groff - front-end for the groff document formatting system
groff [-abcegilpstzCEGNRSUVXZ] [-d cs] [-f fam] [-F dir] [-I dir]
[-L arg] [-m name] [-M dir] [-n num] [-o list] [-P arg] [-r cn]
[-T dev] [-w name] [-W name] [file ...]
groff -h | --help
groff -v | --version [option ...]
The command line is parsed according to the usual GNU convention. The
whitespace between a command line option and its argument is optional.
Options can be grouped behind a single - (minus character). A filename
of - (minus character) denotes the standard input.
This document describes the groff program, the main front-end for the
groff document formatting system. The groff program and macro suite is
the implementation of a roff(7) system within the free software collec-
tion GNU 〈http://www.gnu.org〉. The groff system has all features of
the classical roff, but adds many extensions.
The groff program allows to control the whole groff system by command
line options. This is a great simplification in comparison to the
classical case (which uses pipes only).
As groff is a wrapper program for troff both programs share a set of
options. But the groff program has some additional, native options and
gives a new meaning to some troff options. On the other hand, not all
troff options can be fed into groff.
Native groff Options
The following options either do not exist for troff or are differently
interpreted by groff.
-e Preprocess with eqn.
-g Preprocess with grn.
-G Preprocess with grap.
Print a help message.
-I dir Add search directory for soelim(1). This option implies the -s
-l Send the output to a spooler program for printing. The command
that should be used for this is specified by the print command
in the device description file, see groff_font(5). If this com-
mand is not present, the output is piped into the lpr(1) program
by default. See options -L and -X.
-L arg Pass arg to the spooler program. Several arguments should be
passed with a separate -L option each. Note that groff does not
prepend - (a minus sign) to arg before passing it to the spooler
-N Don’t allow newlines within eqn delimiters. This is the same as
the -N option in eqn.
-p Preprocess with pic.
-P -option -P arg
Pass -option or -option arg to the postprocessor. The option
must be specified with the necessary preceding minus sign(s) ‘-’
or ‘--’ because groff does not prepend any dashes before passing
it to the postprocessor. For example, to pass a title to the
gxditview postprocessor, the shell command
sh# groff -X -P -title -P ’groff it’ foo
is equivalent to
sh# groff -X -Z foo | gxditview -title ’groff it’ -
-R Preprocess with refer. No mechanism is provided for passing ar-
guments to refer because most refer options have equivalent lan-
guage elements that can be specified within the document. See
refer(1) for more details.
-s Preprocess with soelim.
-S Safer mode. Pass the -S option to pic and disable the following
troff requests: .open, .opena, .pso, .sy, and .pi. For security
reasons, safer mode is enabled by default.
-t Preprocess with tbl.
-T dev Set output device to dev. The possible values in groff are
ascii, cp1047, dvi, html, latin1, lbp, lj4, ps, utf8, X75, and
X100. Additionally, X75-12 and X100-12 are available for docu-
ments which use 12pt as the base document size. The default de-
vice is ps.
-U Unsafe mode. Reverts to the (old) unsafe behaviour; see option
Output version information of groff and of all programs that are
run by it; that is, the given command line is parsed in the usu-
al way, passing -v to all subprograms.
-V Output the pipeline that would be run by groff (as a wrapper
program), but do not execute it.
-X Use gxditview instead of using the usual postprocessor to
(pre)view a document. The printing spooler behavior as outlined
with options -l and -L is carried over to gxditview(1) by deter-
mining an argument for the -printCommand option of gxditview(1).
This sets the default Print action and the corresponding menu
entry to that value. -X only produces good results with -Tps,
-TX75, -TX75-12, -TX100, and -TX100-12. The default resolution
for previewing -Tps output is 75dpi; this can be changed by
passing the -resolution option to gxditview, for example
sh# groff -X -P-resolution -P100 -man foo.1
-z Suppress output generated by troff. Only error messages will be
-Z Do not postprocess the output of troff that is normally called
automatically by groff. This will print the intermediate output
to standard output; see groff_out(5).
