GROFF_TMAC(5)GROFF_TMAC(5)NAMEgroff_tmac - macro files in the roff typesetting system
The roff(7) type-setting system provides a set of macro packages suit‐
able for special kinds of documents. Each macro package stores its
macros and definitions in a file called the package's tmac file. The
name is deduced from `TroffMACros'.
The tmac files are normal roff source documents, except that they usu‐
ally contain only definitions and setup commands, but no text. All
tmac files are kept in a single or a small number of directories, the
GROFF MACRO PACKAGES
groff provides all classical macro packages, some more full packages,
and some secondary packages for special purposes. Note that it is not
possible to use multiple primary macro packages at the same time; say‐
sh# groff -m man -m ms foo
sh# groff -m man foo -m ms bar
fails. Exception to this is the use of man pages written with either
the mdoc or the man macro package. See below the description of the
man This is the classical macro package for UNIX manual pages
(man pages); it is quite handy and easy to use; see
mdoc An alternative macro package for man pages mainly used in BSD
systems; it provides many new features, but it is not the stan‐
dard for man pages; see groff_mdoc(7).
mandoc Use this file in case you don't know whether the man macros or
the mdoc package should be used. Multiple man pages (in either
format) can be handled.
The packages in this section provide a complete set of macros for writ‐
ing documents of any kind, up to whole books. They are similar in
functionality; it is a matter of taste which one to use.
me The classical me macro package; see groff_me(7).
mm The semi-classical mm macro package; see groff_mm(7).
mom The new mom macro package, only available in groff. As this is
not based on other packages, it can be freely designed. So it
is expected to become quite a nice, modern macro package. See
ms The classical ms macro package; see groff_ms(7).
cs This file adds support for Czech localization, including the
main macro packages (me, mom, mm, and ms).
Note that cs.tmac sets the input encoding to latin-2.
den German localization support, including the main macro packages
(me, mom, mm, and ms).
de.tmac selects hyphenation patterns for traditional orthogra‐
phy, and den.tmac does the same for the new orthography (`Recht‐
schreibreform'). It should be used as the last macro package on
the command line.
fr This file adds support for French localization, including the
main macro packages (me, mom, mm, and ms). Example:
sh# groff -ms -mfr foo.ms > foo.ps
Note that fr.tmac sets the input encoding to latin-9 to get
proper support of the `oe' ligature.
sv Swedish localization support, including the me, mom, and ms
macro packages. Note that Swedish for the mm macros is handled
separately; see groff_mmse(7). It should be used as the last
macro package on the command line.
latin9 Various input encodings supported directly by groff. Normally,
this macro is loaded at the very beginning of a document or
specified as the first macro argument on the command line. roff
loads latin1 by default at start-up. Note that these macro
packages don't work on EBCDIC hosts.
cp1047 Encoding support for EBCDIC. On those platforms it is loaded
automatically at start-up. Due to different character ranges
used in roff it doesn't work on architectures which are based on
Note that it can happen that some input encoding characters are not
available for a particular output device. For example, saying
groff -Tlatin1 -mlatin9 ...
fails if you use the Euro character in the input. Usually, this limi‐
tation is present only for devices which have a limited set of output
glyphs (-Tascii, -Tlatin1); for other devices it is usually sufficient
to install proper fonts which contain the necessary glyphs.
The macro packages in this section are not intended for stand-alone
usage, but can be used to add special functionality to any other macro
package or to plain groff.
60bit Provide some macros for addition, multiplication, and division
of 60bit integers (allowing safe multiplication of 30bit inte‐
gers, for example).
ec Switch to the EC and TC font families. To be used with
grodvi(1) – this man page also gives more details of how to use
This macro file is already loaded at start-up by troff so it
isn't necessary to call it explicitly. It provides an interface
to set the paper size on the command line with the option
-dpaper=size. Possible values for size are the same as the pre‐
defined papersize values in the DESC file (only lowercase; see
groff_font(5) for more) except a7-d7. An appended l (ell) char‐
acter denotes landscape orientation. Examples: a4, c3l, let‐
Most output drivers need additional command line switches -p and
-l to override the default paper length and orientation as set
in the driver specific DESC file. For example, use the follow‐
ing for PS output on A4 paper in landscape orientation:
sh# groff -Tps -dpaper=a4l -P-pa4 -P-l -ms foo.ms > foo.ps
pic This file provides proper definitions for the macros PS and PE,
needed for the pic(1) preprocessor. They center each picture.
Use it only if your macro package doesn't provide proper defini‐
tions for those two macros (actually, most of them already do).
pspic A single macro is provided in this file, PSPIC, to include a
PostScript graphic in a document. The following output devices
support inclusion of PS images: -Tps, -Tdvi, -Thtml, and
-Txhtml; for all other devices the image is replaced with a hol‐
low rectangle of the same size. This macro file is already
loaded at start-up by troff so it isn't necessary to call it
.PSPIC [-L|-R|-C|-I n] file [width [height]]
file is the name of the PostScript file; width and height give
the desired width and height of the image. If neither a width
nor a height argument is specified, the image's natural width
(as given in the file's bounding box) or the current line length
is used as the width, whatever is smaller. The width and height
arguments may have scaling indicators attached; the default
scaling indicator is i. This macro scales the graphic uniformly
in the x and y directions so that it is no more than width wide
and height high. Option -C centers the graphic horizontally,
which is the default. The -L and -R options cause the graphic
to be left-aligned and right-aligned, respectively. The -I
option causes the graphic to be indented by n (default scaling
indicator is m).
