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man pages section 8: System Administration Commands

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Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2022



catman - create the formatted files for the reference manual


/usr/bin/catman [-c] [-n] [-p] [-t] [-w] [
-M directory]
     [-T macro-package] [
/usr/bin/catman [-M 
directory] -w


The catman utility creates the preformatted versions of the on-line manual from the groff(1) input files. This feature allows easy distribution of the preformatted manual pages among a group of associated machines, since it makes the directories of preformatted manual pages self-contained and independent of the unformatted entries.

With the –w option, catman also creates index files, in the directories specified by the MANPATH or the –M option. If there is no MANPATH or –M option specified, unless –n is specified, catman creates index files at the /usr/share/man/ and /usr/gnu/share/man/ directories by default. When any specified or default directory is read-only, catman fails and displays an error message to stderr, indicating that writing is not allowed to the directory.

Each manual page is examined and those whose preformatted versions are missing or out of date are re-created. If any changes are made, catman re-creates the index files.

If a manual page is a shadow page, that is, it sources another manual page for its contents, a symbolic link is made in the catx or fmtx directory to the appropriate preformatted manual page.

Shadow files in an unformatted nroff source file are identified by the first line being of the form .so manx/yyy.x.


The following options are supported:


Do not create (or re-create) the index files. If the –n option is specified, the index files are not created and the apropos(1) and whatis(1) commands might run more slowly than otherwise.


Dry-run option. That is, display what would be done instead of doing it.


Create troffed entries in the appropriate fmt subdirectories instead of nroffing into the cat subdirectories.


Create the index files that are used by apropos(1), whatis(1) and the man(1) –f, –k, and –K options, in the directories specified by the MANPATH environment variable or the –M option. If no MANPATH or –M option is specified, index files are created in the /usr/share/man/ and /usr/gnu/share/man/ directories by default. No manual reformatting is done.

–M directory

Update manual pages located in the specified directory , (/usr/share/man by default). If the –M option is specified, the directory argument must not contain a ‘,’ (comma), since a comma is used to delineate section numbers. See man(1).

–T macro-package

Use macro-package in place of the standard manual page macros.


The following operand is supported:


If there is one parameter not starting with a ‘’, it is taken to be a space separated list of manual sections to be processed by catman. If this operand is specified, only the manual sections in the list will be processed. For example,

catman 1 2 3

only updates manual sections 1, 2, and 3. If specific sections are not listed, all sections in the man directory specified by the environment variable MANPATH are processed.

Environment Variables


The name of the formatter to use when the –t flag is given.


A colon-separated list of directories that are processed by catman and man(1). Each directory can be followed by a comma-separated list of sections. If set, its value overrides /usr/share/man as the default directory search path, and the man.cf file as the default section search path. The –M and –s flags, in turn, override these values.


Example 1 Creating an Index File

The following command creates an index file in the /usr/local/share/man directory.

# catman -M /usr/local/share/man -w



default manual directory location


raw nroff input files


preformatted nroffed manual pages


default macro package for groff


preformatted troffed manual pages


index file for –K query


See attributes(7) for descriptions of the following attributes:

Interface Stability

See Also

apropos(1), groff(1), man(1), rm(1), whatis(1), attributes(7)


If a user, who has previously run catman command to install the cat* directories, upgrades the operating system, the entire cat* directory structure should be removed prior to running catman command. For more information, see the rm(1) man page.

Do not re-run catman to rebuild the index files unless the complete set of man* directories is present. catman builds the index files based on the man* directories.


The windex database has been replaced by index files. Unlike the case with windex, index file generation does not pose any specific restrictions or prerequisites on what can be indexed.