The following options are transparently handed over to the formatter
program troff that is called by groff subsequently. These options are
described in more detail in troff(1).
-a ascii approximation of output.
-b backtrace on error or warning.
-c disable color output.
-C enable compatibility mode.
-E disable troff error messages.
-f fam set default font family.
-F dir set path for font DESC files.
-i process standard input after the specified input files.
include macro file name.tmac (or tmac.name); see also
-M dir path for macro files.
-n num number the first page num.
output only pages in list.
set number register.
enable warning name.
disable warning name.
The groff system implements the infrastructure of classical roff; see
roff(7) for a survey on how a roff system works in general. Due to the
front-end programs available within the groff system, using groff is
much easier than classical roff. This section gives an overview of the
parts that constitute the groff system. It complements roff(7) with
groff-specific features. This section can be regarded as a guide to
the documentation around the groff system.
The groff program is a wrapper around the troff(1) program. It allows
to specify the preprocessors by command line options and automatically
runs the postprocessor that is appropriate for the selected device.
Doing so, the sometimes tedious piping mechanism of classical roff(7)
can be avoided.
The grog(1) program can be used for guessing the correct groff command
line to format a file.
The groffer(1) program is an allround-viewer for groff files and man
The groff preprocessors are reimplementations of the classical prepro-
cessors with moderate extensions. The preprocessors distributed with
the groff package are
eqn(1) for mathematical formulæ,
grn(1) for including gremlin(1) pictures,
pic(1) for drawing diagrams,
for bibliographic references,
for including macro files from standard locations,
tbl(1) for tables.
Besides these, there are some internal preprocessors that are automati-
cally run with some devices. These aren’t visible to the user.
Macro packages can be included by option -m. The groff system imple-
ments and extends all classical macro packages in a compatible way and
adds some packages of its own. Actually, the following macro packages
come with groff:
man The traditional man page format; see groff_man(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -man or -m man.
mandoc The general package for man pages; it automatically recognizes
whether the documents uses the man or the mdoc format and
branches to the corresponding macro package. It can be speci-
fied on the command line as -mandoc or -m mandoc.
mdoc The BSD-style man page format; see groff_mdoc(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -mdoc or -m mdoc.
me The classical me document format; see groff_me(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -me or -m me.
mm The classical mm document format; see groff_mm(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -mm or -m mm.
ms The classical ms document format; see groff_ms(7). It can be
specified on the command line as -ms or -m ms.
www HTML-like macros for inclusion in arbitrary groff documents; see
Details on the naming of macro files and their placement can be found
General concepts common to all roff programming languages are described
The groff extensions to the classical troff language are documented in
The groff language as a whole is described in the (still incomplete)
groff info file; a short (but complete) reference can be found in
The central roff formatter within the groff system is troff(1). It
provides the features of both the classical troff and nroff, as well as
the groff extensions. The command line option -C switches troff into
compatibility mode which tries to emulate classical roff as much as
There is a shell script nroff(1) that emulates the behavior of classi-
cal nroff. It tries to automatically select the proper output encod-
ing, according to the current locale.
The formatter program generates intermediate output; see groff_out(7).
In roff, the output targets are called devices. A device can be a
piece of hardware, e.g. a printer, or a software file format. A device
is specified by the option -T. The groff devices are as follows.
ascii Text output using the ascii(7) character set.
cp1047 Text output using the EBCDIC code page IBM cp1047 (e.g. OS/390
nippon Text output using the Japanese-EUC character set.
dvi TeX DVI format.
html HTML output.
ascii8 For typewriter-like devices. Unlike ascii, this device is 8 bit
clean. This device is intended to be used for codesets other
than ASCII and ISO-8859-1.
latin1 Text output using the ISO Latin-1 (ISO 8859-1) character set;
lbp Output for Canon CAPSL printers (LBP-4 and LBP-8 series laser
lj4 HP LaserJet4-compatible (or other PCL5-compatible) printers.
ps PostScript output; suitable for printers and previewers like
utf8 Text output using the Unicode (ISO 10646) character set with
UTF-8 encoding; see unicode(7).
