MAN.OPTIONS(1) General Commands Manual MAN.OPTIONS(1)

man.options
assignment of option letters in manual page utilities

This manual page lists option letters used in many different versions of the man, apropos, whatis, mandoc, makewhatis, mandb, makemandb, catman, and manpath utilities. Option letters used by groff, nroff, troff, and roff are also included because beginning with Version 7 AT&T UNIX, many versions of man(1) pass on unrecognized options to these programs.

For each option letter, information is first grouped into paragraphs, each paragraph describing similar functionality and starting with one line briefly summarizing that functionality.

For each program using the letter for that functionality, one line is provided, giving the name of the program, a colon, the system where this letter first appeared for this functionality in this program, optionally a comma and a list of other system versions introducing the same, a semicolon, and a list of current systems supporting it. If a system appears before the semicolon, it is not repeated afterwards.

Entries are sorted by historical precedence, except that obsolete options are moved to the end. Dates are commit dates where known, and release dates otherwise.

display all matching manual pages
man: 4.3BSD-Tahoe (June 1988), Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, man-db, man-1.6, illumos, Solaris 9-11
apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

only display items that match all keywords
apropos: man-db (Aug 29, 2007)

use all directories and files for mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)

[superseded by -T ascii] ASCII output mode
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

use specified browser
man: man-1.6 (June 24, 2005)
print a backtrace with each warning or error message
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

[obsolete hardware] report whether the phototypesetter is busy
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

alternate configuration file
apropos, whatis: 4.4BSD-Lite1 (April 22, 1994), man-db (Feb 22, 2003); OpenBSD, NetBSD
man: NetBSD 1.0 (Oct 26, 1994), man-1.5e (not before 1993, not after 1998); OpenBSD
mandb, catman, manpath: man-db (Feb 22, 2003)
makemandb: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

[obsolete] enable compatibility mode
groff: before groff-0.5 (before August 3, 1990)

do not use a pager
man: 4.3BSD-Reno (June 1990); OpenBSD, NetBSD
apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

process given catpath
makewhatis: (not before 1992, not after 1995)

recreate databases from scratch
mandb: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

produce a catpath as opposed to a manpath
manpath: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

internal option for use by catman(1)
man: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

reformat source page even if cat page exists
man: man-1.5e (not before 1993, not after 1998)

disable terminal color output in grotty(1)
groff: groff-1.18.0 (Oct 4, 2001)

recreate nroff versions from SGML sources
catman: Solaris 9-11

[obsolete] postprocess with col(1)
man: AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983)

reset whatever was set with MANOPT
man: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

print debugging info in addition to manual page
man: man-1.5e (not before 1993, not after 1998)

set default input encoding for preconv(1)
groff: groff-1.20 (August 20, 2008)

display all files added to mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)

define a user-defined string
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

print debugging information
man: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6, illumos, Solaris 9-11
manpath: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db
apropos, whatis: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994); FreeBSD
mandb, catman: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

remove and re-add a file to mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 2.7 (Feb 3, 2000)

[superseded by -l] interpret arguments as file names
man: AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983)

inhibit all error messages
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

select output encoding
man: man-db (Dec 23, 2001)

preprocess with eqn(7)
man: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

adjust text to left and right margins
nroff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

use exact matching
apropos, whatis: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

restrict search by section extension
man: man-db-2.3.5 (April 21, 1995)

use alternate font directory
troff: 4.2BSD (September 1983)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

preformat only, do not display
man: man-1.5g (April 7, 1999)

force searching dirs, do not use index (default)
man: illumos, Solaris 9-11

whatis(1) mode
man: 4BSD (November 16, 1980), Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); OpenBSD, FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6
apropos, whatis: man-db (Dec 2, 2010), OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

set the default font family
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

force formatting even if cat page is newer
catman: FreeBSD (March 15, 1995)

update only the entries for the given file
mandb: man-db (Feb 21, 2003)

force rebuilding the database from scratch
makemandb: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)

locate manual page related to given file name
man: illumos, Solaris 9-11

[obsolete hardware] do not feed out paper nor stop phototypesetter
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

preprocess with grap(1)
groff: groff-1.16 (May 1, 2000)
produce a global manpath
manpath: man-db-2.2a7 (Nov 16, 1994)

preprocess with grn(1)
groff: groff-1.16 (Feb 20, 2000)

