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[Groff] man pages (tangential to Future Redux)

From: Doug McIlroy
Subject: [Groff] man pages (tangential to Future Redux)
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2014 21:26:32 -0500
User-agent: Heirloom mailx 12.5 7/5/10

>  Man pages are not tutorials or complete manuals

As Federico said, they absolutely should be complete.
Perhaps Gnu's most egregious contribution to Unix
was to turn texinfo with its paleolithic interface
into the "complete" documentation with man pages as
stubs. But perhaps I should be glad that all the
extra stuff, such as history (interesting, but not
germane to usage), didn't get piled into man pages.

Lots of things make manuals fat. Often it's software
design by feature rather than essential functionality.
Sometimes it's a big marketing blurb up front. Sometimes
it's mere verbosity. Often a well-designed table can
be much briefer than text--and easier to find one's
way around in. (I pride myself on having fit vi(1)
into three pages in the tenth-edition manual.)

> There was _The Unix Programming Environment_
> which, coming from K&R, was how I learnt Unix existed.

A quibble: that book is Kernighan and Pike, not
Kernighan and Ritchie. It is indeed a good book--topped
Amazon's daily best-seller list when it first came out.


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