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HP-UX 11i Version 3: February 2007

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tbl — format tables for nroff


tbl [-TX] [file ...]


tbl is a preprocessor that formats tables for nroff(1). The input files are copied to the standard output, except for lines between .TS and .TE command lines, which are assumed to describe tables and are re-formatted by tbl. (The .TS and .TE command lines are not altered by tbl).

.TS is followed by global options. The available global options are:


center the table (default is left-adjust);


make the table as wide as the current line length;


enclose the table in a box;


enclose the table in a double box;


enclose each item of the table in a box;

tab (x)

use the character x instead of a tab to separate items in a line of input data.

The global options, if any, are terminated with a semi-colon (;).

Next come lines describing the format of each line of the table. Each such format line describes one line of the actual table, except that the last format line (which must end with a period) describes all remaining lines of the table. Each column of each line of the table is described by a single key-letter, optionally followed by specifiers that determine the font and point size of the corresponding item, indicate where vertical bars are to appear between columns, or determine column width, inter-column spacing, etc. The available key-letters are:


center item within the column;


right-adjust item within the column;


left-adjust item within the column;


numerically adjust item in the column: units positions of numbers are aligned vertically;


span previous item on the left into this column;


center longest line in this column, then left-adjust all other lines in this column with respect to that centered line;


span down previous entry in this column;


replace this entry with a horizontal line;


replace this entry with a double horizontal line.

The characters B and I stand for the bold (font position 3) and italic (font position 2) fonts, respectively; the character | indicates a vertical line between columns.

The format lines are followed by lines containing the actual data for the table, followed finally by .TE. Within such data lines, data items are normally separated by tab characters.

If a data line consists of only _ or =, a single or double line, respectively, is drawn across the table at that point; if a single item in a data line consists of only _ or =, then that item is replaced by a single or double line.

The -TX option forces tbl to use only full vertical line motions, making the output more suitable for devices that cannot generate partial vertical line motions (such as line printers).

If no file names are given as arguments (or if - is specified as the last argument), tbl reads the standard input, and thus can be used as a filter. When used with neqn, tbl should be used first to minimize the volume of data passed through pipes (see neqn(1)).


Environment Variables

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

LC_NUMERIC determines the radix character used in numerical data.

LANG determines the language in which messages are displayed.

If LC_CTYPE or LC_NUMERIC 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, tbl behaves as if all internationalization variables are set to "C". See environ(5).

International Code Set Support

Single- and multi-byte character code sets are supported.


If we redefine the tab character to a semicolon, then the input:

.TS center box tab(;) ; cB s s cI | cI s ^ | c c l | n n. Household Population _ Town;Households ;Number;Size = Bedminster;789;3.26 Bernards Twp.;3087;3.74 Bernardsville;2018;3.30 Bound Brook;3425;3.04 Bridgewater;7897;3.81 Far Hills;240;3.19 .TE


Household Population
Bernards Twp.30873.74
Bound Brook34253.04
Far Hills2403.19

The tbl command is used most often with nroff and col (see col(1)). A common usage is:

tbl filename | nroff -mmacro_package_name | col


See WARNINGS under nroff(1).

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