[TUHS] man-page style

Larry McVoy lm at mcvoy.com
Fri Nov 16 16:38:56 AEST 2018

Sorry to hijack this but I gotta.  Because I love nroff/troff.

So I was talking to a tech guy at one of the wall street banks, Marc
Donner.  I told him about a thing I had done, I called it webroff,
it was a perl script that took roff -ms input and produced a website,
complete with a table of contents, a site map, view a section as a page,
view the whole thing as page, it was pretty cool.  Sort of old school in
web styling but super useful.  For a long time BitMover's website was
a webroff site.  We eventually moved on to a node.js pile of crap and
even the biggest webroff haters at my company admitted that was a mistake.

I was talking to Marc about it and saying how low level it was.  Marc had
some insight, he said that roff -ms mostly said what you wanted to do,
not how to do it.  That's why I could build the perl script, it was
the macros that made it work.

Roff macros are a lot like device drivers, we have this read/write/etc
view of the world and a shit ton of work gets done to make that world
view be simple but it isn't.  

And to go to my love of roff, back in 1998 I was program chair for
a Linux Expo confernce.  Which just meant I formatted the proceedings.
LaTex was all the rage but I encouraged roff.  The one guy that took
me up on it was "holy crap is this easier than LaTex, I love groff".

Like Git, the wrong answer won, I do think that you all should look
at groff, it's pretty cool, LaTex won but groff is still a thing that
has taken roff forward.

On Fri, Nov 16, 2018 at 02:18:35PM +1100, Rob Pike wrote:
> As someone whose r??sum??, the one that got me in the door at Bell Labs, was
> formatted with nroff -man, I of course support the clarity and precision
> Doug celebrates. I wish the rest of the world agreed, but it doesn't.
> Although I hold the editor line for much of the documentation for Go, for
> instance, I fend off frequent requests to rewrite and expand. Flab is felt
> to be friendlier, much as I (and Doug, who taught me more about writing
> than anyone else) would prefer the leaner cuts.
> -rob

Larry McVoy            	     lm at mcvoy.com             http://www.mcvoy.com/lm 

More information about the TUHS mailing list