How do I create a man page for my shell or python script under Linux / UNIX operating systems?
Almost all UNIX like oses comes preinstalled with man pages.
Troff and Groff Macro
troff is a document processing system developed by AT&T for the Unix operating system. The troff typesetting system includes sets of commands called macros that are run before starting to process the document. These macros include setting up page headers and footers, defining new commands, and generally influencing how the output will be formatted. Under Linux all new manual pages should be marked up using the groff an.tmac package. The groff (GNU troff) software is a typesetting package which reads plain text mixed with formatting commands and produces formatted output.
A Quick Note About Man Page Layout
All man pages follow a common layout and it is recommend that you use the same for your man pages too:
NAME The name of the command or function, followed by a one-line description of what it does. SYNOPSIS In the case of a command, you get a formal description of how to run it and what command line options it takes. DESCRIPTION A textual description of the functioning of the command or function. EXAMPLES Some examples of common usage. SEE ALSO A list of related commands or functions. BUGS List known bugs. AUTHOR Specify your contact information. COPYRIGHT Specify your copyright information.
You can add a few more other sections such as EXIT STATUS, ENVIRONMENT, FILES, and HISTORY etc. The table below shows the section numbers of the manual followed by the types of pages they contain.
Man Page Sections
The manual is generally split into eight numbered sections, organized as follows under Linux or UNIX like oses:
|1||Executable shell commands|
|2||System calls (functions provided by the kernel)|
|3||Library calls (functions within program libraries)|
|4||Special files (usually found in /dev)|
|5||File formats and conventions eg /etc/passwd|
|7||Miscellaneous (including macro packages and conventions), e.g. man(7), groff(7)|
|8||System administration commands (usually only for root)|
|9||Kernel routines [Non standard]|
To see options and section information you can use with command man, enter the following command:
Man Page Location
The system stores its man pages at /usr/share/man/ directory as described in about section. For example, the directory /usr/share/man/man1 stores man pages for user shell commands. You can view it by typing the following command:
cd /usr/share/man/man1 ls -l zcat ls.1.gz
Custom Man Page Location
It is recommended that you store your own man pages in /usr/local/man directory. You can set man search path in /etc/man.config file:
MANPATH /usr/man MANPATH /usr/share/man MANPATH /usr/local/man MANPATH /usr/local/share/man MANPATH /usr/X11R6/man
See manpath man page for more details about how to determine search path for manual pages:
How Do I Create My Own Man Page?
The groff (GNU Troff) software is a typesetting package which reads plain text mixed with formatting commands and produces formatted output such as man page. It comes with various macro packages such as man and mandoc to create man pages. Create a file as follows
$ vi nuseradd
.\" Manpage for nuseradd. .\" Contact email@example.com to correct errors or typos. .TH man 8 "06 May 2010" "1.0" "nuseradd man page" .SH NAME nuseradd \- create a new LDAP user .SH SYNOPSIS nuseradd [USERNAME] .SH DESCRIPTION nuseradd is high level shell program for adding users to LDAP server. On Debian, administrators should usually use nuseradd.debian(8) instead. .SH OPTIONS The nuseradd does not take any options. However, you can supply username. .SH SEE ALSO useradd(8), passwd(5), nuseradd.debian(8) .SH BUGS No known bugs. .SH AUTHOR Vivek Gite (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Save and close the file. To view your man page, enter:
The .TH macro introduces a manual page (e.g., set man page title and section). Section headers, paragraph breaks, lists and displays etc displayed using .SH macro. See the following man page which describes all macros:
man 7 mdoc
How Do I Install My Man Page?
Simply type the following command:
cp nuseradd /usr/local/man/man8/nuseradd.1 gzip /usr/local/man/man8/nuseradd.1 man nuseradd
You can also use install command as follows (recommend for shell scripts):
install -g 0 -o 0 -m 0644 nuseradd.1 /usr/local/man/man8/ gzip /usr/local/man/man8/nuseradd.1
- GNU Troff (Groff) – a GNU project.
- See man pages mdoc, groff, and install commands.