannerFirst specified, and later banner B is created with BannerFirst, banner A will become the second child after B.

If BannerBefore or BannerAfter is specified, and other is not a valid banner handle or is not a child of the given parent, then the system ignores where and other and inserts the banner as the last child of the parent, as though BannerLast had been specified.

The windowType parameter indicates the type of banner to create; this is one of the following (see "Banner Types" above for more information):

The align value indicates how the banner's space is carved out of its parent's space. This can have one of the following values:

The size parameter gives the initial size of the banner, the meaning of which depends on sizeUnits:

style is a combination of flag values specifying the desired behavior for the banner. Some of the style flags directly indicate particular aspects of the on-screen appearance of the banner; other styles are advisory, giving the interpreter some hints about how you're planning to use the banner, so that the interpreter can select appearance or behavior variations that are appropriate to the current platform. Not all interpreters support all styles, so you have to think of the style flags as hints to the interpreter about the desired appearance, rather than a specification of the actual appearance. After you create the banner, you can use bannerGetInfo() to retrieve the actual style flags, which will give you some indication of how the interpreter treated your request.

The style flags are:

This function returns a handle to the new banner, or nil if an error occurs creating the banner. The banner handle can be used to operate on the banner in other bannerXxx() functions.


Delete the given banner. This removes the banner from the display, and recalculates the layout for all of the other banners remaining on the screen. After this function is called, the banner handle becomes invalid and must not be used for anything else.

Note that any children of the banner being deleted will immediately become invisible. They will remain valid, so you can continue to pass their handles to banner functions, but they will not have any display presence. A banner always obtains its display space by splitting its parent, so once the parent is gone, a child has no way of obtaining any screen space of its own and thus becomes invisible.


Flushes the text output buffer for the given banner, immediately updating the display with any pending text.


Retrieves information on the banner. This function returns a list of values, as follows:

bannerGoTo(handle, row, col)

Move the output position in the given text grid banner to the given row and column. Rows and columns are numbered from 1 at the upper left corner. This function can be used only in text grid windows; in other types of windows, it has no effect.

bannerSay(handle, ...)

Writes one or more text items to the banner. This function treats the parameters following handle the same way that tadsSay() does.

bannerSetScreenColor(handle, color)

Set the background color in the banner. This immediately changes the entire window's background to the given color (in other words, this doesn't merely affect subsequent text, but also affects everything already displayed in the banner). The color values are the same as for bannerSetTextColor(), except that ColorTransparent is not meaningful here. This function can't be used in ordinary text windows (BannerTypeText); use the HTML <BODY BGCOLOR> tag instead.

bannerSetSize(handle, size, sizeUnits, isAdvisory)

Set the size of the banner. The size and sizeUnits parameters have the same meanings they do in bannerCreate(). If isAdvisory is true, it indicates that the size setting is only an estimate, and that a call to bannerSizeToContents() will be made later; in this case, the interpreter might simply ignore this estimated size setting entirely, to avoid unnecessary redrawing. Platforms that do not support contents-based sizing will always set the estimated size, even when isAdvisory is true. If isAdvisory is nil, the platform will set the banner size as requested; set isAdvisory to nil when you will not follow up with a call to bannerSizeToContents().

bannerSetTextColor(handle, fg, bg)

Set the text color in the given banner to the given foreground (fg) and background (bg) colors. The new color settings are used for text subsequently displayed; any text already displayed is not affected. This can't be used in ordinary text windows (BannerTypeText); use the HTML <FONT COLOR> tag instead.

fg and bg can have the following values:

In addition, the special value ColorTransparent can be used for the background color. This indicates that the text should be drawn with a transparent background, and thus should simply be drawn against the banner's current background color.


Resizes the given banner based on the current contents of the banner. For a top-aligned or bottom-aligned banner, this sets the banner's height so that the banner is just tall enough to show all of the contents as currently laid out. For a left-aligned or right-aligned banner, this sets the banner's width so that the banner is just wide enough to hold the banner's single widest indivisible element (such as a single word or a picture). This routine can be used to set the banner's size based on the actual size of the contents; it's impossible to know the exact size of a banner's contents until you actually display the contents, because the sizes of fonts and other display elements vary from one machine to another, and can even change on the same machine in response to user preference settings and other factors.