[obsolete hardware] output to a GCOS phototypesetter
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

[obsolete hardware] output to a DASI 300 terminal in 12-pitch mode
man: PWB/UNIX 1.0 (July 1, 1977)

read hyphenation patterns from the given file
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

produce HTML output
man: man-db-1.3.12 to 1.3.17 (not before 1996, not after 2001)

use program to render HTML files as text
man: man-1.6 (June 24, 2005)

print a help message and exit
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)
man: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6
manpath: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db
apropos, whatis, mandb, catman: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

display the SYNOPSIS lines only
man: 4.3BSD-Net/2 (August 20, 1991); OpenBSD, NetBSD
apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (Sep 3, 2014)

turn on HTML formatting
apropos: NetBSD (Apr 2, 2013)

[obsolete] replace spaces by tabs in the output
roff, nroff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

input file search path for soelim(1)
groff: groff-1.12 (Sep 11, 1999)

respect case when matching manual page names
man, catman: man-db (Apr 21, 2002)

input options, in particular default operating system name
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.2 (May 24, 2012)
man, apropos, whatis: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

read standard input after the input files are exhausted
nroff, troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

ignore case when matching manual page names
man, catman: man-db (Apr 21, 2002)

turn on terminal escape code formatting
apropos: NetBSD (March 29, 2013)

preprocess with gideal(1)
groff: groff-1.22.3 (June 17, 2014)
preprocess with chem(1)
groff: groff-1.22 (Jan 22, 2011)
source code full text search
man: man-1.5e (not before 1993, not after 1998), man-db (June 28, 2009); Solaris 11

input encoding
groff: groff-1.20 (Dec 31, 2005)
man, apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (Oct 30, 2014)

apropos(1) mode
man: 4BSD (November 16, 1980), Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); POSIX, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, man-db, man-1.6, illumos, Solaris 9-11
apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

ignore formatting errors
catman: NetBSD (April 26, 1994)

preprocess with preconv(1)
groff: groff-1.20 (Dec 31, 2005)

[obsolete hardware] display on a Tektronix 4014 terminal
man: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

pass argument to the spooler
groff: groff-0.6 (Sep 14, 1990)

use alternate locale(1)
man, apropos, whatis: before man-db-2.2a13 (before Dec 15, 1994)

print list of locales
manpath: FreeBSD (Nov 23, 1999)

use locale(1) specified in the environment
catman: FreeBSD (May 18, 2002)

spool the output
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

interpret arguments as file names
man: before man-2.2a7 (before Nov 16, 1994), OpenBSD 5.7 (Aug 30, 2014)
apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (Aug 30, 2014)

do not trim output to the terminal width
apropos, whatis: man-db (Aug 19, 2007)

only parse NAME sections
makemandb: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)

legacy mode: search Nm,Nd, no context or formatting
apropos: NetBSD (March 29, 2013)

list all manual pages matching name within the search path
man: illumos, Solaris 9-11

override manual page search path
man: 4.3BSD (June 1986), Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, man-db, man-1.6, illumos, Solaris 9-11
apropos, whatis: 4.3BSD (June 1986), before man-db-2.2a14 (before Dec 16, 1994); OpenBSD, illumos
catman: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994); NetBSD (July 27, 1993), Solaris 9-11
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

prepend to macro file search path
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

do not show the context of the match
apropos: NetBSD (May 22, 2016)

specify input macro language
nroff, troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)
mandoc: OpenBSD 4.8 (April 6, 2009)

augment manual page search path
man, apropos, whatis: 4.3BSD-Reno (June 1990); OpenBSD, NetBSD
catman: NetBSD (Apr 4, 1999)
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

