GROFFER(1)GROFFER(1)NAMEgroffer - display groff files and man pages on X and tty
SYNOPSISgroffer [viewing_options] [man_options] [groff_options] [--] [file‐
These options determine and configure the display mode. They
were synchronized with the options of both groff(1) and GNU
man(1). As groff uses almost any letter in its option set, only
long option names are available for most features. If none of
these options is used groffer tries to find a suitable display
[-Q|--source] [-T|--device device] [--auto-modes
mode1,mode2,...] [--debug] [--default] [--dvi] [--dvi-viewer
prog] [--groff] [--location] [--mode display_mode] [--pager
program] [--pdf] [--pdf-viewer prog] [--ps] [--ps-viewer prog]
[--shell] [--tty] [--www] [--www-viewer prog] [--x] [--x-viewer
The following long options were adapted from the corresponding X
Toolkit options with a single leading minus; see X(1).
[--bd] [--bg|--background] [--bw] [--display] [--fg|--foreground
] [--ft|--font] [--geometry size_pos] [--resolution value] [--rv
] [--title string] [--xrm X_resource]
Any combination of (short) options from the groff(1) program is
accepted; the options that are not explicitly handled by groffer
are transparently passed to groff. Due to the automatism in
groffer, none of these groff options should be necessary, except
for advanced usage.
Because of the special outputting behavior of the groff options
-V, -X, and -Z, groffer was designed to be switched into groff
mode by each of these options; in this mode, the groffer viewing
features are disabled.
The other groff options do not switch the mode, but allow to
customize the formatting process. Useful groff formatting op‐
tions include -m (to add macro files that cannot be recognized
by grog), and -T (to specify an alternative device for the modes
tty and x).
These options regulate whether and how man pages are searched.
They are compatible with the long options of the GNU man pro‐
[--all] [--ascii] [--apropos] [--ditroff] [--extension suffix]
[--locale language] [--local-file] [--man] [--manpath
dir1:dir2:...] [--no-location] [--no-man] [--sections
sec1:sec2:...] [--systems sys1,sys2,...] [--troff-device
The GNU man long options that are not mentioned are recognized,
but they are just ignored because of alternative implementa‐
tions. The full set of long and short options of the GNU man
program can be passed via the environment variable $MANOPT; see
man(1) if your system has GNU man installed.
is a sequence of file names or templates for searching
man pages, see man(1). A filespec can have one of the following
filename the path name of an existing file.
- stands for standard input (can occur several times).
search the man page name in section section.
search the man page name in section section.
man:name search the man page name in the lowest available sec‐
search the man page name in section section.
search the man page name in section section.
if this is `1', ..., `9', `o', or `n' try to retrieve
the next argument as a man page in this section.
name search for the man page name in the lowest available
No filespec parameters means standard input.
For details on the options, see section OPTIONS.
The groffer program is part of groff(7). It can be used to display ar‐
bitrary documents written in the roff(7) formatting language in several
different ways, in an X window viewer program or in a text terminal.
The viewer programs can be chosen as the groff native viewer
gxditview(1), a Postcript or dvi display program, or a web browser.
A search facility for manual pages ( man pages) is provided. Almost
the whole functionality of the GNU man program was provided or suitably
adapted. This makes the groffer program a valuable tool on systems
with a poor man system.
The program always concatenates all input specified by the non-option
parameters of the calling command line or standard input. Compressed
standard input or files are decompressed on-the-fly.
Normally, the input is run through the groff(1) text processor before
being displayed. By using the option -Q, the roff source code is dis‐
played without formatting.
The formatting process can be regulated by all options that are avail‐
able groff. By using the -T option, groffer can be switched to behave
exactly like groff without using its viewer facilities, but additional‐
ly with the search and decompression features.
All necessary options can be determined automatically. For example,
the groffer program internally uses the grog(1) program to determine
from the unformatted document which preprocessors should be run and
which macro files should be included. But all parts of the program can
be controlled manually by suitable options.
The groffer program provides its own parser for command line options
that is compatible to both POSIX getopts(1) and GNU getopt(1). The
command line behaves as usually. For completeness, the details are
The following types of options are supported, equally on all systems
that are able to run the groffer program:
· single character options are always preceded by a single minus char‐
acter, for example, -c.
