groff Man page

GROFF(1) General Commands Manual GROFF(1)


groff – front-end for the groff document formatting system


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 ⟨⟩. 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

-j Preprocess with chem. Implies -p.

-k Preprocess with preconv. This is run before any other pre‐
processor. Please refer to preconv’s manual page for its behav‐
iour if no -K (or -D) option is specified.

-K arg Set input encoding used by preconv to arg. Implies -k.

-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 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 program.

-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 -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)
printers (postprocessor is grolj4).

ps PostScript output (postprocessor is grops).

pdf Portable Document Format (PDF) output (postproces‐
sor is gropdf).

For the following TTY output devices (postprocessor is always
grotty), -T selects the output encoding:

ascii 7bit ASCII.

cp1047 Latin-1 character set for EBCDIC hosts.

latin1 ISO 8859-1.

utf8 Unicode character set in UTF-8 encoding. This
mode has the most useful fonts for TTY mode, so it
is the best mode for TTY output.

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 by deter‐
mining an argument for the -printCommand option of gxditview.
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

Transparent Options
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.

-a ASCII approximation of output.

-b Backtrace on error or warning.

-c Disable color output. Please consult the grotty man page for
more details.

-C Enable compatibility mode.

-d cs
-d name=s
Define string.

-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.

-m name
Include macro file name.tmac (or; see also

-M dir Path for macro files.

-n num Number the first page num.

-o list
Output only pages in list.

-r cn
-r name=n
Set number register.

-w name
Enable warning name. See troff for names.

-W name
disable warning name. See troff 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.

Paper Size
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
A4 paper in landscape orientation for the PS device:

groff -Tps -P-pa4 -P-l …

The groff program is a wrapper around the troff 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 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 pre‐
processors with moderate extensions. The standard preprocessors dis‐
tributed with the groff package are

eqn for mathematical formulae,

grn(1) for including gremlin(1) pictures,

pic for drawing diagrams,

for chemical structure diagrams,

for bibliographic references,

for including macro files from standard locations,


tbl for tables.

A new preprocessor not available in classical troff is preconv 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
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
in groff_tmac(5); this man page also documents some other, minor auxil‐
iary macro packages not mentioned here.

Programming Language
General concepts common to all roff programming languages are described
in roff(7).

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. 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 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;
see iso_8859_1(7).

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 and

utf8 Text output using the Unicode (ISO 10646) character set with
UTF-8 encoding; see unicode(7).

xhtml XHTML output.

X75 75dpi X Window System output suitable for the previewers
xditview(1x) and gxditview. 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. 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
device postprocessors.

The groff software devices for conversion into other document file for‐
mats are

for the DVI format,

for HTML and XHTML formats,

for PostScript.

for PDF.

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.

Convert an eqn image into a cropped image.

Mark differences between groff, nroff, or troff files.

Convert a grap diagram into a cropped bitmap image.

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
to prefix xxx then groff as a wrapper program internally calls
xxxtroff instead of troff. This also applies to the preproces‐
sors eqn, grn, pic, refer, tbl, soelim, and to the utilities
indxbib and lookbib. This feature does not apply to any pro‐
grams different from the ones above (most notably groff itself)
since they are unique to the groff package.

The value of this environment value is passed to the preconv
preprocessor to select the encoding of input files. Setting
this option implies groff’s command line option -k (this is,
groff actually always calls preconv). If set without a value,
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 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 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 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

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 | tbl | troff -me -Tlatin1 | grotty

Using groff, this pipe can be shortened to the equivalent command

groff -p -t -me -T latin1

An even easier way to call this is to use grog to guess the pre‐
processor and macro options and execute the generated command (by using
backquotes to specify shell command substitution)

`grog -Tlatin1`

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 mailing list ⟨⟩. Include a
complete, self-contained example that allows the bug to be reproduced,
and say which version of groff you are using.

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.

Collection of Installation Directories
This section describes the position of all files of the groff package
after the installation — got from Makefile.comm at the top of the groff
source package.

index directory and index name

legacy font directory

directory for binary programs

system tmac directory

documentation directory

directory for examples

documentation directory for html files

documentation directory for pdf files

data subdirectory

file for common words

directory for fonts

directory for old fonts

tmac directory

mm tmac directory

local font directory

local tmac directory

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/1.22.3/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.

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.
For the groff installation corresponding to this document, it is
located at /usr/share/groff/1.22.3/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.

Information on how to get groff and related information is available at
the groff GNU website ⟨⟩.

Three groff mailing lists are available:

for reporting bugs ⟨⟩.

for general discussion of groff, ⟨⟩.

the groff commit list ⟨⟩, a read-only list
showing logs of commitments to the groff repository.

Details on repository 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 ⟨⟩. The actual version can be found at the
grap website ⟨⟩.
This is the only grap version supported by groff.


The groff info file contains all information on the groff system within
a single document, providing many examples and background information.
See info on how to read it.

Due to its complex structure, the groff system has many man pages.
They can be read with man or groffer(1).

But there are special sections of man-pages. groff has man-pages in
sections 1, 5,and 7. When there are several man-pages with the same
name in the same man section, the one with the lowest section is should
as first. The other man-pages can be shown anyway by adding the sec‐
tion number as argument before the man-page name. Reading the man-page
about the groff language is done by one of
man 7 groff
groffer 7 groff

Introduction, history and further readings:

Viewer for groff files:
groffer(1), gxditview, xditview(1x).

Wrapper programs for formatters:
groff, grog.

Roff preprocessors:
eqn, grn(1), pic, chem(1), preconv, refer(1),
soelim, tbl, grap(1).

Roff language with the groff extensions:
groff(7), groff_char(7), groff_diff(7), groff_font(5).

Roff formatter programs:
nroff, troff, ditroff(7).

The intermediate output language:

Postprocessors for the output devices:
grodvi, grohtml(1), grolbp(1), grolj4(1), lj4_font(5),
grops, gropdf, grotty.

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) (only in Swedish locales),
groff_mom(7), groff_ms(7), groff_www(7), groff_trace(7),

The following utilities are available:
addftinfo, afmtodit(1), eqn2graph(1), gdiffmk(1),
grap2graph(1), groffer(1), gxditview, hpftodit(1),
indxbib(1), lkbib(1), lookbib(1), pdfroff(1), pfbtops,
pic2graph(1), tfmtodit(1), xtotroff.

Copyright © 1989-2014 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Rewritten in 2002 by Bernd Warken

This document is part of groff, a free GNU software project.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3 or
any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with the
Invariant Sections being the macro definition or .co and .au, with no
Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.

A copy of the Free Documentation License is included as a file called
FDL in the main directory of the groff source package.

It is also available in the internet at the GNU copyleft site ⟨http://⟩.

This document is based on the original groff man page written by James
Clark ⟨⟩. It was rewritten, enhanced, and put under the
FDL license by Bernd Warken . It is
maintained by Werner Lemberg ⟨⟩.

Groff Version 1.22.3 28 January 2016 GROFF(1)