Man Page

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What Does Man Page Mean?

Man page is short for manual page, which is a type of electronic or software documentation usually found in Unix and Unix-like operating systems. It provides users with detailed documentation for included software programs, system commands, formal standards and conventions, and operating system nuances such as system and library calls. The man page is usually invoked through the command "man," followed by the object, command name or topic, e.g., "man shell."

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Techopedia Explains Man Page

Man pages are descriptive help systems that may also contain procedural help (such as how-tos) and, sometimes, even contain the history of the command, such as why it came to be and descriptions of its versions and revisions.

The first man pages were written in 1971 by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson at the insistence of their manager Doug McIlroy. The Programmer’s Manual was also created along with the man pages; this contained short papers and tutorials for general Unix usage, a manual for the C programming language, as well as documentations for the tools and applications such as Yacc.

Man pages are formatted by default using the troff typesetting package, either with the macro package, which is appearance oriented, or with mdoc, which is semantic oriented. This format makes it easy to typeset the man pages into Postscript, PDF or other formats for printing or viewing. A number of manual pages, especially those for applications, are now available in HTML, and most Unix systems even provide the man2html command package, which allows users to view the man pages using an HTML browser.

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret 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 IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.