· the argument for a single character option is the next command line
argument, for example, -o arg, or can be appended to the option
character within the same argument -o arg.
· clusters of such single character options without an argument, even‐
tually terminated by a single character option with an argument; for
example, -abo arg is equivalent to -a -b -o arg .
· Long options, that means option with names longer than one character
are always prededed by a double minus; an option argument can either
go to the next command line argument or be appended with an equal
sign to the argument; for example, --long= arg is equivalent to
· An argument of -- ends option parsing; all further command line argu‐
ments are interpreted as filespec arguments.
· By default, all command line arguments that are neither options nor
option arguments are interpreted as filespec parameters and stored
until option parsing has finished. For example, the command line
sh# groffer file1 -a -o arg file 2
is, by default, equivalent to
sh# groffer-a -o arg -- file1 file 2
· This behavior can be changed by setting the environment variable
$POSIXLY_CORRECT to a non-empty value; in this case, option process‐
ing is stopped as soon as the first non-option argument is found.
For example, in posixly correct mode, the command line
sh# groffer file1 -a -o arg file 2
is equivalent to
sh# groffer-- file1 -a -o arg file 2
As this leads to unwanted behavior in most cases, most people do not
want to set $POSIXLY_CORRECT.
Compatibility with Options from other Programs
All short options of groffer are compatible with the short options of
groff(1). Some of the groff options were given a special meaning with‐
in groffer. All other groff options are supported by groffer, but they
are just transparently transferred to groff without any intervention.
Therefore these transparent options are not documented here, but in
All long options of groffer are compatible with the long options of
man(1). Most of the man long options were implemented as native op‐
tions into groffer. These options are documented in the following; the
other man options are recognized, but ignored.
Native groffer Options
-h Print usage message to standard error and exit.
-Q Output the roff source code of the input files unprocessed.
This is the equivalent --mode source.
Switch to --mode device, thus disabling the groffer viewing.
Instead, the input is formatted and postprocessed using plain
groff with devname as the output device. The allowed device
names are listed in groff(1). Note that this forces all device
names that begin with the letter X to be displayed with
gxditview(1); all other device names generate output for the
specified device; this is printed onto standard output without a
-v Print version information onto standard error.
-V Switch into groff mode and format the input with groff option -V
; this produces the groff calling pipe without formatting the
input. This an advanced option from groff(1), only useful for
-X Switch into groff mode and format the input with groff option -X
; actually, this formats the input and displays it with
gxditview(1). This differs from groffer's mode x because grof‐
fer's viewer options are not used, but the viewer is configured
like in groff with the groff option -P. This option is in‐
hereted from groff(1).
-Z Switch into groff mode and format the input with groff option -Z
; this produces the groff intermediate output without postpro‐
cessing; see groff_out(1). This an advanced option from
groff(1), useful for debugging.
--all In searching man pages, retrieve all suitable ones instead of
Instead of displaying, start the `apropos' command for searching
within man page descriptions; only kept for compatibility with
Set the sequence of modes for default mode to the comma separat‐
ed list given in the argument.
This is equivalent to --bg.
Specifies the color of the border surrounding the viewer window.
This is an adaption of the X Toolkit option -bd. The argument
is an X color name, see (1) for details.
Set the background color of the viewer window. This is an adap‐
tion of the X Toolkit option -bg. The argument is an X color
name, see (1) for details.
Specifies the width in pixels of the border surrounding the
viewer window (not available for all viewers). This is an adap‐
tion of the X Toolkit option -bw.
Print debugging information. Actually, a function call stack is
printed if an error occurs.
Reset all configuration from previously processed command line
options to the default values. This is useful to wipe out all
effects of former options and restart option processing using
only the rest of the command line.
Eqivalent to -T.
Set the X display on which the viewer program shall be started,
see X(1) for the syntax of the argument.
Eqivalent to -Z. This is kept for compatibiliy with GNU man(1).
