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RE: [Groff] Is there a Groff HOWTO?

From: Ted Harding
Subject: RE: [Groff] Is there a Groff HOWTO?
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 1999 02:01:10 -0000 (GMT)

On 26-Dec-99 Dean Allen Provins wrote:
> Fellow groff users:
> It occurred to me that there was no groff HOWTO (at least I couldn't
> locate one this morning).  Consequently, it would be difficult for new
> users to get started with groff and friends (or so it seemed to me,
> based on my personal experience).  
> Had I not had a copy of UNIX Text Processing (now out of print, I
> believe), and didn't have Ted Harding to answer a few questions
> (thanks Ted), I might not be using it today.
> Admittedly, I use only the MS macros (with some customization), and a
> few troff commands, but I can get documents out that look consistently
> great.

Agreed. There is not a decent howto, though there are some
fragmentary ones around.

The general situation is roughly this: The groff man pages document
mainly the differences with "UNIX troff" (actually ditroff). However,
what "UNIX troff" exactly means is not well defined either.

Nevertheless, if you are already familiar with some version (preferably
recent) of a UNIX troff, and you read the groff man-pages, and you
experiment, then you can pretty well suss out, with considerable
effort, how to use groff.

What this means for people who are not yet familiar with troff and
do not (like Dean) have access to some old documentation, then
you are in effect in documentation limbo, and in any case you
have work to do.

One of my main current projects is to try to fill the gap.

I'm not too keen on doing it as a HOWTO at present -- there is too
much to put in on too broad a front. The approach I am following at
the moment is to prepare a groff-compatible version of the ditroff
version of the Ossanna and Kernighan "Troff User's Manual" (1992
revision) available (PostScript) at

(I hope it's still there). One reason for doing it this way is that
I myself want a systematically documented reference for EVERYTHING
in gtroff. After that, a more user-friendly reference will be feasible.

Meanwhile, the following may be of some use to people. I gave a talk
on groff to our local Linux user's group some weeks ago, and the
(PostScript) overhead transparancies I used (including their groff
source files and some other info including a summary of documentation)
are available at

Read the file talk.txt therein to find out what the various files
are about.

If anyone else feels they have something solid to contribute to
documentation, offers will be gratefully received.

Apologies for any email delays and/or unreliability at present:
I'm in the middle of upgrading systems across a big jump in
versions of Linux ... (so far, I think nothing has been lost,
and I don't think inconsistencies have crept in; but it's
a bit like moving office premises while staying in business ... ).

Season's greetings to all!


E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <address@hidden>
Date: 27-Dec-99                                       Time: 02:01:10
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