In Linux, knowing how to obtain documentation and help is a crucial skill. While
quick help can be obtained through built-in utilities like the
--help options, the
man command provides a more comprehensive way to
access a program's manual page, commonly known as a man page.
What is a Man Page?
The term "man page" stands for "manual page," and it serves as the detailed documentation for almost every command and program in the Linux system. A man page is more than just a help guide; it's an exhaustive resource that provides insights into a command's functionalities, options, associated files, author, and much more.
The basic syntax for the
man command is straightforward:
man [option] [section] subject
[options]represents flags that can modify the behavior of
[section]specifies the section of the manual to search
subjectis the command or program for which you are looking for information.
|Display all the available man pages for the subject
|Specify the section to look for
|Ignore case distinctions when searching
|Display the location of the man page
|Produce a short description from the
To get information about the
ls command, simply type:
This will display the man page for
ls, allowing you to read through its
options, arguments, and examples.
What are Sections in Man Pages?
While the manual pages (man pages) offer exhaustive details about Linux commands, these details are well-organized into various sections to make it easier for users to find the information they're looking for. The sections are numbered and sometimes have additional identifiers for extended sections. The standard sections include:
- 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 and Amusement
- Section 7: Miscellaneous
- Section 8: System Administration Commands
You can specify which section of the manual you want to access by including the section number before the command or topic you're interested in.
man [section] subject
Accessing User Commands Section for
To access the man page for the
ls command in the User Commands section, you
man 1 ls
Accessing System Calls Section for
To view details about the
write system call, you can specify the section like
man 2 write
Navigating Between Sections
While you can specify a section explicitly in the command, you can also navigate
between sections when multiple sections exist for the same command. The methods
can vary depending on the terminal pager you're using (most commonly
more), but the principle remains similar.
-a option will display all available sections for the given subject one by
one. After you close the first section, the next section will be displayed.
man -a chmod
After viewing the first section, you'll be prompted to view the next available
q to quit the pager and move to the next section.
Another approach to finding which sections are available for a particular
subject is to use the
-k option. This performs a keyword search for the
subject in all available man pages and their descriptions.
man -k printf
This will list all available sections where
printf is mentioned, allowing you
to choose which one to read by specifying the section number in the
Combining Multiple Options
You can combine multiple options to filter and retrieve specific information. For example:
man -as 1 ls
This command will display all the available man pages for the
ls command, but
only from section 1.
Finding Man Page Locations
To find where the man page of a command resides, use the
man -w ls
This will display the location of the man page for the
man command serves as the gateway to the treasure trove of Linux
documentation, offering in-depth details that you won't find in quick help
utilities. It is an essential tool for anyone who wishes to delve deeper into
the functionalities and features of Linux commands and programs. Whether you're
a novice Linux user or an experienced system administrator, understanding how to
man can greatly enrich your command-line experience.
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