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How do I write a man page?

Where can I find a reference of all formatting codes?

Are there any good tutorials on writing man pages?

What is the most convenient way to write a man page? Should I enter it directly in a text editor? Are there WYSIWIG editors? Or should I write it in a different format and then convert?

What rules should a good man page follow?

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5 Answers 5

There are tools for writing man pages that bypass troff formatting. manpages are a small, well delimited language and easy to target.

Two popular tools are:

yodl and zoem seem to be other nice formats in this space.

All in all I'd recommend xmltoman because it's a very manpage specific dsl that will guide you closely.

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"dsl" == "domain specific language"? –  Dennis Williamson Feb 4 '10 at 16:23
yes (da. si. 15 chars.) –  Tobu Feb 4 '10 at 16:46
Another good option is ronn, which reads the more-widely-used Markdown text markup language. –  poolie Aug 10 '13 at 6:07

I have written a rather extensive blog article about the topic, which you can find here:


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It'd be helpful if you could at least summarize the article here -- links alone are worthless once the linked page inevitably moves or disappears. –  Caleb Jun 26 '13 at 16:09
I do not agree with Caleb. This is the web. The web is based on links, and stackexchange does not carry any special exception to this. Copying content is counterproductive. Whatever bad thing can happen to that page or document can also happen to this one. We cannot hoard scraped copies of all content just because the rest of the web might disappear. (Leave that job to sites like the wayback machine). –  Kaz Oct 9 '13 at 21:23

I do not know of any IDEs or tutorials, but you can start by copying an existing man page and modify it to suit your needs.

For a reference of the groff language with MAN macros (which is what is used by a man page) consult the groff_man man page, or read it online here

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Take a look at the ronn project. Its a markdown to man page generator. It can also generate the man pages in html, like this.

I like the idea of writing all my software documentation in one format. Markdown IMO is a good choice

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