groff [-abcegijklpstzCEGNRSUVXZ] [-d cs] [-D arg] [-f fam] [-F dir]
[-I dir] [-K arg] [-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 ...]
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).
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 file-
name of - (minus character) denotes the standard input.
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.
-D arg Set default input encoding used by preconv to arg. Implies -k.
-e Preprocess with eqn.
-g Preprocess with grn.
-G Preprocess with grap. Implies -p.
--help Print a help message.
-I dir This option may be used to specify a directory to search for
files (both those on the command line and those named in .psbb
and .so requests, and \X'ps: import' and \X'ps: file' escapes).
The current directory is always searched first. This option may
be specified more than once; the directories are searched in the
order specified. No directory search is performed for files
specified using an absolute path. This option implies the -s
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
-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
groff -X -P -title -P 'groff it' foo
is equivalent to
groff -X -Z foo | gxditview -title 'groff it' -
-R Preprocess with refer. No mechanism is provided for passing
arguments to refer because most refer options have equivalent
language 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. For this device, troff generates the
intermediate output; see groff_out(5). Then groff calls a post-
processor to convert troff's intermediate output to its final
format. Real devices in groff are
dvi TeX DVI format (postprocessor is grodvi).
xhtml HTML and XHTML output (preprocessors are soelim
and pre-grohtml, postprocessor is post-grohtml).
lbp Canon CAPSL printers (LBP-4 and LBP-8 series laser
printers; postprocessor is grolbp).
lj4 HP LaserJet4 compatible (or other PCL5 compatible)
cp1047 Latin-1 character set for EBCDIC hosts.
latin1 ISO 8859-1.
utf8 Unicode character set in UTF-8 encoding.
The following arguments select gxditview as the `postprocessor'
(it is rather a viewing program):
X75 75dpi resolution, 10pt document base font.
X75-12 75dpi resolution, 12pt document base font.
X100 100dpi resolution, 10pt document base font.
100dpi resolution, 12pt document base font.
The default device 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
usual way, passing -v to all subprograms.
-V Output the pipeline that would be run by groff (as a wrapper
program) on the standard output, but do not execute it. If
given more than once, the commands are both printed on the stan-
dard error and run.
-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
groff -X -P-resolution -P100 -man foo.1
-z Suppress output generated by troff. Only error messages are
-Z Do not automatically postprocess groff intermediate output in
the usual manner. This will cause the troff output to appear on
standard output, replacing the usual postprocessor output; see
-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. See troff(1) for names.
disable warning name. See troff(1) for names.
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 virtual paper size used by troff to format the input is controlled
globally with the requests .po, .pl, and .ll. See groff_tmac(5) for
the `papersize' macro package which provides a convenient interface.
The physical paper size, giving the actual dimensions of the paper
sheets, is controlled by output devices like grops with the command
line options -p and -l. See groff_font(5) and the man pages of the
output devices for more details. groff uses the command line option -P
to pass options to output devices; for example, the following selects
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 pre-
processors with moderate extensions. The standard preprocessors dis-
tributed with the groff package are
eqn(1) for mathematical formulae,
grn(1) for including gremlin(1) pictures,
pic(1) for drawing diagrams,
for chemical structure diagrams,
for bibliographic references,
for including macro files from standard locations,
tbl(1) for tables.
A new preprocessor not available in classical troff is preconv(1) which
converts various input encodings to something groff can understand. It
is always run first before any other preprocessor.
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
in groff_tmac(5); this man page also documents some other, minor auxil-
iary macro packages not mentioned here.
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 fol-
ascii Text output using the ascii(7) character set.
cp1047 Text output using the EBCDIC code page IBM cp1047 (e.g., OS/390
dvi TeX DVI format.
html HTML output.
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
pdf PDF files; suitable for viewing with tools such as evince(1) and
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 and XHTML formats,
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
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.
Create PDF documents using groff.
Translate a PostScript font in .pfb format to ASCII.
Convert a pic diagram into a cropped image.
Create font description files for TeX DVI device.
roff viewer distributed with X window.
Convert X font metrics into GNU troff font metrics.
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, is 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
groff calls preconv without arguments. An explicit -K command
line option overrides the value of GROFF_ENCODING. See pre-
conv(1) for details.
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
addition to the default directories. See troff(1) and
groff_tmac(5) for more details.
The directory in which temporary files are created. If this is
not set but the environment variable TMPDIR instead, temporary
files are created in the directory $TMPDIR. On MS-DOS and Win-
dows 32 platforms, the environment variables TMP and TEMP (in
that order) are searched also, after GROFF_TMPDIR and TMPDIR.
Otherwise, temporary files are 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/1.22.2/tmac. The following
files contained in the groff macro directory have a special meaning:
Initialization file for troff. This is interpreted by troff
before 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.
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
pic foo.me | tbl | troff -me -Tlatin1 | grotty
Using groff, this pipe can be shortened to the equivalent command
groff -p -t -me -T latin1 foo.me
An even easier way to call this is to use grog(1) to guess the pre-
processor and macro options and execute the generated command (by using
backquotes to specify shell command substitution)
`grog -Tlatin1 foo.me`
The simplest way is to view the contents in an automated way by calling
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 the groff maling list <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Include a
complete, self-contained example that allows 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 groff GNU website <http://www.gnu.org/software/groff>. The most
recent released version of groff is available at the groff development
Three groff mailing lists are available:
for reporting bugs <email@example.com>.
for general discussion of groff, <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
the groff commit list <email@example.com>, a read-only list
showing logs of commitments to the CVS repository.
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/>.
FDL license by Bernd Warken <email@example.com>. It is
maintained by Werner Lemberg <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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, providing many examples and background information.
See info(1) on how to read it.
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), chem(1), preconv(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), lj4_font(5),
grops(1), gropdf(1), grotty(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),
groff_www(7), groff_trace(7), mmroff(7).
The following utilities are available:
addftinfo(1), afmtodit(1), eqn2graph(1), gdiffmk(1),
grap2graph(1), groffer(1), gxditview(1), hpftodit(1),
indxbib(1), lkbib(1), lookbib(1), pdfroff(1), pfbtops(1),
pic2graph(1), tfmtodit(1), xtotroff(1).
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