Man page format is a text format for help files. It is widely used on Unix and related computer systems. It is based on troff format.
How to display
Man pages can be displayed by a standard utility named man. They are usually first installed in a central location.
The man utility can display files directly, without needing them to be installed, but the way to do that depends on the implementation. To display a file named, say, xyzformat.5, at least one of the following commands is likely to work:
$ man xyzformat.5 $ man ./xyzformat.5 $ man -l xyzformat.5 $ nroff -man xyzformat.5 $ groff -man -Tutf8 xyzformat.5
If all else fails, read the manual:
$ man man
Typical man pages are written with the man or mdoc formats, occasionally with a bit of pure troff sprinkled in.
- man: https://www.mankier.com/7/man, or run
man 7 man
- This page also lists a few troff directives sometimes seen in man pages. You will want to be able to process these too.'
- See also roff(7) for what BSDs consider necessary.
- mdoc: https://mandoc.bsd.lv/man/mdoc.7.html, or run
man 7 mandoc_mdoc
- This is the semantic, "modern" way of writing manpages, and there are macros for the program name, the synopsis, ... everything.
Writing a man page
Normally specific software is used to create a man page, however, one can do that via a regular text editor.
|.TH||First command (see below)|
|.HP||Paragraph with heading indent|
|.RS||Start nested indentation|
|.RE||End nested indentation|
The first command (non-comment block) is often (but not necessarily) .TH, it's format consists of the following:
|name||Name of the command that is being documented||command|
|section||Manual section (depending on what the command is, if it is software, then 1)||1|
|centre-footer||Usually a date of editing of the manual page||"2015 April 23"|
|left-footer||Text that goes in the bottom left|
|centre-header||Text that goes in the top centre|
- Todo: There seems to be .IX block that often duplicates what other blocks do. What is it?
- OpenBSD roff(7) says it's a pod2man thing for table of contents.