What Does Nroff Mean?

Nroff, or new roff, is a Unix OS text-formatting program that produces output for terminal windows and fixed-width printers. It is used to format manual pages and is an integral Unix help system component.


Nroff is a descendant of RUNOFF or roff.

Techopedia Explains Nroff

Nroff script uses groff to emulate nroff commands and only accepts ASCII, Latin-1, UTF-8 and Cp1047 for output encoding. Nroff commands begin with a period, followed by two letters for command denotion. After the two-letter command, a number may be included to represent the number of spaces, lines or tabs.

A command, which must be located to the far left of a document, is placed directly above the line of applied text. Nroff only recognizes the period as the beginning of a command if the period is in this location.

Commands are easy to remember and use because they are often acronyms or command shortcuts, such as .bp (break point) and .in 3 (indent by 3 spaces). This type of document formatting is known as nroffing.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…