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Re: [patch] documentation bug in tail: no mention of -n +N syntax

From: Evan Hunt
Subject: Re: [patch] documentation bug in tail: no mention of -n +N syntax
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2006 00:45:52 -0800
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.10i

Yes, I spotted my mistake this morning, and mailed a correction to the
list.  Sorry 'bout that.

As I said in that message, though, I still think it's worth making the
change.  It's bad practice to have documentation contradict itself,
especially when the false statement is in the easy-to-skim part,
but you have to read carefully to see the correct one.

"output the last N lines" is clear, concise, and wrong.  It doesn't give
any clue that you should read farther into the man page to find out how the
option really works, nor that "N" (a letter people are accustomed to using
as a shorthand for "number") can or should be formatted as anything other
than a string of digits.  Clearer doc would be good.

(Afterthought:  A --skip==N option, which did the same thing as --lines=+N,
might also be worthwhile.)

Evan Hunt

On Sat, Dec 16, 2006 at 10:30:10PM -0800, Paul Eggert wrote:
> Evan Hunt <address@hidden> writes:
> > In trying to figure out how to fix my script, I checked "tail --help" and
> > "man tail", and there was no mention of the fact that tail even *has* this
> > ability anymore.
> It should be later on the help.  Coreutils 6.7 "tail --help" says:
>     -n, --lines=N            output the last N lines, instead of the last 10
>     ...
>   If the first character of N (the number of bytes or lines) is a `+',
>   print beginning with the Nth item from the start of each file, otherwise,
>   print the last N items in the file.

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