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The Man Pages

The man pages are the online MANual PAGES that come installed with every Unix system. While the manual pages are not the most user friendly, they do contain a wealth of information. They are especially valuable in explaining the particular details of the local OS (operating system), and its effects on a command. To see a man page for a particular command simply type man followed by the command to be examined, for example:

% man grep

The man page for the grep command will then be displayed one page at a time. To see the next line, press the enter-key, to see the next page, press the space-bar, and to quit, press q. Keywords can also be used to search the man pages: man -k keyword will display any entries that contain the keyword. The basic output format for a man page is as follows:

name: Command name and brief decsription

SYNOPSIS: Syntax including any flags the command takes

DESCRIPTION: In depth examination of the command

FILES: files related to the command

SEE ALSO: related commands

This is just a basic form and it may vary from system to system, for example, there might be additional sections for BUGS, and the AUTHOR. To check his current man command on his system, a user could use the man pages themselves - man man.

Throughout the course of this book there may be commands that readers haven't come across, or at least haven't used much. If this is the case, use the man pages. The same goes for errors received when using examples in the book. It is very difficult (if not impossible) to use Unix commands that will be accepted as-is by any flavor of Unix. In most cases where an error occurs, an examination of the man pages will quickly clarify any problems.

Douglas M Gingrich
Mon Apr 27 15:25:49 MDT 1998