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 sin-
gle - (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 for-
matting system. The groff program and macro suite is the implementation of a roff(7) sys-
tem within the free software collection 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 comand 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
-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 option.
-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 command 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 sepa-
rate -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
-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 arguments to refer be-
cause 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
-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 documents which use 12pt as the base document size. The default
device is ps.
-U Unsafe mode. Reverts to the (old) unsafe behaviour; see option -S.
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 subpro-
-V Output the pipeline that would be run by groff (as a wrapper program), but do not
-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 determining 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 printed.
-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
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 groff_tmac(5).
-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 over-
view of the parts that consitute the groff system. It complements roff(7) with groff-spe-
cific features. This section can be regarded as a guide to the documentation around the
The groff program is a wrapper around the troff(1) program. It allows to specify the pre-
processors by command line options and automatically runs the postprocessor that is appro-
priate for the selected device. Doing so, the sometimes tedious piping mechanism of clas-
sical roff(7) can be avoided.
The grog(1) program can be used for guessing the correct groff command line to format a
The groffer(1) program is an allround-viewer for groff files and man pages.
The groff preprocessors are reimplementations of the classical preprocessors with moderate
extensions. The preprocessors distributed with the groff package are
eqn(1) for mathematical formulae,
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 automatically run with some
devices. These aren't visible to the user.
Macro packages can be included by option -m. The groff system implements 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 com-
mand line as -man or -m man.
mandoc The general package for man pages; it automatically recognizes whether the docu-
ments uses the man or the mdoc format and branches to the corresponding macro pack-
age. It can be specified 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 com-
mand line as -mdoc or -m mdoc.
me The classical me document format; see groff_me(7). It can be specified on the com-
mand line as -me or -m me.
mm The classical mm document format; see groff_mm(7). It can be specified on the com-
mand line as -mm or -m mm.
ms The classical ms document format; see groff_ms(7). It can be specified on the com-
mand line as -ms or -m ms.
www HTML-like macros for inclusion in arbitrary groff documents; see groff_www(7).
Details on the naming of macro files and their placement can be found in groff_tmac(5).
General concepts common to all roff programming languages are described in roff(7).
The groff extensions to the classical troff language are documented in groff_diff(7).
The groff language as a whole is described in the (still incomplete) groff info file; a
short (but complete) reference can be found in groff(7).
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 possible.
There is a shell script nroff(1) that emulates the behavior of classical nroff. It tries
to automatically select the proper output encoding, 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 Unix).
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 printers).
lj4 HP LaserJet4-compatible (or other PCL5-compatible) printers.
ps PostScript output; suitable for printers and previewers like gv(1).
utf8 Text output using the Unicode (ISO 10646) character set with UTF-8 encoding; see
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 de-
vice 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-
Today, most printing or drawing hardware is handled by the operating system, by device
drivers, or by software interfaces, usally accepting PostScript. Consequently, there
isn't an urgent need for more hardware device postprocessors.
The groff software devices for conversion into other document file formats are
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 format.
The following utility programs around groff are available.
Add information to troff font description files for use with groff.
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 example, DOS and Windows use a semicolon in-
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 pro-
voke name clashings at run time (default is to have none). Historically, this pre-
fix 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 ex-
actly, 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 preprocessors eqn, grn,
pic, refer, tbl, soelim, and to the utilities indxbib and lookbib. This feature
does not apply to any programs different from the ones above (most notably groff
itself) since they are unique to the groff package.
A list of directories in which to search for the devname directory 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 will be created. If this is not set but the
environment variable TMPDIR instead, temporary files will be created in the direc-
tory $TMPDIR. Otherwise temporary files will be created in /tmp. The refer(1),
groffer(1), grohtml(1), and grops(1) commands use temporary files.
Preset the default device. If this is not set the ps device is used as default.
This device name is overwritten by the option -T.
There are some directories in which groff installs all of its data files. Due to differ-
ent 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 di-
rectory is searched for those files as documented in groff_tmac(5). For the groff instal-
lation corresponding to this document, it is located at /usr/share/groff/1.18.1/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 di-
rectory is searched for those files; see troff(1). For the groff installation correspond-
ing to this document, it is located at /usr/share/groff/1.18.1/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
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 preprocessor and macro op-
tions and execute the generated command (by specifying 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
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 avail-
able 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 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/>. This is the only grap version supported by
Copyright (C) 1989, 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This document is distributed under the terms of the FDL (GNU Free Documentation 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 distributed under the terms of the GNU General
Public License (GPL), while the documentation files mostly use the GNU Free Documentation
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 in-
formation. 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), 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), 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), mmroff(7).
The following utilities are available:
addftinfo(1), afmtodit(1), eqn2graph(1), groffer(1), gxditview(1), hpftodit(1),
indxbib(1), lookbib(1), pfbtops(1), pic2graph(1), tfmtodit(1).
Groff Version 1.18.1 Nov 2003 GROFF(1)