override operating system
man: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); man-db, man-1.6
apropos, whatis, manpath: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

override architecture
man: FreeBSD (Jan 11, 2002)

show the context of the match
apropos: NetBSD (May 22, 2016)

do not allow newlines between eqn(7) delimiters
groff: groff-1.01 (Feb 21, 1991)
specify a page number for the first page
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

nroff(1) output mode
man: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

do not create the whatis(1) database
catman: NetBSD (July 27, 1993)

print commands instead of executing them
catman: FreeBSD (May 18, 2002), Solaris 9-11

limit the number of results
apropos: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)

dry run simulating mandoc.db(5) creation
makewhatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)

output options
mandoc: OpenBSD 4.8 (Oct 27, 2009)
man, apropos, whatis: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)
select pages by numbers
nroff, troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

force use of non-localized manual pages
man: FreeBSD (June 7, 1999)

optimize index for speed and disk space
makemandb: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)

pass argument to postprocessor
groff: groff-0.6 (Sep 14, 1990)

use specified pager
man: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6

turn on pager formatting
apropos: NetBSD (Apr 2, 2013)

preprocess with pic(1)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

use the given list of preprocessors
man: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6

dry run, display commands instead of executing them
catman: NetBSD (July 27, 1993), FreeBSD (March 15, 1995 to May 18, 2002), Solaris 9-11

print warnings when building mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 2.7 (April 23, 2000)

do not look for deleted manual pages
mandb: man-db (June 28, 2001)

print the search path for manual pages
man: NetBSD (June 14, 2011)

turn on pager formatting and pipe through pager
apropos: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)

[obsolete hardware] set phototypesetter point size
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

print only fatal error messages
makemandb: NetBSD (Aug 29, 2012)

quick mode of mandoc.db(5) creation
makewhatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)

invoke the simultaneous input-output mode of the .rd request
nroff, troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

issue no warnings
manpath: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db
mandb: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

print only warnings and errors, no status updates
makemandb: NetBSD (Aug 29, 2012)

postprocess with refer(1)
groff: groff-1.02 (June 2, 1991)

recode to the specified encoding
man: man-db (Dec 31, 2007)

set number register
nroff, troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

scan for and remove junk files
catman: FreeBSD (March 31, 1995)

set less(1) prompt
man: man-db-2.3.5 (April 21, 1995)

use regular expression matching
apropos, whatis: man-db-2.3.5 (April 21, 1995)

turn off formatting
apropos: NetBSD (Feb 10, 2013)

check for formatting errors, do not display
man: illumos, Solaris 9-11

manual section search list
man: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6

safer mode
groff: groff-1.10 (May 17, 1994)

restrict architecture
man: OpenBSD 2.3 (March 9, 1998), NetBSD (May 27, 2000)
apropos: OpenBSD 4.5 (Dec 24, 2008), NetBSD (May 8, 2009)
whatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

preprocess with soelim(1)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

silent mode, do not echo commands
catman: NetBSD (April 26, 1994)

restrict section
makewhatis: man-1.5g (not before 1993, not after 1999)
man: OpenBSD 2.3 (March 9, 1998), NetBSD (June 12, 2000); illumos, Solaris 9-11
apropos: man-db (Nov 16, 2003), OpenBSD 4.5 (Dec 24, 2008), NetBSD (May 8, 2009); illumos
whatis: man-db (Nov 16, 2003), OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014); illumos
mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

do not look for stray cats
mandb: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

[SysV compat, recommends -S] manual section search list
man: man-db (Jan 1, 2008)

[superseded by -h] display the SYNOPSIS lines only
man: PWB/UNIX 1.0 (July 1, 1977)

[obsolete hardware] pause before each page for paper manipulation
roff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

[obsolete hardware] troff(1) output mode, small format
man: AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983)

select terminal output format
nroff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)
man: AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983), man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994), OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)
mandoc: OpenBSD 4.8 (April 6, 2009)
apropos, whatis: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

use UTF-8 for mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 5.6 (April 18, 2014)

