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man pages

man pages

Posted Sep 6, 2008 8:42 UTC (Sat) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
In reply to: man pages by giraffedata
Parent article: Feature removal sparks Git flamewar

I wrote a replacement almost 10 years ago that is based on Lynx and can find pages locally or on the web, in a hierarchical structure.

You're describing the GNU info format and the Lynx-like 'pinfo' viewer. Try pinfo gcc sometime, or just pinfo to view all available. I think the GNOME help browser also can view GNU info docs.

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man pages

Posted Sep 6, 2008 17:12 UTC (Sat) by giraffedata (subscriber, #1954) [Link]

You're describing the GNU info format ...

Thanks for bringing that up. Info is evidence that almost 20 years ago people recognized that man was outdated. And I believe Info would have taken over the world except for the fact that the worldwide web followed closely on its heels, muted much of its value, and standardized a different markup language.

GNU Info was a heavy influence for me in inventing my own replacement for man-style lookups, but its lack of network capability was the biggest weakness. Using an esoteric source language (compared to HTML) was the next biggest. And you can't do 'pinfo git foo' (hierarchical name space), can you?

man pages

Posted Sep 6, 2008 23:28 UTC (Sat) by bronson (subscriber, #4806) [Link]

I'm not sure about that... I loathed info even before I really knew much about Archie or the WWW. It had some serious issues:

- It's manually laborious. With manpages, when you see an unrecognized keyword in a Bash script: 'man bash' /REPLY. Turnaround time two seconds. With info, you spend minutes clicking forward and back through a hierarchical structure of pages never knowing if you're hunting in the right place or not. The manpage will tell you instantly if the keyword is in the man documentation, info won't really.

- Info documentation tends to contain a lot more philosophical junk and background info that you need to sift through. I'm all for documenting that stuff, just make sure the reference docs come first!

- If you quit the info reader, it took a lot of effort to find your way back to where you were. With manpages, just '334G'.

- The original info reader was quite user-hostile. At least pinfo came along later.

So, I completely agree that manpages are really showing their age and that we need a better system. The system should be optimized for reference documentation though, not the lean-back, chopped up docs that Info, Gopher, Archie, and the WWW are built for.

man pages

Posted Sep 6, 2008 23:48 UTC (Sat) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

info will instantly tell you if keywords are in the documentation. "i
KEYWORD" if there's an index (info documents have keyword indexes), "s
KEYWORD" otherwise.

Most people's complaints about info boil down to "I don't know its
keybindings". This one does too.

(What I really dislike is the way the info format ditches all the nice
layout and formatting in the source texinfo documents.)

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