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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Adding custom MAN pages

Recently I was faced with a new issue/challenge: adding custom man pages for a custom/user defined command. This being said, I started to dig into the configuration and structure of the man command.

I will not go too deep into the man theory, there is always Google for it, or the official manual pages:

man man

As I now know, after reading documentation, there are 9 section of documentation for each command. So, it means separate documentation file for each section.

In the following example I will create custom documentation for section 1 (Executable user programs and shell commands) and section 4 (Information on device files). I call the command dummy.

#The following commands create the default structure for custom man pages
cd ~/
mkdir ownman; mkdir ownman/man1; mkdir ownman/man4
cd ownman/man1
vi dummy.1 # Add some documentation here. Example: 1) Documentation for section 1
cd ../man4
vi dummy.4 # Add some documentation here. Example: 1) Documentation for section 4

Now that the structure is in place, the man pages for the the dummy command can be called. The -M option has to be used in order to specify the location of the man pages for the specific command.

man -M ~/ownman dummy
1) Documentation for section 1

 Manual page dummy(1) line 1/66 (END) (press h for help or q to quit)

The default section is 1, so it’s not necessary to be specified here. With specification, the command looks like this:

man -M ~/ownman 4 dummy
1) Documentation for section 4

 Manual page dummy(4) line 1/66 (END) (press h for help or q to quit)

The structure and the call is in place now. But still, it could be tiresome sometimes to remember the path to the man pages, especially if one were to declare multiple locations.

To add the ~/ownman location to the locations man is looking at by default, the configuration file needs to be edited. On Ubuntu this file is: /etc/manpath.config (for Red Hat and Red Hat derivatives, like CentOS and Fedora, the configuration file for man is /etc/man.config)

# need sudo rights for this, as the owner of the file is root
sudo vi /etc/manpath.config

Edit the file by adding a new entry in the MANDATORY_MANPATH section.

MANDATORY_MANPATH			~/ownman

If there is a need to specify different man pages path for different command paths, another edit needs to be made, further down in the file. A new entry for MANPATH_MAP

MANPATH_MAP ~/custom_commands_location			~/ownman

Now the simple, straight forward command can be called:

man dummy
1) Documentation for section 1

 Manual page dummy(1) line 1/66 (END) (press h for help or q to quit)

Cheers



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