[superseded by -m] use other macro package
man, catman: Solaris 9-11

troff(1) output mode
man: PWB/UNIX 1.0 (July 1, 1977), Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979), 2BSD (May 10, 1979), AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983), Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db, man-1.6, illumos, Solaris 9-11
catman: Solaris 9-11

preprocess with tbl(7)
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

check manual pages in the hierarchy
mandb: man-db-1.3.12 to 1.3.17 (not before 1996, not after 2001)

check files for problems related to mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 2.7 (April 23, 2000)

unsafe mode
groff: groff-1.12 (Dec 13, 1999)
update database
makewhatis: (not before 1992, not after 1995)

create user databases only
mandb: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

update database cache (requires suid)
man: before man-db-2.2a10 (before Dec 6, 1994)

remove files from mandoc.db(5)
makewhatis: OpenBSD 3.4 (July 9, 2003)

print the pipeline on stdout instead of executing it
groff: groff-0.6 (Sep 2, 1990)

print version information
man, apropos, whatis, mandb, catman, manpath: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

print version number
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)

verbose mode
catman: FreeBSD (March 15, 1995)
makewhatis: man-1.5g (not before 1993, not after 1999)
apropos, whatis: man-db (Dec 29, 2002)

print the name of every parsed file
makemandb: NetBSD (Feb 7, 2012)

[obsolete hardware] produce output on the Versatec printer
man: PWB/UNIX 1.0 (July 1, 1977)

disable the named warning
groff: groff-0.5 (August 14, 1990)

list pathnames without additional information
man: man-1.5e (not before 1993, not after 1998)

list pathnames of cat files
man: man-db (Aug 13, 2002)

minimum message level to display
mandoc: OpenBSD 4.8 (April 6, 2009)
man, apropos, whatis: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

list pathnames
man: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979), AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983), Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); OpenBSD, FreeBSD, NetBSD, man-db, man-1.6
apropos, whatis, mandoc: OpenBSD 5.7 (August 27, 2014)

enable the named warning
groff: groff-0.5 (August 14, 1990)

only create the whatis(1) database
catman: NetBSD (July 27, 1993), Solaris 9-11

use wildcard matching
apropos, whatis: man-db-2.3.5 (April 21, 1995)

use manpath obtained from man --path
makewhatis: man-1.5g (not before 1993, not after 1999)

update the whatis(1) database
man: illumos

[obsolete hardware] wait until the phototypesetter is available
troff: Version 7 AT&T UNIX (January 1979)

display with gxditview(1)
groff: groff-1.06 (Sep 1, 1992)
man: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)
use the non-compacted version of the macros
man: AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983)
do not run preprocessors
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)
man: man-db-2.2a5 (Nov 10, 1994)
suppress formatted output from troff(1), print only error messages
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)
ASCII output mode
man: man-db-2.3.5 (April 21, 1995)
print a help message and exit
groff: probably before groff-0.4 (before July 14, 1990)
man, manpath: Eaton (before July 7, 1993; 1990/91?); FreeBSD, man-db
apropos, whatis, mandb, catman: man-db probably before 2.2a4 (before Nov 8, 1994)

Multi-letter options:

[obsolete hardware] output to a Hewlett Packard terminal
man: PWB/UNIX 1.0 (July 1, 1977)
[obsolete hardware] use 12-pitch for certain terminals
man: AT&T System III UNIX (June 1980), AT&T System V UNIX (January 1983)
[obsolete hardware] output to a DASI 450 terminal
man: PWB/UNIX 1.0 (July 1, 1977)

In Version 3 AT&T UNIX, man(1) had no options.
The syntax was: man name [section]

In Version 4 AT&T UNIX,
the syntax changed to: man [section] [name ...]

This information was assembled by Ingo Schwarze <schwarze@openbsd.org> using
July 4, 2017 OpenBSD 6.4