GROFF linux command manual
groff - front-end for the groff document formatting system
groff [-abcegilpstzCEGNRSUVXZ] [-d cs] [-f fam] [-F dir] [-I dir]
[-L arg] [-m name] [-M dir] [-n num] [-o list] [-P arg] [-r cn]
[-T dev] [-w name] [-W name] [file ...]
groff -h | --help
groff -v | --version [option ...]
The command line is parsed according to the usual GNU convention. The
whitespace between a command line option and its argument is optional.
Options can be grouped behind a single - (minus character). A file-
name of - (minus character) denotes the standard input.
This document describes the groff program, the main front-end for the
groff document formatting system. The groff program and macro suite
is the implementation of a roff(7) system within the free software
collection GNU ?http://www.gnu.org?. The groff system has all fea-
tures of the classical roff, but adds many extensions.
The groff program allows to control the whole groff system by command
line options. This is a great simplification in comparison to the
classical case (which uses pipes only).
As groff is a wrapper program for troff both programs share a set of
options. But the groff program has some additional, native options
and gives a new meaning to some troff options. On the other hand, not
all troff options can be fed into groff.
Native groff Options
The following options either do not exist for troff or are differently
interpreted by groff.
-e Preprocess with eqn.
-g Preprocess with grn.
-G Preprocess with grap.
Print a help message.
-I dir Add search directory for soelim(1). This option implies the -s
-l Send the output to a spooler program for printing. The command
that should be used for this is specified by the print command
in the device description file, see groff_font(5). If this
command is not present, the output is piped into the lpr(1)
program by default. See options -L and -X.
-L arg Pass arg to the spooler program. Several arguments should be
passed with a separate -L option each. Note that groff does
not prepend - (a minus sign) to arg before passing it to the
-N Don't allow newlines within eqn delimiters. This is the same
as the -N option in eqn.
-p Preprocess with pic.
-P -option -P arg
Pass -option or -option arg to the postprocessor. The option
must be specified with the necessary preceding minus sign(s)
'-' or '--' because groff does not prepend any dashes before
passing it to the postprocessor. For example, to pass a title
to the gxditview postprocessor, the shell command
sh# groff -X -P -title -P 'groff it' foo
is equivalent to
sh# groff -X -Z foo | gxditview -title 'groff it' -
-R Preprocess with refer. No mechanism is provided for passing
arguments to refer because most refer options have equivalent
language elements that can be specified within the document.
See refer(1) for more details.
-s Preprocess with soelim.
-S Safer mode. Pass the -S option to pic and disable the follow-
ing troff requests: .open, .opena, .pso, .sy, and .pi. For se-
curity reasons, safer mode is enabled by default.
-t Preprocess with tbl.
-T dev Set output device to dev. The possible values in groff are
ascii, cp1047, dvi, html, latin1, lbp, lj4, ps, utf8, X75, and
X100. Additionally, X75-12 and X100-12 are available for docu-
ments which use 12pt as the base document size. The default
device is ps.
-U Unsafe mode. Reverts to the (old) unsafe behaviour; see option
Output version information of groff and of all programs that
are run by it; that is, the given command line is parsed in the
usual way, passing -v to all subprograms.
-V Output the pipeline that would be run by groff (as a wrapper
program), but do not execute it.
-X Use gxditview instead of using the usual postprocessor to
(pre)view a document. The printing spooler behavior as out-
lined with options -l and -L is carried over to gxditview(1) by
determining an argument for the -printCommand option of
gxditview(1). This sets the default Print action and the cor-
responding menu entry to that value. -X only produces good re-
sults with -Tps, -TX75, -TX75-12, -TX100, and -TX100-12. The
default resolution for previewing -Tps output is 75dpi; this
can be changed by passing the -resolution option to gxditview,
sh# groff -X -P-resolution -P100 -man foo.1
-z Suppress output generated by troff. Only error messages will
-Z Do not postprocess the output of troff that is normally called
automatically by groff. This will print the intermediate out-
put to standard output; see groff_out(5).
