LinuxPapers.org: Unix Manual Pages

[ Thanks to newsmaster for this link.

“Traditionally, the most commonly used interface for executing
Unix programs is without doubt, the text-based one. Even if
programs with graphical user interfaces are becoming more and more
widespread, the command line interface will never be obsolete.

When you start using Linux, there are a lot of new commands to
learn, and remembering the syntax for all of them is not
practically possible. For the less experienced user, and often even
for experts, many types of documentation may help. Most commands
come with online help, manual pages or documentation files in
various formats. In this article, we will learn how to read
manual pages using the man command.”

“Let’s look at the cat command first, one of the most ancient
Unix commands, that takes a filename as the first parameter and
prints the contents of the file onto the screen. Let’s imagine that
we want to know about some extra options for cat. To obtain this
information, we might try running cat with the ‘-h’ option – this
option will often make a command provide more information about
itself. However, if we type cat -h, nothing relevant comes out,
except for a hint to use the ‘–help’ option. Trying then with
cat --help we get the briefest description of some
options… but their meaning remains quite obscure. This
information would really only be useful if we already knew cat’s
functions, but had forgotton the corresponding options. In order to
have more detailed information about the command and its functions,
the best way is to try reading the “manual”.”

“To obtain information about any command, you can type
man ‘. For example, in order to learn more about cat,
we can run ‘man cat‘. Now, on screen, we finally have
detailed instructions on how to use the command, there is even a
description of the various options… Usually, every manual page is
structured into standard sections…”


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