Note that this routine might not be implemented on all platforms; on platforms where it's not implemented, it's legal to call this routine, but the function will have no effect. To ensure that a reasonable size is always set regardless of platform, callers should always use bannerSetSize() to set an approximate size, passing true for the isAdvisory flag, and then call bannerSizeToContents() to set the exact content-based size. On platforms where bannerSizeToContents() is supported, this will set the exact content-based size; on other platforms, this will at least set the size to a suitable approximation.


Clear the main console window, if possible. The actual effect of this function varies by system; some interpreters clear the window, some display enough newlines to scroll any existing text off the top of the window, and some ignore the call completely.


Immediately flushes text to the output. When you display output using tadsSay(), the text you write isn't necessarily displayed immediately, because the output formatter generally buffers text internally; the exact details of the output formatter's internal buffering vary by platform. The flushOutput() function tells the output formatter to display any buffered text immediately. It is never necessary to call this function, because the formatter automatically flushes its buffers before waiting for user input. It is, however, sometimes desirable to be able to display buffered output explicitly; for example, if your program is going to perform some computation that will take a while, you might want to ensure that the user sees a "please wait" message before the long-running computation begins.

This function takes no arguments and returns no value.


Returns a string giving the name of the active local character set selected by which, which can have one of the following values:

If which is not one of the above values, the function returns nil.

The character set name returned can be used to create a CharacterSet object to perform character-to-byte and byte-to-character mappings.

inputDialog(icon, prompt, buttons, defaultButton, cancelButton)

Displays an "alert box" dialog (also known as a "message box"), and waits for the user to respond. This displays a dialog that includes a short message for the user to read, an icon indicating the general nature of the condition that gave rise to the dialog (an error, a warning, a choice for the user to make, etc.), and a set of push-buttons that dismiss the dialog and (in some cases) let the user choose among options.

On GUI systems, this will use a standard system dialog if the OS provides. On character-mode systems, this will generally not display a GUI-style dialog, but will simply display the prompt string and let the user type a response.

icon gives the type of icon to show in the dialog, if any; prompt is the message string to display; buttons gives the set of buttons to display; defaultButton is the index (starting at 1) among the buttons of the default button; and cancelButton is the index of the cancellation button.

The icon value can be one of the following:

The buttons value can be one of the constants listed below, to select a standard set of buttons:

Alternatively, buttons can be a list (or a list-like object) specifying a custom set of buttons. Each element of the list is either a string giving a custom label for the button, or one of the InDlgLblXxx values listed below to select a standard label. The standard labels should be used when possible, as these will be automatically localized; labels given explicitly as strings will be used exactly as given. If a list of custom button labels is given, the buttons are displayed in the dialog in the order of the list (usually left to right, but this could vary according to system conventions and localization).

Each custom button label string can incorporate an ampersand (&). The letter immediately following the ampersand, if provided, is used as the keyboard shortcut for the button. This is particularly important on character-mode systems, where the "dialog" is typically shown merely as a text prompt, and the user responds by selecting the letter of the desired option. Typically, you should use the first character of a button label as its keyboard shortcut, but this obviously won't work when two button labels have the same first letter; in these cases, you should choose another letter from the button label, preferably something like the first letter of the second word of the button label, or the first letter of the stressed syllable of the most important word of the label.

The button label constants are:

The return value is the index among the buttons of the button that the user selects to dismiss the dialog. The function doesn't return until the user selects one of the buttons.

If an error occurs, the return value is 0. In most cases, this means that the user has closed the game window or disconnected the terminal session. It can also indicate a resource error, such as the system being too low on memory to display the dialog, although this is rare on modern systems. (There's no way to distinguish end-of-file and resource errors, but that's not too important because in either case the best course of action for the game is simply to exit.)


