[TUHS] man-page style

Earl Baugh earl.baugh at gmail.com
Sat Nov 17 10:25:09 AEST 2018

I started on Unix in the ‘80’s and it was to help out a friend with adding waves to a ray tracing system he was building. I knew C at the time... my friend gave me like 5 vi commands and sat me down in front of the terminal with a visual bell. (Luckily I don’t have epilepsy or all that flashing would have had me in seizures :-) )

After answering about 30 questions about library calls available, he taught me the most useful thing I ever learned for Unix. “man -k | grep <word>”.  From there on out, I was on my own and completely equipped to learn all I needed. 

As a side note, when I saw Google fir the first time, I said “oh, man -k | grep for the web....”


> On Nov 16, 2018, at 5:25 PM, Bakul Shah <bakul at bitblocks.com> wrote:
>> On Fri, 16 Nov 2018 11:55:28 -0500 Paul Winalski <paul.winalski at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> On 11/16/18, Grant Taylor via TUHS <tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org> wrote:
>>> I think man pages make a great reference.  But I don't think they are a
>>> good teaching source for someone that doesn't know the material or what
>>> the components are for.
>> I agree with Grant.  If you want to know what a particular command
>> does and what its options are, man pages are fantastic.  If you are a
>> new or casual user trying to find out what command(s) to use to
>> accomplish a particular task, the man pages are an exercise in
>> frustration and futility.  
> When I first came to Unix, I read man pages for every one of
> the commands in /bin and experimented with them and tried out
> various options. Being a fan of recursion the first thing I
> tried was "man man"!  Then I went through all the man pages in
> other section to learn about libc functions, special devices
> and so on.  I knew about "apropos" (though don't recall if it
> was in v7) but I didn't really use it all that much.  Or the
> inverted index.
> I tend to think software has more in common with carpentry
> than science or engineering and like all good craftsman,
> knowing how to use all the tools in your workshop is
> essential. If you get lucky you get to be an apprentice to a
> good mentor but I didn't have that luxury in a startup.
>>                           Other OSes have done a better job in that
>> area (the VMS and DTSS HELP commands come to mind).  IMO ideally one
>> should have both--a generalized "help" command for those trying to
>> find out what command to use, and "man" as reference material.  UNIX
>> and Linux have never had a proper help facility.  Or at least I never
>> was able to find it.
> I had usd VMS befoe Unix. Not for long but I don't recall its
> help facility being particularly superior.
> Each of us learns differently so there is no one true style.

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