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man page command tips

Expert Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

March 22, 2011

man command

The best way to learn more about a command is usually its man page.  The man command is a Linux command that searches several locations on the system for manual pages, or documentation that is distributed electronically with most Linux software.

To access the man page for a specific command, enter the man commandand provide the command you wish to learn more about as an argument.

$ man ls
LS(1)                            User Commands                     
       ls - list directory contents
       ls [OPTION]... [FILE]...
       List  information  about the FILEs (the current direc-
       tory by default).  Sort entries alphabetically if none
       of -cftuvSUX nor --sort.
       Mandatory  arguments to long options are mandatory for
       short options too.
       -a, --all
              do not ignore entries starting with .
       -A, --almost-all
              do not list implied . and ..
              with -l, print the author of each file
       -b, --escape
              print octal escapes for nongraphic characters

The man pages are typically displayed on the screen in the less file viewer, very similar to more, in which the arrow keys can be used to navigate, or ‘space’ used to move a page down and ‘b’ to move a page up. The man pages are typically displayed in the format shown above.  First, there is the command name with a short description, then a synopsis that shows the order of options and arguments that can be used with this command.

Next is a more detailed description of the command followed by all the valid options for the given command.  It is not unusual for a command to have dozens of options.  This can be quite overwhelming at first, but the more these commands are used, the more comfortable one will become with their options.

Knowing how to read and interpret the man pages is essential to learning about commands, but without a firm foundation they will have little meaning.  Hopefully, at this point parts of the man pages are better understood, and by the end of the next chapter, most of what the man pages have to offer should also be understood.

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