How to Read a Man Page in Java

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How to Read a Man Page
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To read a man page, you simply precede the command name with man. For example, to read the man page of cdrecord, a piece of software used to write ISO images to CD-R/RW discs, type the following command:
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A PPEN DI X C GET T ING FURT H ER H ELP
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This opens a simple text viewer with the man page displayed. You can move up and down line by line with the cursor keys, or move page by page using the Page Up and Page Down keys (these are sometimes labeled Pg Up and Pg Down). You can search by hitting the forward slash key (/). This will highlight all instances of the word you type. You can search for other examples of the word in the document by hitting the n key. The average man page will include many headings, but the following are the most common: Name: This is the name of the command. There will also be a one-sentence summary of the command. Synopsis: This lists the command along with its various command options (sometimes known as arguments or flags). Effectively, it shows how the command can be used. It looks complicated, but the rules are simple. First is the command itself. This is in bold, which indicates it is mandatory. This rule applies to anything else in bold: it must be included when the command is used. Anything contained within square brackets ([]) is optional, and this is usually where you will find the command options listed. A pipe symbol (|) separates any command options that are exclusive, which means that only one of them can be used. For example, if you see [apple|orange|pear], only one of apple, orange, or pear can be specified. Usually at the end of the Synopsis listing will be the main argument, typically the file(s) that the command is to work on and/or generate. Description: This is a concise overview of the command s purpose. Options: This explains what the various command options do, as first listed in the Synopsis section. Bearing in mind that command options tell the software how to work, this is often the most useful part of the man page. Files: This lists any additional files that the command might require or use, such as configuration files. Notes: If this section is present (and often it isn t), it sometimes attempts to further illuminate aspects of the command or the technology the command is designed to control. Unfortunately, Notes sections can be just as arcane as the rest of the man page. See Also: This refers to the man pages of other commands that are linked to the command in question. If a number appears in brackets, this means the reference is to a specific section within the man page. To access this section, type: man <section no> command. Although there are guidelines for the headings that should appear in man pages, as well as their formatting, the fact is that you may encounter other headings, or you may find nearly all of them omitted. Some man pages are the result of hours if not days of effort; others are written in ten minutes. Their quality can vary tremendously.
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APPENDIX C GETTING FURTHER HELP
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Tips for Working with Man Pages
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The trick to quickly understanding a man page is decoding the Synopsis section. If you find it helps, split the nonobligatory command options from the mandatory parts. For example, cdrecord s man page says that you must specify the dev= option (it s in bold), so at the very least, the command is going to require this:
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cdrecord dev=X filename
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Then you should skip to the Options section and work out which options are relevant to your requirements. While you re there, you ll also need to figure out what the dev= command option requires. Although the command options contained in square brackets in the Synopsis section are, in theory, nonobligatory, the command might not work satisfactorily without some of them. For example, with cdrecord, we use the -speed command option, which sets the burn speed, and also the -v option, which provides verbose output (otherwise, the command runs silently and won t display any information on screen, including error messages!). Another handy tip in decoding man pages is understanding what standard input and standard output are. In very simple terms, standard input (stdin) is the method by which a command gets input the keyboard on most Linux setups. Standard output (stdout) is where the output of a command is sent, which is the screen on most Linux setups. (See 15 for more details about standard input and standard output.) Often, a man page will state that the output of a command will be sent to standard output. In other words, unless you specify otherwise, its output will appear on screen. Therefore, it s necessary to specify a file to which the data will be sent, either by redirecting the output (see 17), or by specifying a file using a command option. For example, the mkisofs command can be used to create ISO images from a collection of files for subsequent burning to CD. But unless the -o option is used to specify a filename, mkisofs s output will simply be sent to standard output it will appear on the screen. Finally, here s the best tip of all for using man pages: don t forget that man has its own man page. Simply type man man.
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