Wait for an event, with the optional timeout, given in milliseconds. If the timeout value is omitted or nil, there is no timeout, so the function waits indefinitely for an event.

The function returns when either an event occurs or the timeout expires. The return value is a list containing one or more elements. The first element of the list is a constant that indicates the type of event that occurred; the remaining elements of the list vary according to the event type. The event type codes are:

Note that new events could be added in the future, so be aware that your code might receive events that aren't on this list. It should always be safe to simply ignore an event you don't recognize or don't want to process; the purpose of events is to notify the program that something has happened, so the interpreter should always be able to carry on with its own processing whether or not your code does anything in response to a particular event.

inputFile(prompt, dialogType, fileType, flags)

Display a file selector dialog and wait for the user to respond. On GUI systems, this displays a standard system file selector dialog; on text-only platforms, this generally just displays the prompt text and waits for the user to type a filename.

prompt is the message string to display in the dialog, to let the user know the purpose of the file selection. On many GUI systems, the physical display area allotted for this message is fairly small, so it's best to keep it short: "Saved game file" or "Log file," for instance. There's usually not any need for a long, detailed message anyway, since in most cases the user will already know what the dialog is for simply because they just initiated the action that triggered the dialog. For example, if the user types SAVE, they'll expect to be asked for a name for the saved game.

dialogType is one of the InFileXxx constants below, specifying whether the request is to select an existing file or to specify the name for a new file. fileType is one of the FileTypeXxx constants below, giving the format of the file being requested; this is used on some systems to filter the displayed list of existing files so that only files of the same format are included, to reduce clutter.

flags is reserved for future use and should be set to zero.

The constants for dialogType are:

The constants for fileType are:

The return value is a list. The first element is an integer giving the status, and additional elements vary according to the status code. The status codes are:

Files selected with inputFile() are granted special permissions that bypass the file safety settings. The program is allowed to read a file selected with an Open dialog, and is allowed to write a file selected with a Save dialog, even if the file safety settings would normally prohibit access to the same file. The special extra permissions are granted because of the direct interaction with the user; the user is asked to select a file to read or write, so the act of selecting the file expresses an intention to allow that operation. (The visual presentation of the dialog is under system control, so the game program can't deceive the user about the basic read or write operation being proposed. It could use the prompt message to lie about the purpose of the file access, but it can't lie about the basic nature of the access.) The special permission is stored as an internal attribute of the FileName object returned by inputFile() function, so you have to use the actual FileName object returned to exercise the special permission. For example, converting the FileName to a string and then attempting to open the file via the string will revert to the ordinary file safety rules for the file.


Read a keystroke from the user. Waits for the user to press a key, then returns a string with the key the user pressed.

This function returns a string indicating which key the user pressed. The key strings have the same meaning as for an InEvtKey event from inputEvent().


Read a line of text input from the user. Returns the text of the input as a string. (The returned string will not contain a newline character.) Returns nil if an "end of file" error occurs, which usually indicates that the user has closed the interpreter application.


Cancels an editing session interrupted by a timeout. This function must be called after inputLineTimeout() returns the InEvtTimeout event code if any display input or output is to be performed before the next call to inputLineTimeout(). This function terminates the editing session, making any changes to the visual display that would have occurred if the user had terminated the command entry by pressing the Return key or some equivalent action. For example, this function changes the display by starting a new line of text after the line that was being edited.

The reset argument indicates whether or not inputLineTimeout() should forget the editing state that was in effect when the timeout occurred. If reset is true, then the next call to inputLineTimeout() will start with a blank input line; if reset is nil, then the next call to inputLineTimeout() will re-display the line of text that was under construction when the timeout occurred, and will restore the editing state (cursor position, selected text range, and so on) that was in effect.


Read a line of text input from the user, with an optional timeout given in milliseconds. See the section on real-time input below for examples of how to use this function. If timeout is missing or is nil, there is no time limit on the input.

