April 19, 2014

Getting Access to Documentation Under Linux - page 2


  • May 29, 1999
  • By James Andrews
The most powerful and useful command available is 'man' (manual). In its simplest form, one simply types 'man' and then the name of the man page. For instance

man wc

brings up the man page of the wc (word count) program. man also has some very basic searching facilities. For instance the command

man -k printer

brings up

a2ps (1) - format files for printing on a PostScript printer
banner (6) - print large banner on printer
lp (4) - line printer devices
lpc (8) - line printer control program
lpd (8) - line printer spooler daemon
lprm (1) - remove jobs from the line printer spooling queue
pac (8) - printer/plotter accounting information
print (3ncurses) - ship binary data to printer
printcap (5) - printer capability data base

on my system.

The content of the man pages is arranged in a highly technical fashion. To be blunt, man pages can seem impenetrable to the neophyte. One important facet of man pages is the way in which they are laid out. There are sections: NAME, DESCRIPTION, OPTIONS, FILES and BUGS are some standard ones. These can be helpful: if you just want to locate the program's configuration files, type:


in the man commands page to search forward for the FILES section and the answer should be there. When man pages refer to other man pages (which they often do) they say something like

see kill(2)

This means that the page for 'kill' it is referring to is in section 2 of the manual. There is more than one kill man page, do a

man -k kill

and see what I mean. To get the kill man page from section 2, do

man 2 kill

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