Pman : Manual pages, formatting, roff and PDFs


Not to be confused with pacman. Its a short script I wrote in order to view man pages in my pdf client. Wait, what's a man page I hear you ask?

man ls

This command, "man" will read a roff file and format it appropiately so you can read it. A roff file, is just a plaintext file formatted in a nice way. How nice? Every change in formatting in your text is a line, but this isn't an article about roff. The thing about roff to know, is it was used in the old UNIX days and that man pages are written in them.

The script "pman" in question is this:

man -Tpdf "$@" | zathura - ;

The flag "-T" informs Troff what to convert the troff document into. "pdf" tells us to conver the Troff document to a pdf(I presume by converting to PS, then to PDF, but I may be incorrect). We must then pipe it into a pdf reader, in this case I use zathura as that's my preferred PDF reader.

Other options can be used for -T, including html, ps and dvi(not that you'd want to use the latter 2). HTML and PDF options are useful to me, as it means man pages can be printed or uploaded to the internet as a reference. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if using this, is how most manual pages are done on the web!

Some points to clear up before I move on, and some alternative tools to mention. Firstly, Groff? Troff? Roff? Roff is the original, followed by Troff, followed By Groff(GNU Roff). The differences are minor between them, since they are just continuations and developments upon what was laid down previously. In fact, it's arguable that Roff laid the foundation for programs such as Donald Knuth's TeX program that is used widely in academia.

The alternative tool is "info" another GNU program. I am not a fan of it, as it's effectively a full on TUI for reading and searching manuals, as opposed to a simpler CLI that "man" is. Within emacs, I am aware of a program known as "W.O. Man" which stands for "Without Man", which is another program for reading manual pages.

Do you want to learn more about the "man" command in zathura? Run this:

man -Tpdf man | zathura -;

Articles from blogs I follow around the net

All TechnologyGuide Forums shutting down January 31

The TechnologyGuide network will shut down on January 31! NotebookReview.com, TabletPCReview.com and more!

via Data Horde January 26, 2022

Help Chile write free software values, privacy, and digital sovereignty into their constitution

For those out of the loop, a group which included myself up until recently,1 Chile is in the midst of a revolution. They’re fighting against the increased cost of living, privatization of essential services, and worsening inequality — problems facing everyon…

via Drew DeVault's blog January 19, 2022

jerry's family restaurants

via I'm not really Stanley Lieber. January 18, 2022

Generated by openring