The following options are transparently handed over to the formatter
program troff that is called by groff subsequently. These options are
described in more detail in troff(1).
-a ascii approximation of output.
-b backtrace on error or warning.
-c disable color output.
-C enable compatibility mode.
-E disable troff error messages.
-f fam set default font family.
-F dir set path for font DESC files.
-i process standard input after the specified input files.
include macro file name.tmac (or tmac.name); see also
-M dir path for macro files.
-n num number the first page num.
output only pages in list.
set number register.
enable warning name.
disable warning name.
The groff system implements the infrastructure of classical roff; see
roff(7) for a survey on how a roff system works in general. Due to
the front-end programs available within the groff system, using groff
is much easier than classical roff. This section gives an overview of
the parts that constitute the groff system. It complements roff(7)
with groff-specific features. This section can be regarded as a guide
to the documentation around the groff system.
The groff program is a wrapper around the troff(1) program. It allows
to specify the preprocessors by command line options and automatically
runs the postprocessor that is appropriate for the selected device.
Doing so, the sometimes tedious piping mechanism of classical roff(7)
can be avoided.
The grog(1) program can be used for guessing the correct groff command
line to format a file.
The groffer(1) program is an allround-viewer for groff files and man
The groff preprocessors are reimplementations of the classical prepro-
cessors with moderate extensions. The preprocessors distributed with
the groff package are
eqn(1) for mathematical formulae,
grn(1) for including gremlin(1) pictures,
pic(1) for drawing diagrams,
for bibliographic references,
for including macro files from standard locations,
tbl(1) for tables.
Besides these, there are some internal preprocessors that are automat-
ically run with some devices. These aren't visible to the user.
Macro packages can be included by option -m. The groff system imple-
ments and extends all classical macro packages in a compatible way and
adds some packages of its own. Actually, the following macro packages
come with groff:
man The traditional man page format; see groff_man(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -man or -m man.
mandoc The general package for man pages; it automatically recognizes
whether the documents uses the man or the mdoc format and
branches to the corresponding macro package. It can be speci-
fied on the command line as -mandoc or -m mandoc.
mdoc The BSD-style man page format; see groff_mdoc(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -mdoc or -m mdoc.
me The classical me document format; see groff_me(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -me or -m me.
mm The classical mm document format; see groff_mm(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -mm or -m mm.
ms The classical ms document format; see groff_ms(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -ms or -m ms.
www HTML-like macros for inclusion in arbitrary groff documents;
Details on the naming of macro files and their placement can be found
General concepts common to all roff programming languages are de-
scribed in roff(7).
The groff extensions to the classical troff language are documented in
The groff language as a whole is described in the (still incomplete)
groff info file; a short (but complete) reference can be found in
The central roff formatter within the groff system is troff(1). It
provides the features of both the classical troff and nroff, as well
as the groff extensions. The command line option -C switches troff
into compatibility mode which tries to emulate classical roff as much
There is a shell script nroff(1) that emulates the behavior of classi-
cal nroff. It tries to automatically select the proper output encod-
ing, according to the current locale.
The formatter program generates intermediate output; see groff_out(7).
In roff, the output targets are called devices. A device can be a
piece of hardware, e.g. a printer, or a software file format. A de-
vice is specified by the option -T. The groff devices are as follows.
ascii Text output using the ascii(7) character set.
cp1047 Text output using the EBCDIC code page IBM cp1047 (e.g. OS/390
nippon Text output using the Japanese-EUC character set.
dvi TeX DVI format.
html HTML output.
ascii8 For typewriter-like devices. Unlike ascii, this device is 8
bit clean. This device is intended to be used for codesets
other than ASCII and ISO-8859-1.
latin1 Text output using the ISO Latin-1 (ISO 8859-1) character set;
lbp Output for Canon CAPSL printers (LBP-4 and LBP-8 series laser
lj4 HP LaserJet4-compatible (or other PCL5-compatible) printers.
ps PostScript output; suitable for printers and previewers like
utf8 Text output using the Unicode (ISO 10646) character set with
UTF-8 encoding; see unicode(7).
