MAN Pages & Useful Information


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How to get more information with Linux

Now we'll talk about some other commands that you will probably need in your day to day work with Linux. They make your work a little easier and give you added information about your system.

'man' - manual pages in Linux

The first command is 'man'. This command will show the manual for a command or program. The manual is a file that shows you how to use the command and list the different options for the command in question. You would type:

man [the command]
For example, if you type

man mkdir
The manual file for 'mkdir' will come up and give you a detailed explanation of this command.

Managing Documentation in Linux

The manual file for 'mkdir' is actually one of the more straight-forward ones. There are a lot that I think we're written by Harry Bigbrains and they were meant to be seen only by Richard Biggerbrain who's sitting in the cubicle next to him.

For example, this appears in the 'man' file for 'cp'

By default, sparse SOURCE files are detected by a crude heuristic and the corresponding DEST file is made sparse as well. That is the behavior selected by --sparse=auto. Specify --sparse=always to create a sparse DEST file whenever the SOURCE file contains a long enough sequence of zero bytes. Use --sparse=never to inhibit creation of sparse files.

I don't know about you, but I'm going to call my lawyer. I've been assaulted by "a crude heuristic".
If you use the command cp --help, you'll get a nutshell version of the 'cp' command.

If you use your pipe cp --help | less, it'll be a little easier to manage.

The 'info' format

Typing info [command name] will get you more information on a command and is more current than most man files and perhaps a little more readable. In fact, some 'man' files will actually tell you to consult the 'info' file. The 'info' files are not always installed automatically. so you may want to consult your own version of Linux about these files.


The word 'apropos' means pertinent to something else. There is a command that will show you all of the man page that may shed some light on a certain command. For example, if I typed:

apropos xterm
resize (1x) - set TERMCAP and terminal settings to current xterm window size
xterm (1x) - terminal emulator for X
terms (5) - database of blessed terminals for xtermset.
xtermset (1) - change settings of an xterm

These are all man pages related to xterm. You would then just choose one of these and type man terms for example.

Some versions of Linux that are made for languages other than English will give you this documentation in its particular language. There are also websites that specialize in documentation in other languages. You can use your favorite Internet search engine to find Linux documentation in your own language.


Oh man, I had to comment, I'll be chuckling quietly for ages after reading that. Better lawyer up, I hear Harry Big Brains is in town. Thank you for the chuckle


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@Gokul ... welcome to , hope you enjoy your time with us :)

Have a click at the top of your site Menu, where it says Forums, and you will see a number of choices, for example General Linux, Getting Started, and perhaps in this case, Command Line. It is at if you want to shortcut.

There you can start a thread (topic) and just name it so it is clear, for example "Help with understanding Manuals", or whatever.

I think you will be pleasantly surprised to see the help you get from Members here :D

... and I agree with the other members above, it is a good Tute (kudos @Rob ), who runs this site.

"apropos" is pronounced "app-pro-poe", and I wonder if the (well-meaning, I am sure) Linux person whom started using it was being pedantic - but then using "pedantic" is possibly being pedantic? Go figure.

Enjoy your Linux.

Chris Turner

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