X75 75dpi X Window System output suitable for the previewers
xditview(1x) and gxditview(1). A variant for a 12pt document
base font is X75-12.
X100 100dpi X Window System output suitable for the previewers
xditview(1x) and gxditview(1). A variant for a 12pt document
base font is X100-12.
The postprocessor to be used for a device is specified by the postpro
command in the device description file; see groff_font(5). This can be
overridden with the -X option.
The default device is ps.
groff provides 3 hardware postprocessors:
for some Canon printers,
for printers compatible to the HP LaserJet 4 and PCL5,
for text output using various encodings, e.g. on text-oriented
terminals or line-printers.
Today, most printing or drawing hardware is handled by the operating
system, by device drivers, or by software interfaces, usually accepting
PostScript. Consequently, there isn’t an urgent need for more hardware
The groff software devices for conversion into other document file for-
for the DVI format,
for HTML format,
Combined with the many existing free conversion tools this should be
sufficient to convert a troff document into virtually any existing data
The following utility programs around groff are available.
Add information to troff font description files for use with
Create font description files for PostScript device.
General viewer program for groff files and man pages.
The groff X viewer, the GNU version of xditview.
Create font description files for lj4 device.
Make inverted index for bibliographic databases.
Search bibliographic databases.
Interactively search bibliographic databases.
Translate a PostScript font in .pfb format to ASCII.
Create font description files for TeX DVI device.
roff viewer distributed with X window.
Normally, the path separator in the following environment variables is
the colon; this may vary depending on the operating system. For exam-
ple, DOS and Windows use a semicolon instead.
This search path, followed by $PATH, will be used for commands
that are executed by groff. If it is not set then the directory
where the groff binaries were installed is prepended to PATH.
When there is a need to run different roff implementations at
the same time groff provides the facility to prepend a prefix to
most of its programs that could provoke name clashings at run
time (default is to have none). Historically, this prefix was
the character g, but it can be anything. For example, gtroff
stood for groff’s troff, gtbl for the groff version of tbl. By
setting GROFF_COMMAND_PREFIX to different values, the different
roff installations can be addressed. More exactly, if it is set
to prefix xxx then groff as a wrapper program will internally
call xxxtroff instead of troff. This also applies to the pre-
processors eqn, grn, pic, refer, tbl, soelim, and to the utili-
ties indxbib and lookbib. This feature does not apply to any
programs different from the ones above (most notably groff it-
self) since they are unique to the groff package.
A list of directories in which to search for the devname direc-
tory in addition to the default ones. See troff(1) and
groff_font(5) for more details.
A list of directories in which to search for macro files in ad-
dition to the default directories. See troff(1) and
groff_tmac(5) for more details.
The directory in which temporary files will be created. If this
is not set but the environment variable TMPDIR instead, tempo-
rary files will be created in the directory $TMPDIR. Otherwise
temporary files will be created in /tmp. The refer(1),
groffer(1), grohtml(1), and grops(1) commands use temporary
Preset the default device. If this is not set the ps device is
used as default. This device name is overwritten by the option
There are some directories in which groff installs all of its data
files. Due to different installation habits on different operating
systems, their locations are not absolutely fixed, but their function
is clearly defined and coincides on all systems.
groff Macro Directory
This contains all information related to macro packages. Note that
more than a single directory is searched for those files as documented
in groff_tmac(5). For the groff installation corresponding to this
document, it is located at /usr/share/groff/220.127.116.11/tmac. The follow-
ing files contained in the groff macro directory have a special mean-
Initialization file for troff. This is interpreted by troff be-
fore reading the macro sets and any input.
Final startup file for troff, it is parsed after all macro sets
have been read.
