Linux / Unix: View Overlapping Man Page With Same Names

by on May 16, 2013 · 1 comment· LAST UPDATED May 16, 2013

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I am a new Unix / Linux user. I am using whatis command to find man pages. But, I noticed that some man pages have a common names. For example, when I run whatis printf:


printf (1) - format and print data
printf (1p) - write formatted output
printf (3) - formatted output conversion
printf (3p) - print formatted output
printf [builtins] (1) - bash built-in commands, see bash(1)

How do I access overlapping man pages and what is the meaning of (1), (1p), (3), and so on?

Tutorial details
DifficultyEasy (rss)
Root privilegesNo
Estimated completion timeN/A
All man pages are divided into sections. Usually, Linux or Unix like operating systems has eight or nine sections. Each man page arise in only one section. The standard sections of the manual include (taken from CentOS server):

  • Section #1 : User Commands
  • Section #2 : System Calls
  • Section #3 : C Library Functions
  • Section #4 : Devices and Special Files
  • Section #5 : File Formats and Conventions
  • Section #6 : Games et. Al.
  • Section #7 : Miscellanea
  • Section #8 : System Administration tools and Deamons

Many Linux distributions and other Unix variants customize the manual section to their specifics, which often include additional sections. For example, section #9 may include kernel internals and so on.

What is the meaning of number in parentheses after the command?

For example, useradd(8) means:

  1. useradd - Name of the command.
  2. 8 - The section where the command is documented.

Syntax: Viewing man pages

The syntax is:

man page-to-view
man section page-to-view

To read printf(1) command manual that format and print data, enter:
$ man 1 printf
To read printf(3) programmers printf() manual, enter:
$ man 3 printf
For more information see the following man page:
man man
man 1 man

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Paul Korir May 17, 2013 at 10:53 am

I think the ‘p’ in ‘1p’ refers to POSIX-compliant. For more on POSIX check out the Wikipedia article.


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