--dvi Choose dvi mode; the formatted input is displayed with the by
default, the formatted input is displayed with the xdvi(1) pro‐
Set the viewer program for dvi mode. This can be a file name or
a program to be searched in $PATH. Known dvi viewers inlude xd‐
vi(1) and dvilx(1) In each case, arguments can be provided addi‐
Restrict man page search to file names that have suffix appended
to their section element. For example, in the file name
/usr/share/man/man3/terminfo.3ncurses.gz the man page extension
is ncurses. Originates from GNU man.
This is equivalent to -fg.
Set the foreground color of the viewer window. This is an adap‐
tion of the X Toolkit option -bg. The argument is an X color
name, see (1) for details.
This is equivalent to -ft.
Set the font used by the viewer window. This is an adaption of
the X Toolkit option -ft. The argument is an X font name, see
(1) for details.
Set the geometry of the display window, that means its size and
its starting position. See X(1) for details on the syntax of
the argument. If the actual display mode is not X then this op‐
tion is ignored.
Set groff mode. Switch groffer to process the input like
groff(1). This disables the groffer viewing features, all grof‐
fer viewing options are ignored.
--help Eqivalent to -h.
Print the location of the retrieved files to standard error.
Set the language for man pages. This option originates from GNU
--man Check the non-option command line arguments (filespecs) first on
being man pages, then whether they represent an existing file.
By default, a filespec is first tested if it is an existing
Use the specified search path for retrieving man pages instead
of the program defaults. If the argument is set to the empty
string "" the search for man page is disabled.
Set the display mode. The following mode values are recognized:
auto Display in the default manner; this actually means to try
the modes ps, x, and tty in this sequence. Useful for
restoring default mode when a different mode was speci‐
fied with $GROFFER_OPT.
dvi Display formatted input in a dvi viewer program; equiva‐
lent to --dvi.
pdf Display formatted input in a PDF (Portable Document For‐
mat) viewer program; equivalent to --pdf.
ps Display formatted input in a Postscript viewer program;
equivalent to --ps.
tty Display formatted input in a text terminal; equivalent to
www Display formatted input in a internet browser program;
equivalent to --www.
x Display formatted input in a native roff viewer such as
The following modes do not use the groffer viewing features.
They are only interesting for advanced applications.
groff Generate device output with plain groff without using the
special viewing features of groffer. If no device was
specified by option -T the groff default ps is assumed.
source Display source code; same as -Q.
Do not display the location of retireved files; this resets a
former call to --location.
Do not check for man pages.
Set the pager program in tty mode; default is less.
--pdf Choose pdf mode (Portable Document Format). By default, the in‐
put is formatted by groff using the Postscript device, then it
is transformed into the PDF file format using gs(1) (this is
quite slow), and finally displayed either with the xpdf(1) or
the acroread(1) program; this can be configured with option
--viewer-pdf. PDF has a big advantage because the text is dis‐
played graphically and is searchable nevertheless; but as
thtransformation into pdf takes a considerable amount of time,
the pdf mode is not suitable as a default device for the auto
mode. The only device that is compatible to this mode is ps,
which is also the default when no device is specified.
Set the viewer program for pdf mode. This can be a file name or
a program to be searched in $PATH. In each case, arguments can
be provided additionally.
--ps Choose ps mode (Postscript). By default, the formatted input is
displayed with the ghostview(1) program; this can be configured
with option --viewer-ps. The only device that is compatible to
this mode is ps, which is also the default when no device is
Set the viewer program for ps mode. This can be a file name or
a program to be searched in $PATH. Common Postscript viewers
inlude gv(1), ghostview(1), and gs(1), In each case, arguments
can be provided additionally.
Set X resolution in dpi (dots per inch) in some viewer programs.
The only supported dpi values are 75 and 100. This is an adap‐
tion of the X Toolkit option -resolution.
--rv Reverse foreground and background color of the viewer window.
This is an adaption of the X Toolkit option -rv. This feature
is not available in all viewer programs.
Restrict searching for man pages to the given sections, a colon-
Specify the shell under which the groffer script should be run.
The script first tests whether this option is set (either within
$GROFF_OPT or as a command line option); if so, the script is
rerun under the shell program specified with the option argu‐
Equivalent to -Q.
Search for man pages for the given operating systems; the argu‐
ment systems is a comma-separated list.
--title 'some text'
Set the title for the viewer window. This feature is not avail‐
able in all viewer programs.
