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docbook2x-man - Convert DocBook to man pages


docbook2x-man [options] xml-document


docbook2x-man converts the given DocBook XML document into man pages. By default, the man
pages will be output to the current directory.

Only the refentry content in the DocBook document is converted. (To convert content
outside of a refentry, stylesheet customization is required. See the docbook2X package for

The docbook2x-man command is a wrapper script for a two-step conversion process. See the
section “CONVERSION PROCESS” below for details.


The available options are essentially the union of the options from db2x_xsltproc(1) and

Some commonly-used options are listed below:

Sets the character encoding of the output.

--string-param parameter=value
Sets a stylesheet parameter (options that affect how the output looks). See
“Stylesheet parameters” below for the parameters that can be set.

--sgml Accept an SGML source document as input instead of XML.

Make stub pages for alternate names for an output man page.

Brief. Make headings uppercase?

Default setting. 1 (boolean true)

Headings in man page content should be or should not be uppercased.

Brief. Man page section citation should use only the number

Default setting. 1 (boolean true)

When citing other man pages, the man-page section is either given as is, or has the
letters stripped from it, citing only the number of the section (e.g. section 3x
becomes 3). This option specifies which style.

Brief. Display quotes on literal elements?

Default setting. 0 (boolean false)

If true, render literal elements with quotes around them.

Brief. Display comment elements?

Default setting. 1 (boolean true)

If true, comments will be displayed, otherwise they are suppressed. Comments here
refers to the comment element, which will be renamed remark in DocBook V4.0, not
XML comments (<-- like this -->) which are unavailable.

Brief. Generate parentheses after a function?

Default setting. 0 (boolean false)

If true, the formatting of a <function> element will include generated parenthesis.

Brief. Should link generate a cross-reference?

Default setting. 1 (boolean true)

Man pages cannot render the hypertext links created by link. If this option is set,
then the stylesheet renders a cross reference to the target of the link. (This may
reduce clutter). Otherwise, only the content of the link is rendered and the actual
link itself is ignored.

Brief. Third header text

Default setting. (blank)

Specifies the text of the third header of a man page, typically the date for the
man page. If empty, the date content for the refentry is used.

Brief. Fourth header text

Default setting. (blank)

Specifies the text of the fourth header of a man page. If empty, the refmiscinfo
content for the refentry is used.

Brief. Fifth header text

Default setting. (blank)

Specifies the text of the fifth header of a man page. If empty, the ‘manual name’,
that is, the title of the book or reference container is used.

Brief. Default man page section

Default setting. 1

The source document usually indicates the sections that each man page should belong
to (with manvolnum in refmeta). In case the source document does not indicate man-
page sections, this option specifies the default.

Brief. URI of XML document containing custom localization data

Default setting. (blank)

This parameter specifies the URI of a XML document that describes text translations
(and other locale-specific information) that is needed by the stylesheet to process
the DocBook document.

The text translations pointed to by this parameter always override the default text
translations (from the internal parameter localization-file). If a particular
translation is not present here, the corresponding default translation is used as a

This parameter is primarily for changing certain punctuation characters used in
formatting the source document. The settings for punctuation characters are often
specific to the source document, but can also be dependent on the locale.

To not use custom text translations, leave this parameter as the empty string.

Brief. XML document containing custom localization data

Default setting. document($custom-localization-file)

This parameter specifies the XML document that describes text translations (and
other locale-specific information) that is needed by the stylesheet to process the
DocBook document.

This parameter is internal to the stylesheet. To point to an external XML document
with a URI or a file name, you should use the custom-localization-file parameter

However, inside a custom stylesheet (not on the command-line) this parameter can be
set to the XPath expression document(''), which will cause the custom translations
directly embedded inside the custom stylesheet to be read.

Brief. Is othername in author a middle name?

Default setting. 1

If true, the othername of an author appears between the firstname and surname.
Otherwise, othername is suppressed.


$ docbook2x-man --solinks manpages.xml
$ docbook2x-man --solinks --encoding=utf-8//TRANSLIT manpages.xml
$ docbook2x-man --string-param header-4="Free Recode 3.6" document.xml


Converting to man pages
DocBook documents are converted to man pages in two steps:

1. The DocBook source is converted by a XSLT stylesheet into an intermediate XML format,

Man-XML is simpler than DocBook and closer to the man page format; it is intended to
make the stylesheets’ job easier.

The stylesheet for this purpose is in xslt/man/docbook.xsl. For portability, it
should always be referred to by the following URI:


Run this stylesheet with db2x_xsltproc(1).

Customizing. You can also customize the output by creating your own XSLT stylesheet —
changing parameters or adding new templates — and importing xslt/man/docbook.xsl.

2. Man-XML is converted to the actual man pages by db2x_manxml(1).

The docbook2x-man command does both steps automatically, but if any problems occur, you
can see the errors more clearly if you do each step separately:

$ db2x_xsltproc -s man mydoc.xml -o mydoc.mxml
$ db2x_manxml mydoc.mxml

Options to the conversion stylesheet are described in
the man-pages stylesheets

Pure XSLT conversion.
An alternative to the db2x_manxml Perl script is the XSLT
stylesheet in
This stylesheet performs a similar function
of converting Man-XML to actual man pages.
It is useful if you desire a pure XSLT
solution to man-page conversion.
Of course, the quality of the conversion using this stylesheet
will never be as good as the Perl db2x_manxml,
and it runs slower.
In particular, the pure XSLT version
currently does not support tables in man pages,
but its Perl counterpart does.

Character set conversion
When translating XML to legacy ASCII-based formats with poor support for Unicode, such as
man pages and Texinfo, there is always the problem that Unicode characters in the source
document also have to be translated somehow.

A straightforward character set conversion from Unicode does not suffice, because the
target character set, usually US-ASCII or ISO Latin-1, do not contain common characters
such as dashes and directional quotation marks that are widely used in XML documents. But
document formatters (man and Texinfo) allow such characters to be entered by a markup
escape: for example, \(lq for the left directional quote “. And if a markup-level escape
is not available, an ASCII transliteration might be used: for example, using the ASCII
less-than sign < for the angle quotation mark ⟨.

So the Unicode character problem can be solved in two steps:

1. utf8trans(1), a program included in docbook2X, maps Unicode characters to markup-level
escapes or transliterations.

Since there is not necessarily a fixed, official mapping of Unicode characters,
utf8trans can read in user-modifiable character mappings expressed in text files and
apply them. (Unlike most character set converters.)

In charmaps/man/roff.charmap and charmaps/man/texi.charmap are character maps that may
be used for man-page and Texinfo conversion. The programs db2x_manxml(1) and
db2x_texixml(1) will apply these character maps, or another character map specified by
the user, automatically.

2. The rest of the Unicode text is converted to some other character set (encoding). For
example, a French document with accented characters (such as é) might be converted to
ISO Latin 1.

This step is applied after utf8trans character mapping, using the iconv(1) encoding
conversion tool. Both db2x_manxml(1) and db2x_texixml(1) can call iconv(1)
automatically when producing their output.

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