Macro file for macro package name.
groff Font Directory
This contains all information related to output devices. Note that
more than a single directory is searched for those files; see troff(1).
For the groff installation corresponding to this document, it is locat-
ed at /usr/share/groff/18.104.22.168/font. The following files contained in
the groff font directory have a special meaning:
Device description file for device name, see groff_font(5).
Font file for font F of device name.
The following example illustrates the power of the groff program as a
wrapper around troff.
To process a roff file using the preprocessors tbl and pic and the me
macro set, classical troff had to be called by
sh# pic foo.me | tbl | troff -me -Tlatin1 | grotty
Using groff, this pipe can be shortened to the equivalent command
sh# groff -p -t -me -T latin1 foo.me
An even easier way to call this is to use grog(1) to guess the prepro-
cessor and macro options and execute the generated command (by specify-
ing shell left quotes)
sh# ‘grog -Tlatin1 foo.me‘
The simplest way is to view the contents in an automated way by calling
sh# groffer foo.me
On EBCDIC hosts (e.g. OS/390 Unix), output devices ascii and latin1
aren’t available. Similarly, output for EBCDIC code page cp1047 is not
available on ASCII based operating systems.
Report bugs to email@example.com. Include a complete, self-contained
example that will allow the bug to be reproduced, and say which version
of groff you are using.
Information on how to get groff and related information is available at
the GNU website 〈http://www.gnu.org/software/groff〉. The most recent
released version of groff is available for anonymous ftp at the groff
development site 〈ftp://ftp.ffii.org/pub/groff/devel/
Three groff mailing lists are available:
for reporting bugs,
for general discussion of groff,
a read-only list showing logs of commitments to the CVS reposi-
Details on CVS access and much more can be found in the file README at
the top directory of the groff source package.
There is a free implementation of the grap preprocessor, written by Ted
Faber 〈firstname.lastname@example.org〉. The actual version can be found at the
grap website 〈http://www.lunabase.org/~faber/Vault/software/grap/〉.
This is the only grap version supported by groff.
Copyright © 1989, 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This document is distributed under the terms of the FDL (GNU Free Docu-
mentation License) version 1.1 or later. You should have received a
copy of the FDL on your system, it is also available on-line at the GNU
copyleft site 〈http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html〉.
This document is based on the original groff man page written by James
Clark 〈email@example.com〉. It was rewritten, enhanced, and put under the
FDL license by Bernd Warken 〈firstname.lastname@example.org〉. It is maintained by
Werner Lemberg 〈email@example.com〉.
groff is a GNU free software project. All parts of the groff package
are protected by GNU copyleft licenses. The software files are dis-
tributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL), while
the documentation files mostly use the GNU Free Documentation License
The groff info file contains all information on the groff system within
a single document. Beneath the detailed documentation of all aspects,
it provides examples and background information. See info(1) on how to
Due to its complex structure, the groff system has many man pages.
They can be read with man(1) or groffer(1).
Introduction, history and further readings:
Viewer for groff files:
groffer(1), gxditview(1), xditview(1x).
Wrapper programs for formatters:
eqn(1), grn(1), pic(1), refer(1), soelim(1), tbl(1), grap(1).
Roff language with the groff extensions:
groff(7), groff_char(7), groff_diff(7), groff_font(5).
Roff formatter programs:
nroff(1), troff(1), ditroff(7).
The intermediate output language:
Postprocessors for the output devices:
grodvi(1), grohtml(1), grolbp(1), grolj4(1), grops(1),
Groff macro packages and macro-specific utilities:
groff_tmac(5), groff_man(7), groff_mdoc(7), groff_me(7),
groff_mm(7), groff_mmse(7), groff_mom(7), groff_ms(7),
The following utilities are available:
addftinfo(1), afmtodit(1), eqn2graph(1), groffer(1),
gxditview(1), hpftodit(1), indxbib(1), lookbib(1), pfbtops(1),
Groff Version 22.214.171.124 24 November 2004 GROFF(1)
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