Eqivalent to -P.
Eqivalent to -T. This option is only kept for compatibility
with GNU man(1).
--tty Choose tty display mode, that means displaying in a text pager
even when in X; eqivalent to --mode tty.
Eqivalent to -v.
Instead of displaying the content, get the one-liner description
from the retrieved man page files — or say that it is not a man
Eqivalent to --location.
--www Choose www mode (html), display in a web browser program, which
can be specified with option --www-viewer. By default, the ex‐
istence of a sequence of standard web browsers is tested, start‐
ing with mozilla(1) and netscape(1)--www-viewer prog
Set the web browser program for viewing in www mode. Each pro‐
gram that accepts html input and allows the file://local‐
host/dir/file syntax on the command line is suitable; it can be
the path name of an executable file or a program in $PATH. In
each case, arguments can be provided additionally.
--x Choose x mode (view in X roff viewer). By default, the format‐
ted input is displayed with the gxditview(1) program, being dis‐
tributed together with groff, or with xditview(1), which is dis‐
tributed as a standard X tool. This can be configured with op‐
tion --x-viewer. The only devices (option -T) that are compati‐
ble with this mode are X75, X100, X75-12, X100-12, and ps (the
Set the viewer program for x mode. Suitable viewer programs are
gxditview(1) and xditview(1). But the argument can be any exe‐
cutable file or a program in $PATH. In each case, arguments can
be provided additionally.
-- Signals the end of option processing; all remaining arguments
are interpreted as filespec parameters.
Besides these, groffer accepts all arguments that are valid for the
groff(1) program. All non-groffer options are sent unmodified via grog
to groff. Postprocessors, macro packages, compatibility with classical
troff, and much more can be manually specified.
By default, the groffer program formats the input and then automatical‐
ly chooses a suitable display mode, but the user can also choose be‐
tween the following modes:
· graphically display the formatted input with an X window program, in‐
· with X window roff viewers such as gxditview(1) (x mode),
· in a dvi viewer program (dvi mode),
· in a Postscript viewer (ps mode),
· in a PDF viewer (pdf mode),
· in a web browser (www mode),
· display formatted input in a pager on the text terminal (tty mode),
· run groffer like groff, but with decompression and man page searching
(groff mode); this includes things like generating the groff interme‐
· stream the unformatted source code of the input onto standard output
By default, groffer first tries whether x mode is possible, then ps
mode, and finally tty mode. This mode testing sequence for default
mode can be changed by specifying a comma separated list of modes with
the option --default-modes.
The searching for man pages and the decompression of the input are ac‐
tive in every mode.
Graphical Display Modes
The graphical display modes work only in the X window environment (or
similar implementations within other windowing environments). The en‐
vironment variable $DISPLAY or the option --display are used for speci‐
fying the X display to be used; if neither is specified, groffer as‐
sumes that no X is running.
A certain graphical display mode can be selected by one of the options
--dvi, --pdf, --ps, -X, and --www. By default, some graphical modes
are tried first. If none succeeds groffer switches to tty mode.
The graphical modes can be customized by options that were named ac‐
cording to the resource options in the X(1) Toolkit but using a leading
double minus instead of the single minus used by X. These include
--background, --foreground, --geometry, --resolution, --title, --xrm,
The pdf mode has a major advantage — it is the only graphical diplay
mode that allows to search for text within the viewer; this can be a
really important feature. Unfortunately, it takes a long time to
transform the input into the PDF format, so it was not chosen as the
major mode. You can change this by the options --pdf and --auto-modes.
Displaying on a tty
If the variable $DISPLAY is not set or empty, groffer assumes that it
should produce output on a text terminal. This mode can also be forced
by option --tty.
In the actual implementation, the groff output device latin1 is chosen
and the processed output is piped into a pager program. This can be
changed by specifying option --tty-device.
The pager to be used can be specified by option --pager by the environ‐
ment variable $PAGER. If this is not set or empty the less(1) program
is used as the default pager.
There are some special modes that do not display the formatted output
in a viewer program. These modes are regarded as advanced, they are
useful for debugging purposes.
Instead of displaying the formatted output, it is also possible
to have the roff source code streamed onto the standard output.