X75 75dpi X Window System output suitable for the previewers
xditview(1x) and gxditview(1). A variant for a 12pt document
base font is X75-12.
X100 100dpi X Window System output suitable for the previewers
xditview(1x) and gxditview(1). A variant for a 12pt document
base font is X100-12.
The postprocessor to be used for a device is specified by the postpro
command in the device description file; see groff_font(5). This can
be overridden with the -X option.
The default device is ps.
groff provides 3 hardware postprocessors:
for some Canon printers,
for printers compatible to the HP LaserJet 4 and PCL5,
for text output using various encodings, e.g. on text-oriented
terminals or line-printers.
Today, most printing or drawing hardware is handled by the operating
system, by device drivers, or by software interfaces, usually accept-
ing PostScript. Consequently, there isn't an urgent need for more
hardware device postprocessors.
The groff software devices for conversion into other document file
for the DVI format,
for HTML format,
Combined with the many existing free conversion tools this should be
sufficient to convert a troff document into virtually any existing da-
The following utility programs around groff are available.
Add information to troff font description files for use with
Create font description files for PostScript device.
General viewer program for groff files and man pages.
The groff X viewer, the GNU version of xditview.
Create font description files for lj4 device.
Make inverted index for bibliographic databases.
Search bibliographic databases.
Interactively search bibliographic databases.
Translate a PostScript font in .pfb format to ASCII.
Create font description files for TeX DVI device.
roff viewer distributed with X window.
Normally, the path separator in the following environment variables is
the colon; this may vary depending on the operating system. For exam-
ple, DOS and Windows use a semicolon instead.
This search path, followed by $PATH, will be used for commands
that are executed by groff. If it is not set then the directo-
ry where the groff binaries were installed is prepended to
When there is a need to run different roff implementations at
the same time groff provides the facility to prepend a prefix
to most of its programs that could provoke name clashings at
run time (default is to have none). Historically, this prefix
was the character g, but it can be anything. For example,
gtroff stood for groff's troff, gtbl for the groff version of
tbl. By setting GROFF_COMMAND_PREFIX to different values, the
different roff installations can be addressed. More exactly,
if it is set to prefix xxx then groff as a wrapper program will
internally call xxxtroff instead of troff. This also applies
to the preprocessors eqn, grn, pic, refer, tbl, soelim, and to
the utilities indxbib and lookbib. This feature does not apply
to any programs different from the ones above (most notably
groff itself) since they are unique to the groff package.
A list of directories in which to search for the devname direc-
tory in addition to the default ones. See troff(1) and
groff_font(5) for more details.
A list of directories in which to search for macro files in ad-
dition to the default directories. See troff(1) and
groff_tmac(5) for more details.
The directory in which temporary files will be created. If
this is not set but the environment variable TMPDIR instead,
temporary files will be created in the directory $TMPDIR. Oth-
erwise temporary files will be created in /tmp. The refer(1),
groffer(1), grohtml(1), and grops(1) commands use temporary
Preset the default device. If this is not set the ps device is
used as default. This device name is overwritten by the option
There are some directories in which groff installs all of its data
files. Due to different installation habits on different operating
systems, their locations are not absolutely fixed, but their function
is clearly defined and coincides on all systems.
groff Macro Directory
This contains all information related to macro packages. Note that
more than a single directory is searched for those files as documented
in groff_tmac(5). For the groff installation corresponding to this
document, it is located at /usr/share/groff/1.18.1/tmac. The follow-
ing files contained in the groff macro directory have a special mean-
Initialization file for troff. This is interpreted by troff
before reading the macro sets and any input.
Final startup file for troff, it is parsed after all macro sets
have been read.
