Tag Archives: man

bropages: It’s like man, bro

I see the evolution of thought that brought about the name “bropages,” and I’ll admit that I too most often learn best just by looking at an example.

2014-10-09-6m47421-bropages-01 2014-10-09-6m47421-bropages-02

bropages is an extrapolation of man pages, focusing on practical examples and very terse explanations, rather than just wordy explanation.

And I am on board with that. I prefer man pages that include examples instead of just dry explanation because, as has been the problem even recently, words get in the way, and the problem compounds itself.

So bropages has its own niche that I can appreciate.

The actual bropages tool — which installs as bro — wins points from me for keeping things simple, but attractive: It is more or less transparent, it sends its responses to your $PAGER, and colorizes the results to make things easier to read. Those are all three big pluses for me.

And for what I have seen, bro makes it easy to contribute to the collective bro-knowledge, with bro add being the gateway to submitting your own individual genius … provided you have an account, of course.

There’s a social networking element (for lack of a better word) here too, with the option to promote or demote examples. For what I can tell, examples with high ratings appear at the top of the list, which might be an indicator of their usefulness.

Might be. I’ve already skimmed through one or two bropages and seen examples that I wouldn’t use, or would at least do differently. You could probably say that about anything, but I think the caveat to bropages is to remember that you’re relying on the collective intelligence of a vast swath of complete strangers. Buyer beware.

The AUR version of bropages worked fine for me; I don’t see bropages in Debian but I think this might be a new endeavor.

If you find bropages particularly useful, be sure to say, “Bro … thanks,” to your bros online. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

groff: Typesetting, in any direction

It seems to me, groff is another one of those programs — like lilypond from so long ago, or even like mencoder or some other conversion tools — that are sitting on the fence in terms of console programs.

groff doesn’t really display anything, that I can find. It converts between specific markups, changing, for example, text-formatted pages to man format. If all goes right, groff doesn’t show you a darned thing. But the output files are quite lovely.

Here’s an example. First, a raw man page converted to ASCII, then formatted to be readable.

2014-08-06-6m47421-groff-01 2014-08-06-6m47421-groff-02

Whenever possible, I try to avoid the Wall of Text effect. O_o

groff can do some other fun things too. Here’s a man page converted to a PDF document.


I know: Acrobat Reader. Ick. ๐Ÿ˜›

You can convert straight to PDF with groff and its included tools, without the need for ghostscript. groff translates between other formats too — including some I had never heard of. Here’s a memorandum macro letter, which was completely new to me until this morning.


Nice and clean output, even if it is in Acrobat Reader. Blech.

There is plenty of help online that will get you started with groff. My favorite discussion, as you will be able to tell as soon as you start into it, was here.

Like I said at the start, as a conversion tool, groff doesn’t seem to show much. In fact, in all those examples, groff never said a word unless there were errors.

So the question remains: Is a taciturn and laconic conversion tool still a console application? Should I have omitted this and all those others? Have I been wasting my time all these years? ๐Ÿ˜ฎ :\

man: Man, oh man

I didn’t include man in my traversal of the M section back in January, and as rameses pointed out later in an e-mail, that was an oversight. One of the best parts of man, he said (she said?), was in this:

man --html=elinks man

which on most systems will give you this:


Ta-da, a man page with clickable links, and navigation that you’ll know and love. If you want to take that home to meet your parents, I can tell you that the Arch version dumps that file into /tmp in an individual folder, usually with a filename that resembles your original command.

Copy that to anywhere you like, and you have a permanent local man page accessible by browser. And you thought all those online manpage collections were Internet wizards, and here they are just script kiddies taking advantage of a built-in feature of man. :\

But wait, there’s more. ๐Ÿ˜ฏ

man -t man

By itself that’s only partially useful, but jam the results through our old friend ps2pdf.

ps2pdf man.ps

And … bingo:


Yeah, I know: Acrobat Reader. I did that just to annoy you. Did it work? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

Now man is clever enough to dump to PostScript file, and of course from there, we can generate spiffy PDF versions of our favorite documentation. Print those out, and you’ll never need digital help again. Or you can study for the edX Linux course next month. ๐Ÿ˜‰

rameses also mentioned it was possible to cue up man pages from within emacs, and I had to hunt down the answer to that one. Turns out just a simple M-x man from within emacs will prompt you for a title, which in turn yields something like this:


Nifty. The only way I know of to do that in vim is man man | vim - which is a bit brutish. Giving vim :!man man doesn’t count, since that’s just dropping back to the shell, and cues most (my $PAGER) as a result. If you know of a better way, please let me know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

In any case, rameses was right: It’s worth checking out man just for its ability to generate alternative formats. I promise to pay better attention next time. ๐Ÿ˜‰

pinfo: A new viewpoint is always welcome

This is subtle, so it might take a few passes before you can see what’s going on here:


That’s pinfo, and it’s perusing its own man page. But pinfo is hard-wired to follow “links,” which I quoted because those aren’t really links like you’re used to in a browser.

So if you watch closely you can see where it jumps from pinfo to curs_getch, then wresize, then resizeterm, and so forth. Almost like a browser, but through man pages.

I really like this. More than once I’ve wanted to jump through man pages like web pages, and this can do it from the console, and with color, and offline if necessary.

pinfo doesn’t just peruse man pages though, it can handle info files and has a few other options to investigate. Both Arch and Debian have pinfo in their repos.

I’m going to try to use this as my $PAGER and see if it creates any havoc. I expect to have it jump into view whenever a program calls for a help page, but that’s just my expectations.

More news later. ๐Ÿ˜‰

apropos: What’s appropriate, at the time

I have apropos on my list for applications, but to be honest it’s more of a command than an actual program.

2013-08-13-v5-122p-apropos 2013-08-13-v5-122p-whatis

apropos (and its sibling whatis) are both part of man-db, and if you try to use apropos and get nothing from it, that’s probably because you need to run mandb first. (Hint, Arch users.)

Once it has a database of commands available to your system, apropos will help you pin down commands you can’t remember or can’t get right.

Notice that the output from the two commands is slightly different; if I understand it right, apropos is searching through man pages while whatis is only skimming descriptions.

apropos and whatis are both good commands for beginners to know, and even seasoned Linux nerds can rely on them at times. I know I do. ๐Ÿ™„