This mode must be requested by one of the options -Q or --source
This mode disables the groffer viewing facilities. The input is
handled as usual with decompression and man page searching, but
then it is passed to groff using only the options provided by
groff. This enables the user to save the generated output into
a file or pipe it into another program. In this mode, the input
is formatted, but not postprocessed; see groff_out(5) for de‐
tails. This mode is activated automatically by the three groff
options -V (print roff pipe, no formatting), -X (display with
gxditview in groff's native way, using -P for customization),
and -Z (disable post-processing, thus producing the groff inter‐
The non-option command line parameters determine which files should be
The default behavior of groffer is to first test whether the file pa‐
rameter is represents a local file; if not, it is assumed to represent
a filespec for searching one or more man page. This behavior can be
modified by options.
--man forces to interpret all file parameters as filespecs for search‐
ing man pages.
disable the man searching; so only local files are displayed.
The following parameter formats are recognized to represent a wanted
the quasi-URL notation used in many Desktop systems to represent
the man page name in section.
search the man page name in the lowest section. The correspond‐
ing command with the man program would be
sh# man name
the man page name in section. The corresponding command with
the man program would be
sh# man section name
name if name is not an existing file search for the man page name in
the lowest section just like
sh# man name
Even this curious construct known from the various man programs
is handled. For example,
sh# groffer 7 groff
was modelled according to
sh# man 7 groff
retrieves the man page named groff in section 7. Only a few
standard section names are accepted, being actually the number
sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9, and the lower case let‐
ters `o' and `n'.
If neither a local file nor a man page was retrieved for some file pa‐
rameter a warning is issued on standard error, but processing is con‐
Man Page Searching
The groffer program provides a search facility for system manual pages
(man pages). All long options, all environment variables, and most of
the functionality of the GNU man(1) program were implemented.
Preformatted man pages (cat pages) are intentionally excluded from the
search because groffer is a roff program that wants to format by its
own, not spit out stuff that was digested previously by someone else.
With the excellent performance of the actual computers, the preformat‐
ted man pages aren't necessary any longer. Due to their inflexible na‐
ture, they tend to provoke some trouble with changing line lengths and
different environments in networks.
The algorithm for retrieving man pages uses five search methods. They
are successively tried until a method works.
· The search path can be manually specified by using the option
--manpath. An empty argument disables the man page searching. This
overwrites the other methods.
· If this is not available the environment variable $MANPATH is
· If this is empty, the program tries to read it from the environment
· If this does not work, the manpath(1) program for determining a path
of man directories is tried.
· If this does not work a reasonable default path is searched for
After this, the path elements for the language (locale) and operating
system specific man pages are added to the man path; their sequence is
determined automatically. For example, both /usr/share/man/linux/fr
and /usr/share/man/fr/linux for french linux man pages are found. The
language and operating system names are determined from both environ‐
ment variables and command line options.
The locale (language) is determined like in GNU man, that is from high‐
est to lowest precedence:
The language locale is usually specified in the POSIX 1003.1 based for‐
but the two-letter code in <language> is sufficient for most purposes.
If no man pages for a complicated locale are found the country part
consisting of the first two characters (without the `_', `.', and `,',
parts) of the locale is searched as well.
If still not found the corresponding man page in the default language
is used instead. As usual, this default can be specified by one of C
or POSIX. The man pages in the default language are usually in Eng‐
Several operating systems can be given by appending their names, sepa‐
rated by a comma. This is then specified by the environment variable
$SYSTEM or by the command line option --systems. The precedence is
similar to the locale case above from highest to lowest precedence:
When searching for man pages this man path with the additional language
and system specific directories is used.
The search can further be restricted by limiting it to certain sec‐
tions. A single section can be specified within a filespec, several
sections as a colon-separated list in command line option --sections or
environment variable $MANSECT. When no section was specified a set of
standard sections is searched until a suitable man page was found.
Finally, the search can be restricted to a so-called extension. This
is a postfix that acts like a subsection. It can be specified by
--extension or environment variable $EXTENSION.
For further details on man page searching, see man(1).
