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Re: [Groff] man pages (tangential to Future Redux)

From: Colin Watson
Subject: Re: [Groff] man pages (tangential to Future Redux)
Date: Sat, 1 Mar 2014 21:41:02 +0000
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

On Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 07:53:34PM +0100, Ingo Schwarze wrote:
> Eric S. Raymond wrote on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 12:15:35PM -0500:
> > 2. Some time ago I added to Linux man(1) the capability to recognize
> > HTML pages in the man hierachy and kick them over to the user's Web
> > browser.  All Linux and *BSD distributions now ship this code.
> I'm not quite sure what you mean by Linux man(1); i failed to find
> your name here:

Right.  I implemented Eric's $BROWSER spec in 2001, but I think that's
the only idea of his in man-db at the moment.  The change Eric's
referring to is in the other Linux man package as of version 1.6; but as
you say the BSDs use their own things, and as of earlier this year the
only major Linux distributions I could find using man rather than man-db
were Mageia and Slackware.  I may have missed a few, but "all Linux
distributions" is certainly not close to accurate.

Regardless of my feelings on whether it should be used by default, I'd
like to at least have this as an option in man-db on general feature
parity grounds.  Eric, do you want me to put together a patch at some
point, or will you?

> > Where I want us to be is that when users call man(1) the normal
> > behavior is to render through the browser.
> That is most definitely not going to happen in OpenBSD, and i would
> be very surprised if any other BSD would follow.  Not all environments
> are running X, not all environments are fit for running a browser,
> but you want manuals everywhere.  And i doubt that any people even
> *want* to see manuals in a browser.

I think it makes more sense to make sure man:foo and similar URLs do
sensible things in all the browsers people use.  While there are
exceptions, if you want to see something in a browser, it's usually more
natural to start from that browser's URL bar.

> even though it is easily feasible with current tools, just have man(1)
> write to a tempfile and call the browser on that, using the usual
> man.conf(5) or manpath(1) or whatever mechanisms.

That's indeed basically what "man -H" does in man-db.  There are
annoyances with the lifetime of rendered image files, though, and it's
not clear how to solve that (  The same
would presumably hold for Eric's proposal.

Colin Watson                                       address@hidden

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