man page

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A man page (short for manual page) is the name for software documentation found on Unix based systems. Man pages contain documentation about programs (executable files), libraries, system calls, and configuration files.

Man pages are generally written in a special markup language called troff, but also can be generated from other markup languages.


The sys-apps/man-db package is part of the system set and should be installed by default on Gentoo systems.

The sys-apps/man-pages package provides many basic man pages and is also part of the system set. If localized man pages are desired, set the LINGUAS variable in /etc/portage/make.conf, e.g. for German:

FILE /etc/portage/make.confLocale example

Most packages install additional man pages. To negate man page installation, add the following feature to /etc/portage/make.conf:

FILE /etc/portage/make.confNo man page example

This action is useful to save small amounts of disk space when creating embedded systems.



Man pages can be viewed using the man command:

  • man 5 ebuild - Shows the ebuild man page of section 5.
  • man ebuild - Shows the ebuild man page of section 1. When there is more than on man page with same name, the first found will be shown.

man uses the default pager (typically sys-apps/less) to display man pages. The default pager can be modified using the eselect pager command.

Navigation of a man page can be performed using the and arrow keys (or the j and k keys if Vim navigation is preferred). Scroll page wise with the Page Up and Page Down keys. Search using the / key followed by the search term.

A more thorough explanation can be found in the Navigate sub article.


KDE Konqueror can render man pages. Enter in the address bar man:/ followed by the man page name, e.g.: man:/ebuild. To view a specific section, add the section in parentheses, e.g.: man:/ebuild(5).


apropos (part of sys-apps/man) can search the whatis database for strings, e.g.:

user $apropos portage [color]    (5)  - custom color settings for Portage
ebuild               (1)  - a low level interface to the Portage system


See also