The program has a decompression facility. If standard input or a file
that was retrieved from the command line parameters is compressed with
a format that is supported by either gzip(1) or bzip2(1) it is decom‐
pressed on-the-fly. This includes the GNU .gz, .bz2, and the tradi‐
tional .Z compression. The program displays the concatenation of all
decompressed input in the sequence that was specified on the command
The groffer programs supports many system variables, most of them by
courtesy of other programs. All environment variables of groff(1) and
GNU man(1) and some standard system variables are honored.
Native groffer Variables
Store options for a run of groffer. The options specified in
this variable are overridden by the options given on the command
line. The content of this variable is run through the shell
builitin `eval'; so arguments containing white-space or special
shell characters should be quoted.
The groffer program is a shell script that is run through /bin/sh,
which can be internally linked to programs like bash(1). The corre‐
sponding system environment is automatically effective. The following
variables have a special meaning for groffer.
If this variable is set this indicates that the X window system
is running. Testing this variable decides on whether graphical
or text output is generated. This variable should not be
changed by the user carelessly, but it can be used to start the
graphical groffer on a remote X terminal. For example, depend‐
ing on your system, groffer can be started on the second monitor
by the command
sh# DISPLAY=:0.1 groffer what.ever&
$LANG If one of these variables is set (in the above sequence), its
content is interpreted as the locale, the language to be used,
especially when retrieving man pages. A locale name is typical‐
ly of the form language[_territory[.codeset[@modifier]]], where
language is an ISO 639 language code, territory is an ISO 3166
country code, and codeset is a character set or encoding identi‐
fier like ISO-8859-1 or UTF-8; see setlocale(3). The locale
values C and POSIX stand for the default, i.e. the man page di‐
rectories without a language prefix. This is the same behavior
as when all 3 variables are unset.
$PAGER This variable can be used to set the pager for the tty output.
For example, to disable the use of a pager completely set this
variable to the cat(1) program
sh# PAGER=cat groffer anything
$PATH All programs within the groffer shell script are called without
a fixed path. Thus this environment variable determines the set
of programs used within the run of groffer.
If set to a non-empty value this chooses the POSIX mode for op‐
tion processing, that means that option processing will be fin‐
ished as soon as a non-option argument is found. Usually, you
do not want to set this environment variable.
The groffer program internally calls groff, so all environment vari‐
ables documented in groff(1) are internally used within groffer as
well; see there for details. The following variables have a direct
meaning for the groffer program.
If the value of this variable is an existing, writable directo‐
ry, groffer uses it for storing its temporary files, just as
Parts of the functionality of the man program were implemented in grof‐
fer; support for all environment variables documented in man(1) was
added to groffer, but the meaning was slightly modified due to the dif‐
ferent approach in groffer; but the user interface is the same. The
man environment variables can be overwritten by options provided with
$MANOPT, which in turn is overwritten by the command line.
Restrict the search for man pages to files having this exten‐
sion. This is overridden by option --extension; see there for
This variable contains options as a preset for man(1). As not
all of these are relevant for groffer only the essential parts
of its value are extracted. The options specified in this vari‐
able overwrite the values of the other environment variables
taht are specific to man. All options specified in this vari‐
able are overridden by the options given on the command line.
If set, this variable contains the directories in which the
man page trees are stored. This is overridden by option
If this is a colon separated list of section names, the search
for man pages is restricted to those manual sections in that or‐
der. This is overridden by option --sections.
If this is set to a comma separated list of names these are in‐
terpreted as man page trees for different operating systems.
This variable can be overwritten by option --systems; see there
The environment variable $MANROFFSEQ is ignored by groffer because the
necessary preprocessors are determined automatically.
The groffer program can be preconfigured by two configuration files.
Both of them are shell scripts that are called at the beginning of
groffer using the `. filename' syntax.
System-wide configuration file for groffer.
User-specific configuration file for groffer, where $HOME de‐
notes the user's home directory. This script is called after
the system-wide configuration file to enable overriding by the
It makes sense to use these configuration files for the following
· Preset environment variables recognized by groffer; preferably a
variable should only be set when it is unset in order not to override
a user-provided value.
