Monday, 5 October 2009

A better way to view man pages in a different window

In Episode 13 of Season 2 of the Ubuntu UK Podcast the “Command Line Lurve” segment was supplied by Alan Bell. He found that reading man pages in a terminal to be painful because the terminal was where he wanted to being typing the command options. His script ran gnome-help in the background to view the man page in a different window.

Alan Bell's script prompted me to write an improved version and send it in along with this email:

I listened to Alan Bell's command line luurve segment in your podcast
this evening. Whilst his script works it inhibits much of man(1)'s
functionality. In particular it does not support specifying the manual
section (compare "man open" and "man 2 open" for example.)

Here's my alternative that maintains this functionality and
automatically falls back to standard man if any options are supplied:

case "$1" in
"") x= ;;
-*) x= ;;
if [ -n "$x" ]; then
for i in "$@"; do
case "$i" in
[0-9]) section="($i)" ;;
*) gnome-help "man:$i$section" >/dev/null 2>&1 & ;;
exec man "$@"

The script also makes specifying multiple pages at once more useful
than it is with man(1).
It can be aliased to man if required as Alan described.

They were nice enough to read out my email in Episode 14 but the script didn't appear in the show notes. So here it is.


Cullen Logan said...

Thanks Mike. Very useful. Might I suggest aliasing it to woman? We all know how great women are so woman seems fitting for a souped up graphical version of man.

Mike said...

You can call it what you like!

There was an improved man called woman available on the SunOS 4 workstations I used some years ago. I can't remember what made it better. Perhaps the system version didn't format the pages particularly well.

The name is also in use for .