Macro file for macro package name.
groff Font Directory
This contains all information related to output devices. Note that
more than a single directory is searched for those files; see
troff(1). For the groff installation corresponding to this document,
it is located at /usr/share/groff/1.18.1/font. The following files
contained in the groff font directory have a special meaning:
Device description file for device name, see groff_font(5).
Font file for font F of device name.
The following example illustrates the power of the groff program as a
wrapper around troff.
To process a roff file using the preprocessors tbl and pic and the me
macro set, classical troff had to be called by
sh# pic foo.me | tbl | troff -me -Tlatin1 | grotty
Using groff, this pipe can be shortened to the equivalent command
sh# groff -p -t -me -T latin1 foo.me
An even easier way to call this is to use grog(1) to guess the prepro-
cessor and macro options and execute the generated command (by speci-
fying shell left quotes)
sh# 'grog -Tlatin1 foo.me'
The simplest way is to view the contents in an automated way by call-
sh# groffer foo.me
On EBCDIC hosts (e.g. OS/390 Unix), output devices ascii and latin1
aren't available. Similarly, output for EBCDIC code page cp1047 is
not available on ASCII based operating systems.
Report bugs to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a complete, self-contained
example that will allow the bug to be reproduced, and say which ver-
sion of groff you are using.
Information on how to get groff and related information is available
at the GNU website ?http://www.gnu.org/software/groff?. The most re-
cent released version of groff is available for anonymous ftp at the
groff development site ?ftp://ftp.ffii.org/pub/groff/devel/
Three groff mailing lists are available:
for reporting bugs,
for general discussion of groff,
a read-only list showing logs of commitments to the CVS reposi-
Details on CVS access and much more can be found in the file README at
the top directory of the groff source package.
There is a free implementation of the grap preprocessor, written by
Ted Faber ?email@example.com?. The actual version can be found at
the grap website ?http://www.lunabase.org/~faber/Vault/software/
grap/?. This is the only grap version supported by groff.
Copyright (C) 1989, 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This document is distributed under the terms of the FDL (GNU Free Doc-
umentation License) version 1.1 or later. You should have received a
copy of the FDL on your system, it is also available on-line at the
GNU copyleft site ?http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html?.
This document is based on the original groff man page written by James
Clark ?firstname.lastname@example.org?. It was rewritten, enhanced, and put under the
FDL license by Bernd Warken ?email@example.com?. It is maintained by
Werner Lemberg ?firstname.lastname@example.org?.
groff is a GNU free software project. All parts of the groff package
are protected by GNU copyleft licenses. The software files are dis-
tributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL),
while the documentation files mostly use the GNU Free Documentation
The groff info file contains all information on the groff system with-
in a single document. Beneath the detailed documentation of all as-
pects, it provides examples and background information. See info(1)
on how to read it.
Due to its complex structure, the groff system has many man pages.
They can be read with man(1) or groffer(1).
Introduction, history and further readings:
Viewer for groff files:
groffer(1), gxditview(1), xditview(1x).
Wrapper programs for formatters:
eqn(1), grn(1), pic(1), refer(1), soelim(1), tbl(1), grap(1).
Roff language with the groff extensions:
groff(7), groff_char(7), groff_diff(7), groff_font(5).
Roff formatter programs:
nroff(1), troff(1), ditroff(7).
The intermediate output language:
Postprocessors for the output devices:
grodvi(1), grohtml(1), grolbp(1), grolj4(1), grops(1),
Groff macro packages and macro-specific utilities:
groff_tmac(5), groff_man(7), groff_mdoc(7), groff_me(7),
groff_mm(7), groff_mmse(7), groff_mom(7), groff_ms(7),
The following utilities are available:
addftinfo(1), afmtodit(1), eqn2graph(1), groffer(1),
gxditview(1), hpftodit(1), indxbib(1), lookbib(1), pfbtops(1),
Groff Version 1.18.1 08 March 2004 GROFF(1)