This function might not be implemented on every platform, because some platforms do not have the necessary operating system features to support it. If a platform does not support the timeout feature, this function will return an InEvtNoTimeout pseud-event immediately upon invocation if timeout is given as a non-nil value.

The return value is a list, the first element of which gives an event code. Additional elements vary according to the event type. The event codes are:

When this function returns the InEvtTimeout event code, the caller must not perform any display input or output operations in the same window until after calling inputLineCancel(), with the single exception that the caller can call inputLineTimeout() again with no intervening call to inputLineCancel().

After a timeout occurs, if inputLineTimeout() is called again with no intervening call to inputLineCancel(), then inputLineTimeout() resumes editing the interrupted command line. In this case, there is no visible effect of the timeout; from the user's perspective, the timeout never occurred. This allows the program to carry out background operations silently while the user edits a command line.

If a timeout occurs and inputLineCancel(nil) is subsequently called, then inputLineTimeout() is called again, the new call to inputLineTimeout() re-displays the command line as it was at the time of interruption, and then allows the user to resume editing where they left off. In this case, there is a visible change to the display, in that the command line is re-displayed; however, all of the editing state (cursor position, selected text range, history recall position, and so on) is duplicated from the previous editing session. So, although the user will see that editing was interrupted, the user can continue editing the command line exactly where they left off.

When this function is called without the timeout argument, or with nil as the timeout value, it is similar to inputLine(), in that it allows the user to edit a line of text, with no upper limit on how long to wait until the user finishes. However, this function differs from inputLine() in one important respect: if the preceding call to inputLineTimeout() ended with the timeout expiring, and no intervening call to inputLineCancel(true) was made since the timeout occurred, this function will resume editing of the interrupted command line.


Closes the given console. This function closes the operating system file, so no further text can be written to the console after this function is called.

logConsoleCreate(filename, charset, width)

Creates a "log console." A log console is a special system object that behaves much like the main game window, except that all of the text written to a log console is captured in a text file rather than being displayed.

filename is a string giving the name of the file to write, a FileName object, or a TemporaryFile object; any existing file with the same name will be overwritten. charset can be a CharacterSet object, a string giving the name of a character set, or nil to use the default log file character set. The text in the log file will be written in the selected character set. width is the maximum width, in text columns, for the text written to the file; the console will automatically word-wrap the written text to this width.

The return value is a "handle," which identifies the new console in calls to other logConsoleXxx functions; if the return value is nil, the system was unable to create the console.

If the given file cannot be created (because the name is invalid, for example, or because there's no space on disk), a FileCreationException is thrown. The "file safety" level must allow the operation, otherwise a FileSafetyException is thrown.

Log consoles are in some ways similar to text files based on the File intrinsic class. The difference is that text written to a File object is written character-for-character exactly as you specify. In contrast, the text written to a log console is processed the same way as text displayed to the player: HTML markups are processed (although, in a log console, only the text-only subset of HTML can be used, regardless of the kind of interpreter being used), the text is word-wrapped (to the fixed width given when the log console is created), excess whitespace is removed, and so on.

Log consoles are also similar to the log files created with setLogFile(). The only difference is that setLogFile() can only capture text that is also displayed to the main game window; a log console has no display component at all, so you can use a log console to capture text exclusively to a file, without also showing it to the user.

Starting in 3.1.1, the file safety settings must allow write access to the target file. FileName objects obtained from inputFile() "save" dialogs are always accessible.

logConsoleSay(handle, ...)

Writes the given arguments to the given log console. This behaves just like tadsSay(), but writes the text to the given log console instead of to the main game window. The handle is a log console handle previously returned from logConsoleCreate().

You can also pass the special value MainWindowLogHandle for handle. Doing this writes the text to the main game window's transcript file, if any - this is the log file that's created by setLogFile(filename, LogTypeTranscript). If you pass this special handle value when there isn't an active transcript for the main game window, the function is simply ignored; it's legal to call it in this case, but it will have no effect. (You can't use logConsoleClose() to close this special handle; to close the main game window's log file, you must call setLogFile(nil, LogTypeTranscript).)