· Preset command line options by prepending them to $GROFFER_OPT;
prepending should be preferred to appending and setting in order not
to delete the environment variable provided by the
· Write functions for calling viewer programs in a special way and feed
them into the --*-viewer options. Note that the name of such a func‐
tion must coincide with some existing program in the system path
$PATH in order to be recognized by groffer.
As an example, consider the following configuration file.
if test "$DISPLAY" = ""; then
/usr/local/bin/gxditview --fg DarkBlue "$@";
This has the following effects:
· allows to start groffer in a graphical mode even from a text termi‐
· all graphical modes use a resolution of 100 dpi where applicable;
· the gxditview(1) program is told to use DarkBlue as the text color.
These configurations can be overridden by command line options and by
environment variable $GROFFER_OPT.
The usage of groffer is very easy. Usually, it is just called with a
file name or man page. The following examples, however, show that
groffer has much more fancy capabilities.
sh# groffer /usr/local/share/doc/groff/meintro.ms.gz
Decompress, format and display the compressed file meintro.ms.gz
in the directory /usr/local/share/doc/groff, using a default
graphical viewer when in X window, or the less(1) pager program
when not in X.
sh# groffer groff.7 groff ’troff(1)’ man:roff
The arguments that are not existing files are looked-up as the
following man pages: groff (in section 7), groff (automatic
search, should be found in section 1), troff (in section 1), and
roff (in the section with the lowest number, being 7 in this
case). The quotes around ’troff(1)’ are necessary because the
paranthesis are special shell characters; escaping them with a
backslash character \( and \) would be possible, too. The for‐
matted files are concatenated and displayed in one piece.
sh# LANG=de groffer--man --www --www-viever=netscape ls
Retrieve the German man page for the ls program (or the English
one if there is a German version), decompress it, format it into
the html format and view the result in the default web browser
netscape . The option --man guarantees that the man page is re‐
trieved, even when a local file ls exists in the actual directo‐
sh# groffer-Q 'man:roff(7)'
Print the unformatted content of the man page called roff in
section 7 on standard output.
sh# groffer-Z -mfoo
Decompress the standard input, switch to groff mode, format the
input with groff using the macro package foo, but do not post‐
process the result, thus producing the intermediate output.
sh# echo '\f[CB]WOW!' |
> groffer--x --bg red --fg yellow --geometry 200x100
Display WOW! in a small window in constant-width bold font, us‐
ing color yellow on red background.
The groffer shell script is compatible to both POSIX and GNU. POSIX
compatibility refers to IEEE P1003.2/D11.2 of September 1991, a very
early version of this standard. The script uses only a quite restrict‐
ed set of shell language elements and shell builtins, common to all
POSIX versions; the only external program used is `sed', again only the
most basic POSIX features of `sed' are used. The groffer script should
work on most actual free and commercial operating systems.
The groffer program provides its own parser for command line options;
it can handle option arguments and file names containing white space
and a large set of special characters.
The groffer shell script was tested with the following common implemen‐
tations of the POSIX shell: ash(1), bash(1), ksh(1), and POSIX sh(1),
and others. Free POSIX compatible shells and shell utilities for most
operating systems are available at the GNU software archive ⟨http://
The best performance was obtained with the ash shell; so groffer tries
to run under ash whenever possible. The procedure to determine the
shell to run groffer was programmed to be as follows:
· the argument of the command line option --shell; if not set
· the argument of the option --shell in the environment variable
$GROFF_OPT; if not set
· try ash; if not available
· continue with the shell under which the script was started in the
Details on the options and environment variables available in
groff; all of them can be used with groffer.
Internally, groffer tries to guess the groff command line op‐
tions from the input using this program.
Documentation on the groff intermediate output (ditroff output).
Viewers for groffer's dvi mode.
Viewers for groffer's ps mode.
gs(1) Transformer from ps to pdf; and a ps viewer.
Viewers for pdf files.
Viewers for groffer's x mode.
The decompression programs supported by groffer.
man(1) The standard program to diplay man pages. The information there
is only useful if it is the man page for GNU man. Then it docu‐
ments the options and environment variables that are supported
Copyright (C) 2001, 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This document is distributed under the terms of the FDL (GNU Free Docu‐
mentation License) version 1.1 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⟩.
Groff Version 1.18.1 Nov 2003 GROFFER(1)