For use of .PSPIC within a diversion it is recommended to extend
it with the following code, assuring that the diversion's width
completely covers the image's width.
. vpt 0
\h'(\\n[ps-offset]u + \\n[ps-deswid]u)'
. sp -1
. vpt 1
ptx A single macro is provided in this file, xx, for formatting per‐
muted index entries as produces by the GNU ptx(1) program. In
case you need a different formatting, copy the macro into your
document and adapt it to your needs.
trace Use this for tracing macro calls. It is only useful for debug‐
ging. See groff_trace(7).
Overrides the definition of standard troff characters and some
groff characters for TTY devices. The optical appearance is
intentionally inferior compared to that of normal TTY formatting
to allow processing with critical equipment.
www Additions of elements known from the HTML format, as used in the
internet (World Wide Web) pages; this includes URL links and
mail addresses; see groff_www(7).
Classical roff systems were designed before the conventions of the mod‐
ern C getopt(3) call evolved, and used a naming scheme for macro pack‐
ages that looks odd to modern eyes. Macro packages were always included
with the option -m; when this option was directly followed by its argu‐
ment without an intervening space, this looked like a long option pre‐
ceded by a single minus — a sensation in the computer stone age. To
make this invocation form work, classical troff macro packages used
names that started with the letter `m', which was omitted in the naming
of the macro file.
For example, the macro package for the man pages was called man, while
its macro file tmac.an. So it could be activated by the argument an to
option -m, or -man for short.
For similar reasons, macro packages that did not start with an `m' had
a leading `m' added in the documentation and in speech; for example,
the package corresponding to tmac.doc was called mdoc in the documenta‐
tion, although a more suitable name would be doc. For, when omitting
the space between the option and its argument, the command line option
for activating this package reads -mdoc.
To cope with all situations, actual versions of groff(1) are smart
about both naming schemes by providing two macro files for the
inflicted macro packages; one with a leading `m' the other one without
it. So in groff, the man macro package may be specified as on of the
following four methods:
sh# groff -m man
sh# groff -man
sh# groff -mman
sh# groff -m an
Recent packages that do not start with `m' do not use an additional `m'
in the documentation. For example, the www macro package may be speci‐
fied only as one of the two methods:
sh# groff -m www
sh# groff -mwww
Obviously, variants like -mmwww would not make much sense.
A second strange feature of classical troff was to name macro files in
the form tmac.name. In modern operating systems, the type of a file is
specified as a postfix, the file name extension. Again, groff copes
with this situation by searching both anything.tmac and tmac.anything
if only anything is specified.
The easiest way to find out which macro packages are available on a
system is to check the man page groff(1), or the contents of the tmac
In groff, most macro packages are described in man pages called
groff_name(7), with a leading `m' for the classical packages.
There are several ways to use a macro package in a document. The clas‐
sical way is to specify the troff/groff option -m name at run-time;
this makes the contents of the macro package name available. In groff,
the file name.tmac is searched within the tmac path; if not found,
tmac.name is searched for instead.
Alternatively, it is also possible to include a macro file by adding
the request .so filename into the document; the argument must be the
full file name of an existing file, possibly with the directory where
it is kept. In groff, this was improved by the similar request .mso
package, which added searching in the tmac path, just like option -m
Note that in order to resolve the .so and .mso requests, the roff pre‐
processor soelim(1) must be called if the files to be included need
preprocessing. This can be done either directly by a pipeline on the
command line or by using the troff/groff option -s. man calls soelim
For example, suppose a macro file is stored as
and is used in some document called docu.roff.
At run-time, the formatter call for this is
sh# groff -m macros docu.roff
To include the macro file directly in the document either
is used or
In both cases, the formatter should be called with option -s to invoke
sh# groff -s docu.roff
If you want to write your own groff macro file, call it whatever.tmac
and put it in some directory of the tmac path, see section FILES. Then
documents can include it with the .mso request or the option -m.
A roff(7) document is a text file that is enriched by predefined for‐
matting constructs, such as requests, escape sequences, strings,
numeric registers, and macros from a macro package. These elements are
described in roff(7).
To give a document a personal style, it is most useful to extend the
existing elements by defining some macros for repeating tasks; the best
place for this is near the beginning of the document or in a separate
Macros without arguments are just like strings. But the full power of
macros reveals when arguments are passed with a macro call. Within the
macro definition, the arguments are available as the escape sequences
\$1, ..., \$9, \$[...], \$*, and \$@, the name under which the macro
was called is in \$0, and the number of arguments is in register
\n[.$]; see groff(7).
The phase when groff reads a macro is called copy-in mode or copy mode
in roff-talk. This is comparable to the C preprocessing phase during
the development of a program written in the C language.
