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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

Technical documentation

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nroff — format text


nroff [options] file ...


nroff is a text formatting program that interprets source text contained in file and prepares it for printing on typewriter-like devices and line printers. If file name is - or not specified, standard input is used as source text.

If the file contains plain text with no formatter requests, nroff uses default line lengths and page dimensions to produce readable output, outputting a blank line for each blank line encountered in the input, and filling and adjusting text to both margins. nroff ignores any lines in the source text that begin with a period (.) but are not valid nroff formatter requests.

Source File Preparation

Document source file preparation is usually easier when text is coded using macro packages such as mm(1) which provide a high-level interface for headings, page footers, lists, and other features, rather than coding the file with inherently low-level nroff requests.


nroff recognizes the following command-line options, which can appear in any order but must appear before the file argument:


Print only pages whose page numbers appear in the list of numbers and ranges, separated by commas. A range n-m means pages n through m; an initial -n means from the beginning to page n; and a final n- means from n to the end. (See WARNINGS below.)


Number first generated page n.


Stop every n pages. nroff halts after every n pages (default n=1) to allow paper loading or changing, and resumes upon receipt of a line-feed or new-line (new-lines do not work in pipelines, such as with mm). When nroff halts between pages, an ASCII BEL is sent to the terminal.


Set register a (which must have a one-character name) to N.


Read standard input after files are exhausted.


Invoke the simultaneous input-output mode of the .rd request.


Print only messages generated by .tm (terminal message) requests.


Precede the input files with the non-compiled (ASCII text) macro file


where LANG is the value of the LANG environment variable. If LANG is not set or


does not exist, the following file is used instead:



Prepare output for specified terminal. Known names are as follows:


for the (default) TELETYPE Model 37 terminal


for the GE TermiNet 300 (or any terminal without half-line capability)


for the DASI 300s


for the DASI 300


for the DASI 450


for a (generic) ASCII line printer


for the DTC-382


for the Trendata 4000A


for the Anderson Jacobson 832


for a (generic) EBCDIC printer


for the Hewlett-Packard 2631 line printer


for a (generic) 16-bit character printer having ratio of 2 to 3 in 8-bit and 16-bit character width


for Hewlett-Packard PCL3 and newer laser printers.


Produce equally-spaced words in adjusted lines, using the full resolution of the particular terminal.


Use output tabs during horizontal spacing to speed output and reduce output character count. Tab settings are assumed to be every eight nominal character widths.


Set the emboldening factor (number of character overstrikes) for the third font position (bold) to n, or to zero if n is missing.


If this option is specified on the command line, it allows the use of the special feature provided by some Asian printers which prints two column wide characters in 3/2 column wide boxes.


Environment Variables

LC_CTYPE determines the interpretation of text as single and/or multi-byte characters.

LANG is used to determine the search path for the -m option. LANG also determines the language in which messages are displayed.

If LC_CTYPE is not specified in the environment or is set to the empty string, the value of LANG is used as a default for each unspecified or empty variable. If LANG is not specified or is set to the empty string, a default of "C" (see lang(5)) is used instead of LANG. If any internationalization variable contains an invalid setting, nroff behaves as if all internationalization variables are set to "C". See environ(5).


The following command prints the first five pages of the document whose nroff source file is filename:

nroff -o-5 filename

Note that there should not be a space between the o and the - or the - and the 5.

To print only pages 1, 3, and 4 type:

nroff -o1,3,4 filename


When nroff is used with the -olist option inside a pipeline, it may cause a harmless "broken pipe" diagnostic if the last page of the document is not specified in list.



Standard macro files


Terminal driving tables for nroff


Suffix hyphenation tables


Standard macro files and pointers

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