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text.dat file

Much of the text and color that the BBS Terminal Server displays (sends to a remote terminal) is stored as strings of text in the ctrl/text.dat file. The syntax of the text.dat file is very specific and extreme caution should be taken when editing the file.

Each line of the text.dat is limited to 255 characters (including comments), while each text string defined in the text.dat file has a maximum length of 2000 characters.


Each text.dat string value is defined with a string of ASCII characters between double-quote characters:

"this is an example text.dat string"

Any text after the terminating (ending) double-quote character is ignored when the text.dat file is parsed by Synchronet. The stock text.dat file contains helpful numbers and names (comments) after the terminating quotes, but these comments are not actually required.

The content between the double-quotes is mostly just printable ASCII characters, but may also include:

  • Ctrl-A codes (e.g. to change the color of the text, if/when supported by the terminal)
  • @-codes (e.g. used to perform terminal cursor control or include external content)
  • C printf-specifiers (e.g. %s, %d, used for dynamic variable content)
  • C printf escape sequences (e.g. \r, \n, used for special non-printable characters)
  • Mmemonics (e.g. prompts with command keys denoted with a ~ character)

The syntax of the characters between the double quotations is identical to the C language printf() format string with one exception: \xxx where x are digits (0-9) represents a decimal number, not an octal number. The range is 0 to 255. If you wish to set a background color using \1 for the Ctrl-A code, you may need to pad the attribute number with zeroes. For example; to set the background to blue, you might try to use the sequence “\14” which won't work. You could either embed the actual Ctrl-A character or use “\0014”.

Escape Sequences

Sequences Explanation
\\ Backslash ('\') character
\? Question Mark (not normally necessary)
\' Single Quotation Mark
\“ Double Quotation Mark
\xXX Embedded character in hexadecimal notation (\x00 through \xFF)
\nnn Embedded character in decimal notation (\000 through \255)
\r Carriage Return (ASCII 13) character
\n Line-feed (ASCII 10) character
\t Horizontal Tab (ASCII 9) character
\b Backspace (ASCII 8) character
\a Alarm/bell (ASCII 7) character
\f Form-feed (ASCII 12) character
\v Vertical Tab (ASCII 11) character

See Also: Escape_sequences_in_C

To continue a text string onto the next line of the text.dat file (e.g. to creating long text strings without using long lines), place a backslash ('\') character immediately after the terminating double-quote character of each line, except for the last.

The order of the % specifiers (if they exist) in a text.dat line cannot be altered. The display of %s specifiers can be suppressed by changing the %s to %.0s. There are advanced Ctrl-A codes that may also be used for the suppression of text sent to users with an insufficient security level or lacking a security flag.

You can suppress the display of an entire text.dat line by simply setting the text to a blank string (”“).


Some of the text.dat strings have characters preceded by a tilde ('~'). These strings are referred to as mnemonics. The tilde precedes a character that is to be highlighted for users supporting ANSI and enclosed in parenthesis for non-ANSI users. Mnemonics are usually used for prompt strings that contain the valid key commands. The colors to use for the highlighted characters, normal characters, and the command character are specified in the ctrl/attr.cfg file.


So-called @-codes may be used in many text.dat lines. With the use of the MENU, TYPE, INCLUDE, EXEC, and EXEC_XTRN @-codes, the text.dat may be enhanced with externally-loaded and potentially dynamically-changing content.

Exception: For security reasons, text.dat lines that contain %-specifiers may not also include @-codes.


Knowledge of the C programming language may be very helpful in producing the desired results. If all you want to do is change colors of a certain text line, take care not to disturb the arrangement of the other characters on the line. Ctrl-A codes can be preceded by an embedded actual Ctrl-A (ASCII 0x01) character or by a '\1' (the C printf() escape sequence representing a Ctrl-A character).

Customization Methods

There are multiple ways to customize the contents of the text.dat file:

  1. Edit the text.dat file directly (e.g. using a text editor, but do this with care, see above)
  2. Use the Baja REPLACE_TEXT or JavaScript bbs.replace_text function to replace a single line, programmatically (e.g. in a login/logon script or command-shell)
  3. Use the Baja LOAD_TEXT or JavaScript bbs.load_text function to load an alternative text.dat file (e.g. in a login/logon script or command-shell)

Note: The default (US-English) values of all text.dat strings are hard-coded into Synchronet (e.g. sbbs.dll or so if any lines are missing from your text.dat file or the file itself is missing, the default values will be automatically used.

WARNING Make a backup of the text.dat file before you edit it. If you damage the file syntax when editing it, Synchronet may execute erroneously or even fail to initialize.

Suppressing Questions

Most yes/no type prompts in the text.dat have names/descriptions that end in a 'Q' (for “Question”). Examples:

  • AnonymousQ
  • DeleteMailQ
  • DeletePostQ
  • AreYouSureQ
  • LogOffQ

These questions may be suppressed (never asked of the user) by changing the corresponding text value to a blank string (i.e. ”“). When suppressed, the default answer to the question will be assumed. The default answer may be “Yes” or “No”, depending on the context of the question being asked of the user.

See Also

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