Note that you can also write text to the main game window's transcript - without having the text show up in the main window itself - by writing the text to the main window and enclosing the text in <LOG>...</LOG> tags. These tags hide the text from the display window, but include it in the transcript file. They're the complement of the <NOLOG>...</NOLOG> tags, which you can use to show text in the game window but exclude it from any transcript file. The <LOG>...</LOG> sequence is often a better way than logConsoleSay() to add text to the main transcript, since it lets you write the text through the library's standard stack of output filters. Calling logConsoleSay(MainWindowLogHandle, val) is best for situations where you specifically want to bypass the normal output stream handling for the main game window, and instead go directly to the file.


Display the MORE prompt on the main console window, and wait for the user to respond. This can be used when you want to pause execution and wait for the user to acknowledge some output before proceeding.


Check to see if the given resource can be found. Returns true if the resource is present, nil if not. For HTML TADS 3, this looks for an HTML resource; text-only TADS 3 interpreters always return nil for this function, since they don't use multi-media resources at all.

The resource name resname should be specified as a URL-style name string. The interpreter will look for the resource using the same searching rules that it uses for normal resource loading; the HTML interpreter will thus look for the resource bundled into the image file, in any external resource files (image.3r0 through image.3r9), and finally in an external file whose name is derived from the URL according to local system conventions.

setLogFile(fname, logType?)

Log console output to a file, or stop logging.

If fname is not nil, this starts logging to the specified file. fname can be a string giving the name of the file for saving the log, a FileName object, or a TemporaryFile object. If fname refers to an existing file, the existing file will be overwritten by the new log output.

If fname is nil, the function turns off the specified type of logging, closing the current log file.

logType specifies the type of logging to perform:

The return value is true if the operation succeeded, nil if the file couldn't be opened. Opening a file can fail due to the usual file system errors, such as an invalid filename, insufficient disk space, or file permission errors. When closing a file (by passing nil for fname), the function always returns true.

You can record a "transcript" and a "script" file simultaneously, but only one of each type can be recorded at a time. If you start a new transcript file (LogTypeTranscript), any previous transcript will be closed. Similarly, if you start a new script file (LogTypeCommand or LogTypeScript), any previous script file will be closed. Recordings don't nest; starting a new recording simply stops any previous recording of the same type.

Refer to Input Scripts for more details on scripts, including the differences between Command-line and Event scripts.

Starting in 3.1.1, the file safety settings must allow write access to the target file. FileName objects obtained from inputFile() "save" dialogs are always accessible.

setScriptFile(filename, flags?)

Start reading commands from a script file, or cancel existing script input.

If filename is not nil, this starts reading from the given file. filename can be a string containing the name of a file in the local file system, a FileName object, or a TemporaryFile object.

If filename is nil, this cancels input from the current script, as though the end of the file had been reached. If the current script file is nested within another script, this returns to the enclosing script.

The optional flags value lets you specify how to read the script file. The following values can be combined (with the bitwise OR operator "|"):

If the flags argument is omitted, a default value of 0 will be used, so none of the flags will be set.

The function returns true on success, nil on error. An error return means that the script file doesn't exist or couldn't be opened. The function always returns true if filename is nil.

When the interpreter reaches the end of a script file, it automatically closes the file and returns to normal keyboard input, so calling this function with filename set to nil isn't necessary unless you want to explicitly interrupt the script before reaching the end of the file.

Input scripts can be nested. If setScriptFile() is called with a non-nil filename when a script file is already in effect, the interpreter will remember the position in the old script file, then start reading from the new script file; upon reaching the end of the new script file, or upon an explicit setScriptFile(nil) call, the interpreter will resume reading from the old script file. Scripts can be nested in this manner to any depth. This allows one script file to "include" another, for example.

See Script Files for information on how input scripts are interpreted.

