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Unix --> Online Manual

man pages

All of the commands in Unix are described online in a collection of files. They are known as man pages because they were originally pages of the UNIX Programmer's Manual. There are eight sections of the man pages:

  1. Commands
  2. System calls
  3. Library functions
  4. Devices and device drivers
  5. File formats
  6. Games
  7. Miscellaneous
  8. System maintenance

If you know the name of a command, you can view its man pages by typing1

    man [section] name
or on some systems

    man [-s section] name
A program called apropos2 is available for those who don't know the name of the command they want. The apropos program searches through the header lines of the man pages for whatever keyword you supply and displays a list of the man pages containing it. For example,

    apropos copy
produces a list of all the man pages that contain copy in their header lines.

The list will contain commands followed by a number in parentheses, i.e. cp (1). The number in parentheses is the section number. If the section number is omitted when doing a man command, the man program searches through each section until it finds the named man page. This works fine if the name is unique, but a few names exist in more than one section. One example of this is intro. There is an intro man page for each section. Typing man intro would get you the intro man page for the first section, but the only way to get the intro man page for section 5 is to type

    man 5 intro
or on some systems

    man -s5 intro
When a man page contains more text than can be displayed on the screen at one time, the first portion of the text is displayed and a -More- appears on the bottom line of the screen. Pressing the space bar will advance to the next portion of text.

Please notify owners of webpages with outdated links to these pages

1 Portions of commands that are in square brackets, [ ], are optional.
2 Some systems do not have the apropos command. Typing man -k will do the same thing.

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© 1993-2001 Christopher C. Taylor