This is an overview on how to use libcurl in your C programs. There are specific man pages for each function mentioned in here. There's also the libcurl-the-guide document for a complete tutorial to programming with libcurl.
libcurl can also be used directly from within your Java, PHP, Perl, Ruby or Tcl programs as well, look elsewhere for documentation on this!
All applications that use libcurl should call curl_global_init() exactly once before any libcurl function can be used. After all usage of libcurl is complete, it must call curl_global_cleanup(). In between those two calls, you can use libcurl as described below.
When using libcurl you init your session and get a handle, which you use as input to the following interface functions you use. Use curl_easy_init() to get the handle.
You continue by setting all the options you want in the upcoming transfer, most important among them is the URL itself (you can't transfer anything without a specified URL as you may have figured out yourself). You might want to set some callbacks as well that will be called from the library when data is available etc. curl_easy_setopt() is there for this.
When all is setup, you tell libcurl to perform the transfer using curl_easy_perform(). It will then do the entire operation and won't return until it is done (successfully or not).
After the transfer has been made, you can set new options and make another transfer, or if you're done, cleanup the session by calling curl_easy_cleanup(). If you want persistant connections, you don't cleanup immediately, but instead run ahead and perform other transfers using the same handle. See the chapter below for Persistant Connections.
There is also a series of other helpful functions to use. They are:
displays the libcurl version
converts a date string to time_t
portable environment variable reader
get information about a performed transfer
helps building a HTTP form POST
free a list built with curl_formparse()/curl_formadd()
builds a linked list
frees a whole curl_slist
portable printf() functions
Starting with 7.7.2 (on unix-like machines), there's a tool named curl-config that gets installed with the rest of the curl stuff when 'make install' is performed.
curl-config is added to make it easier for applications to link with libcurl and developers to learn about libcurl and how to use it.
Run 'curl-config --libs' to get the (additional) linker options you need to link with the particular version of libcurl you've installed.
All public functions in the libcurl interface are prefixed with 'curl_' (with a lowercase c). You can find other functions in the library source code, but other prefixes indicate the functions are private and may change without further notice in the next release.
libcurl works exactly the same, on any of the platforms it compiles and builds on.
There's only one caution, and that is the win32 platform that may(*) require you to init the winsock stuff before you use the libcurl functions. Details on this are noted on the curl_easy_init() man page.
With libcurl 7.7, persistant connections were added. Persistant connections means that libcurl can re-use the same connection for several transfers, if the conditions are right.
libcurl will always attempt to use persistant connections. Whenever you use curl_easy_perform(), libcurl will attempt to use an existing connection to do the transfer, and if none exists it'll open a new one that will be subject for re-use on a possible following call to curl_easy_perform().
To allow libcurl to take full advantage of persistant connections, you should do as many of your file transfers as possible using the same curl handle. When you call curl_easy_cleanup(), all the possibly open connections held by libcurl will be closed and forgotten.