Status queries: In version 3.0.17 and later, this function can also query the current script playback status. To get the status, use setScriptFile(ScriptReqGetStatus). If input is currently being read from the keyboard, the return value is nil. If a script is being played back, the return value is an integer giving a combination of ScriptFileXxx flags describing the playback mode. Note that a return value of 0 (zero) indicates that a script is being played back, but that none of the mode flags apply.

In addition to the flags defined above, the flag ScriptFileEvent is included in the status value if the current script is an event script rather than a command-line script. Note that this flag is ignored if you include it in the 'flags' argument when calling setScriptFile() to start playback of a new script; the script reader automatically determines whether the new script is an event script or a command-line script by examining the file's contents. The purpose of this additional flag is to let you find out what the script reader decided about the current script.

If you call the function in this form on VM versions prior to 3.0.17, the function will throw a RuntimeError, because earlier implementations only accepted a string or nil for the first argument. You can use try-catch to handle this situation: if the function throws a RuntimeError (with errno_ == 2019), it means that you're running on a version of the VM that doesn't support the function.

Starting in 3.1.1, the file safety settings must allow read access to the target file. FileName objects obtained from inputFile() "open" dialogs are always accessible.


Set the "status line mode." This can be used to control the status line in non-HTML mode and for older text-only interpreters that don't support the Banner API. The mode setting controls where text is displayed; this can be one of the following:

To write to the status line in non-HTML mode and on text-only interpreters, set the status mode to StatModeStatus, write the status line text as though it were ordinary display output, and finally set the status mode back to StatModeNormal:

"Loud Room";


Write the text string txt to the right half of the status line. This can be used to control the right portion of the status line on older text-only interpreters that don't support the Banner API.

systemInfo(infoType, ...)

Retrieve information about the TADS 3 application environment. This retrieves information on the interpreter and operating system that's running the program.

infoType is one of the SysInfoXxx constants listed below; it specifies the type of information being requested. Additional parameters vary according to the infoType value; unless otherwise specified, no additional parameters are used. The return value contains the information requested; the type and meaning vary according to the infoType code.

This API is designed to allow for future SysTypeXxx codes to be added in future versions, as follows. In particular, it's legal to pass an arbitrary integer value for infoType; if the interpreter doesn't recognize the selector value, it will always return nil as the result of the function. This allows a newer game to use a recently added selector code, and still get meaningful results from an older interpreter that was released before that selector code was added. Therefore, nil is a special return value for this function: it always means either that the selector isn't recognized, or that the selector is recognized but the feature it asks about isn't present; in either case, it tells the caller that the feature being queried can't be used.

The infoType codes are:

tadsSay(val, ...)

Display one or more values. Each value is displayed on the console, starting with the first argument; the displayed values are not separated by any spaces or other delimiters. The formatting for each value depends upon its type:

The function has no return value.


Pause execution for the given number of milliseconds. The precision of system timers varies, so the actual delay might differ somewhat from the exact time specified on some systems according to the available hardware timer precision.

Real-time input

A real-time event is an event that occurs at a particular point in "wall-clock" time; for example, an event programmed to occur at 9:00 PM is a real-time event, because it's scheduled according to time in the real world. It's more typical to schedule a real-time event to occur after some number of seconds or minutes has elapsed than to schedule one for a particular time on the clock on the wall, but elapsed-time events are also real-time events, because they depend on the passage of time on the clock.

In most programs that take their input from a command line (say, text adventure games), reading a command line from the user stops everything until the user finishes entering the command by pressing Enter. This is known as a "blocking" operation, because the operation blocks the program's progress until the command line is finished: the program simply waits as long as it takes for the user to type the command line and press the Enter key. For this reason, command-line programs don't usually incorporate real-time events, and most programs with real-time events don't use command lines.

TADS 3 has the ability to mix command-line input and real-time events, thanks to the inputLineTimeout() function. This section describes how to use this feature.

Note that the information below applies to the low-level system API. If you're using the adv3 library, you won't have to worry about any of these details, because adv3's input and output managers work together with its real-time event manager to handle all of this for you automatically. With adv3, you simply create real-time event objects describing the event timeline, and the library's input manager handles everything else.