In this phase, groff interprets all backslashes; that means that all
escape sequences in the macro body are interpreted and replaced by
their value. For constant expressions, this is wanted, but strings and
registers that might change between calls of the macro must be pro‐
tected from being evaluated. This is most easily done by doubling the
backslash that introduces the escape sequence. This doubling is most
important for the positional parameters. For example, to print infor‐
mation on the arguments that were passed to the macro to the terminal,
define a macro named `.print_args', say.
.ds midpart was called with
. tm \f[I]\\$0\f \*[midpart] \\n[.$] arguments:
. tm \\$*
When calling this macro by
.print_args arg1 arg2
the following text is printed to the terminal:
print_args was called with the following 2 arguments:
Let's analyze each backslash in the macro definition. As the posi‐
tional parameters and the number of arguments change with each call of
the macro their leading backslash must be doubled, which results in
\\$* and \\[.$]. The same applies to the macro name because it could
be called with an alias name, so \\$0.
On the other hand, midpart is a constant string, it does not change, so
no doubling for \*[midpart]. The \f escape sequences are predefined
groff elements for setting the font within the text. Of course, this
behavior does not change, so no doubling with \f[I] and \f.
Writing groff macros is easy when the escaping mechanism is temporarily
disabled. In groff, this is done by enclosing the macro definition(s)
into a pair of .eo and .ec requests. Then the body in the macro defi‐
nition is just like a normal part of the document — text enhanced by
calls of requests, macros, strings, registers, etc. For example, the
code above can be written in a simpler way by
.ds midpart was called with
. tm \f[I]\$0\f \*[midpart] \n[.$] arguments:
. tm \$*
Unfortunately, draft mode cannot be used universally. Although it is
good enough for defining normal macros, draft mode fails with advanced
applications, such as indirectly defined strings, registers, etc. An
optimal way is to define and test all macros in draft mode and then do
the backslash doubling as a final step; do not forget to remove the .eo
Tips for Macro Definitions
· Start every line with a dot, for example, by using the groff
request .nop for text lines, or write your own macro that han‐
dles also text lines with a leading dot.
. if (\\n[.$] == 0) \
. nop \)\\$*\)
· Write a comment macro that works both for copy-in and draft
mode; for as escaping is off in draft mode, trouble might occur
when normal comments are used. For example, the following macro
just ignores its arguments, so it acts like a comment line:
.c This is like a comment line.
· In long macro definitions, make ample use of comment lines or
almost-empty lines (this is, lines which have a leading dot and
nothing else) for a better structuring.
· To increase readability, use groff's indentation facility for
requests and macro calls (arbitrary whitespace after the leading
Diversions can be used to implement quite advanced programming con‐
structs. They are comparable to pointers to large data structures in
the C programming language, but their usage is quite different.
In their simplest form, diversions are multi-line strings, but they get
their power when diversions are used dynamically within macros. The
(formatted) information stored in a diversion can be retrieved by call‐
ing the diversion just like a macro.
Most of the problems arising with diversions can be avoided if you
remain aware of the fact that diversions always store complete lines.
If diversions are used when the line buffer has not been flushed,
strange results are produced; not knowing this, many people get desper‐
ate about diversions. To ensure that a diversion works, line breaks
should be added at the right places. To be on the secure side, enclose
everything that has to do with diversions into a pair of line breaks;
for example, by explicitly using .br requests. This rule should be
applied to diversion definition, both inside and outside, and to all
calls of diversions. This is a bit of overkill, but it works nicely.
[If you really need diversions which should ignore the current partial
line, use environments to save the current partial line and/or use the
The most powerful feature using diversions is to start a diversion
within a macro definition and end it within another macro. Then every‐
thing between each call of this macro pair is stored within the diver‐
sion and can be manipulated from within the macros.
All macro names must be named name.tmac to fully use the tmac mecha‐
nism. tmac.name as with classical packages is possible as well, but
The macro files are kept in the tmac directories; a colon separated
list of these constitutes the tmac path.
The search sequence for macro files is (in that order):
· the directories specified with troff/groff's -M command line
· the directories given in the $GROFF_TMAC_PATH environment vari‐
· the current directory (only if in unsafe mode, which is enabled
by the -U command line switch)
· the home directory
· a platform-specific directory, being
in this installation
· a site-specific (platform-independent) directory, being
in this installation
· the main tmac directory, being
in this installation
A colon separated list of additional tmac directories in which
to search for macro files. See the previous section for a
Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Free
Software Foundation, Inc.
This document is distributed under the terms of the FDL (GNU Free Docu‐
mentation License) version 1.3 or later. You should have received a
copy of the FDL on your system, it is also available on-line at the GNU
copyleft site ⟨http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html⟩.
This document is part of groff, the GNU roff distribution. It was
written by Bernd Warken ⟨firstname.lastname@example.org⟩; it is main‐
tained by Werner Lemberg ⟨email@example.com⟩.
A complete reference for all parts of the groff system is found in the
groff info(1) file.
an overview of the groff system.
the groff tmac macro packages.
the groff language.
The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard is available at the FHS web site
Groff Version 1.22.2 7 February 2013 GROFF_TMAC(5)