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12.4 Default Operation of Requests

nroff /troff initializes the formatting environment. For example, unless you reset the line length, nroff /troff uses 6.5 inches. Most requests can change the default environment, and those that can are listed in Table 12.1 . The second column lists the initial or default value in effect before the request is used. If no initial value applies, a hyphen (-) is used. The third column shows the effect if a request's optional argument is not used. Here, a hyphen is used if the request doesn't accept an argument or if the argument is required.

Table 12.1: Requests That Affect the Default Environment
Request Initial Value If No Argument Description
.ad Justify Justify

Adjust margins.

.af Lowercase arabic -

Assign a format to a register.

.am - End call with ..

Append to a macro.

.bd Off -

Embolden font.

.c2 ' '

Set no-break control character.

.cc . .

Set control character.

.ce Off Center one line

Center lines.

.ch - Turn off trap

Change trap position.

.cs Off -

Set constant-width spacing.

.cu Off One line

Continuous underline/italicize.

.da - End the diversion

Divert text and append to a macro.

.de - End macro with ..

Define a macro.

.di - End the diversion

Divert text to a macro.

.dt - Turn off trap

Set a diversion trap.

.ec \ \

Set escape character.

.eo On -

Turn off escape character.

.ev 0

Previous environment

Change environment (push down).

.fc Off Off

Set field delimiter and pad character.

.fi Fill -

Fill lines.

.fp 1=R -

Mount font (on positions 1-4).

.ft Roman Previous font

Set font.

.hc \% \%

Set hyphenation character.

.hy Mode 1 Mode 1

Set hyphenation mode.

.ig - End with ..

Suppress (ignore) text in output.

.in 0 Previous indent


.it - Turn off trap

Set a trap for input line counting.

.lc . None

Set leader character.

.lg Off (nroff ) On

Ligature mode.

  On (troff )    
.ll 6.5 inches

Previous line length

Set line length.

.ls Single-space Previous mode

Set line spacing.

.lt 6.5 inches

Previous title length

Set length of title.

.mc - Turn off

Set the margin character.

.mk - Internal

Mark vertical position.

.na Adjust -

Don't adjust margins.

.ne - One vertical line

Keep lines on same page if there's room.

.nf Fill -

Don't fill lines.

.nh On -

Turn off hyphenation.

.nm Off Off

Line-numbering mode.

.nn - One line

Don't number next N lines.

.ns Space mode -

Enable no-space mode.

.nx - End of file

Go to a file.

.pc % Off

Set page character.

.pl 11 inches 11 inches

Set page length.

.pn Page 1 -

Set page number.


0 (nroff ); 26/27 inch (otroff )

Previous offset

Change page offset.

  1 inch (ditroff )    
.ps 10

Previous point size

Set point size.

.rd - Ring bell

Read from the terminal.

.rt - Internal

Return to marked vertical place.

.sp - One vertical line

Output blank spacing.

.ss 12/36 em Ignored

Set character spacing.

.sv - One vertical line

Save (store) spacing.


8 en (nroff ); 1/2 inch (troff )


Define tab settings.

.tc - -

Set tab repetition character.

.ti 0 - Indent next line.
.tm - Newline

Print a message, then continue.

.tr - -

Translate pairs of characters on output.

.uf Italic Italic

Set font for underlining.

.ul 0 One line Underline/italicize.

1/6 inch (nroff ); 12 points (troff )

Previous value

Set vertical spacing for lines.

Comments in nroff /troff begin with \" . Lines beginning with . that contain an unknown request are ignored. In general, don't put leading whitespace on your text lines. This causes a break, and nroff and troff honors the leading whitespace literally.

Note: the canonical reference for nroff /troff is Bell Labs Computing Science Technical Report #54, Troff User's Manual , by J.F. Ossanna and B.W. Kernighan. It is available in PostScript from http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/cstr/54.ps.gz . You should read it if you plan to do any serious work in nroff /troff (such as writing or modifying macro packages). This document explains the ideas of diversions, environments, fields, registers, strings, and traps.

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