The inputLineTimeout() function works a lot like the ordinary inputLine() function, which reads a line of text from the keyboard and returns a string containing the text, but inputLineTimeout() has the additional feature of letting you specify a time limit, called a "timeout." A timeout is simply a maximum real-time interval; when the interval expires, inputLineTimeout() returns, even if the user hasn't finished editing the command line. The function returns information that lets you tell whether or not the user finished editing the command before the timeout expired. (If the user finished entering the command and presses Enter before the timeout expires, the function returns immediately - the timeout is the longest the function will wait to return, but it can return sooner if the user types fast enough.)

At the simplest level, you could imagine a game that imposes a time limit for typing certain commands. For example, a sadistic game designer might want to design a traditional adventure game maze, with the novel twist that the player has to move out of each room within ten seconds of real time or face some penalty, such as being moved back to the start of the maze. To do this, you could use inputLineTimeout() with a timeout value of 10000 (ten thousand milliseconds equals ten seconds), imposing the penalty if the function ever returns with a timeout.

This type of use of inputLineTimeout() wouldn't win many admirers, but fortunately it's not at all the scenario for which this function was designed. In fact, the key feature of the function is that it not only allows you to interrupt a command line, but also allows you to resume an interrupted command line. This is crucial: because you can resume an interrupted command line, you can write your program so that it continues to process events in real time, even while the user is editing a command; the user's editing and your real-time events can proceed in parallel, with neither blocking the other.

There are three possible ways to use inputLineTimeout().

Scenario 1: Limited-time input. This is the real-time-maze scenario described above, where the program solicits command-line input from the user, but only allows the user a limited amount of time to complete the input. In this scenario, when the time limit expires, the user's chance to enter a command has ended: the program does not allow the user to resume editing the command later.

This is the simplest scenario, because the program unconditionally cancels the input when it times out. To do this, you simply call the function inputLineCancel() when a timeout occurs. Here's how this looks:

/* read a command, with a 10-second time limit */
local result = inputLineTimeout(10000);
if (result[1] == InEvtTimeout)
  /* timed out - cancel input and forget the buffer */

   *  gloat about defeating the user with our clever time
   *  limit ruse, using the spelling enjoyed by usenet
   *  posters everywhere
  "Ha, ha!  You LOOSE!";
  // etc
  /* darn, they were fast enough */
  // move to the new location, etc

Scenario 2: Internal computation only, with resumed editing. Sometimes you'll want to perform some operation at a particular time, but the operation won't perform any display operations. For example, suppose you're writing a detective game, and you have one character in the game who moves around according to a real-time schedule. When you're about to read an input line, you can check the character's schedule, calculate the delay until the character's next move, and then use that delay as the timeout value for inputLineTimeout().

If inputLineTimeout() returns a timeout event, you'd move your character according to the schedule. Now, suppose the character isn't in sight of the player character at any point during the scheduled travel. In this case, you wouldn't want to display anything about the character's travel: everything happens behind the scenes. So, you need to perform the event in real time, so that the character moves to its new location on schedule, but as far as the player is concerned, nothing happened.

In this case, you'd simply call inputLineTimeout() again after moving the character. The function would pick up where it left off, with absolutely no effects visible to the player. Nothing on the display changes in this case, so the player simply thinks they've been editing the same command all along.

The code for this is easy, as long as we can take for granted that we know when the character's next move occurs.

/* show the initial prompt */

/* keep looping forever */
for (;;)
  local delay;
  local result;

  /* calculate the interval until the next travel */
  delay = actor.nextMoveTime - getTime(GetTimeTicks);

  /* ask for input, waiting no longer than the timeout */
  evt = inputLineTimeout(delay);

  /* if we timed out, move the character */
  if (result[1] == InEvtTimeout)
    /* time to go */
    /* they entered a command - handle it */

    /* show the prompt again */


Note that it's legal to update banner windows during interrupted input. You could use code just like the example above, substituting banner window displays for the performNextTravel() call. For example, you could keep a running real-time clock in a banner window, updating it at each input timeout. As long as you're not updating the main window, where the input editing session is taking place, it's not necessary to cancel input editing (as described in the next scenario).

Scenario 3: Interruption with a displayed message, then resumed editing. This is the most complex situation, but in many ways the most interesting. In this scenario, we want to tell the user about something that happened during the real-time event, but we still want to let the user go back to editing the command line after we finish processing the event.

Our detective example above fits this scenario when the traveling actor is in sight of the player character, because in this case we want to tell the user that the traveling actor has departed or arrived. Once we've described the departure or arrival, though, we want to let the user continue editing the command, because the interruption doesn't necessarily change what they would have typed, and (unlike Scenario 1) doesn't take away the user's chance to type a command.

In this situation, we have to use the inputLineCancel() function, passing nil as the reset argument. This function tells the system that we are not processing Scenario 2; in particular, it tells the system that it won't be able to pretend that the interruption never happened. The reason we have to differentiate this case from Scenario 2 is that when inputLineTimeout() returns with a timeout, the system optimistically keeps everything on the screen and in memory in a state where it could resume editing the same command later. This means that any display operations - even something as simple as displaying a string of text - would leave things terribly confused, because the system is holding everything ready for more command line editing. To tell the system that we wish to give up our right to resume editing with complete transparency, and in exchange receive the right to perform other display operations, we use inputLineCancel(nil).

Note that we use nil for reset argument to inputLineCancel() in this scenario. This is because we wish to resume editing the command line later. This might seem confusing - if we want to resume editing the command later, why are we canceling in the first place? The solution to this seeming contradiction is that canceling and resetting are not the same thing. Canceling, which is what inputLineCancel() does regardless of the reset argument, simply tells the system to give up hope for transparently resuming editing. Resetting, which only occurs when the reset argument to inputLineCancel() is true, tells the system to throw away all information about editing. So, when you cancel without resetting, you tell the system that you won't transparently resume editing, but that you still wish to resume editing later, albeit not transparently.

Here's what this looks like to the user. First, here's the way the screen looks when the user is first presented with the command line:

What do you, the detective, want to do next?

(That vertical bar, |, is meant to represent the cursor, where text the user types is inserted.) Now, the user starts typing a command, and the screen looks like this after a bit:

What do you, the detective, want to do next?
>look at the v|

Now, at this point, our timeout expires, and we discover that it's time to move Miss Marmalade into the same room where the player character is located. We call inputLineCancel(nil) to tell the system that we wish to perform some output operations in lieu of resuming editing transparently, then we add our displayed messages. Finally, we call inputLineTimeout() again to resume editing. Here's what the user sees:

What do you, the detective, want to do next?
>look at the v

Miss Marmalade enters from the north.  She pretends
not to see you, busying herself with rummaging for
something in her purse.

>look at the v|

Notice that the partially-constructed command line now appears twice on the screen - once before the interruption, and again after. The first copy is no longer the active command line; it's left on screen only to maintain continuity, so that the user isn't startled by the text suddenly disappearing. After this, we see the text displayed during the real-time interruption, and finally we see the new command line, where we've reinstated the text the user has entered so far, as well as the original cursor position.

This is what we mean by "non-transparent" resumption of editing. The resumption isn't transparent, in that the user can plainly see on the screen that the editing was interrupted. We are nonetheless resuming the editing session fairly seamlessly. If the user had their eyes closed, they could keep editing the command without knowing that we interrupted them, because the text on the line, the cursor position, and all other editing state is the same as it was before the interruption; the only thing that has changed is that more text is on the screen than when we started.

The code for this case is almost exactly the same as the example code in Scenario 2, with two changes. First, we must call inputLineCancel(nil) before we display the message about Miss Marmalde moving; we'd put this call just before the call to actor.performNextTravel(). Second, we'd have to re-display the > prompt before we resume editing the command; we could do this before the call to inputLineTimeout().