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whatis - display one-line manual page descriptions


whatis [-dlv?V] [-r|-w] [-s list] [-m system[,...]] [-M path] [-L locale] [-C file] name


Each manual page has a short description available within it. whatis searches the manual
page names and displays the manual page descriptions of any name matched.

name may contain wildcards (-w) or be a regular expression (-r). Using these options, it
may be necessary to quote the name or escape (\) the special characters to stop the shell
from interpreting them.

index databases are used during the search, and are updated by the mandb program.
Depending on your installation, this may be run by a periodic cron job, or may need to be
run manually after new manual pages have been installed. To produce an old style text
whatis database from the relative index database, issue the command:

whatis -M manpath -w '*' | sort > manpath/whatis

where manpath is a manual page hierarchy such as /usr/man.


-d, --debug
Print debugging information.

-v, --verbose
Print verbose warning messages.

-r, --regex
Interpret each name as a regular expression. If a name matches any part of a page
name, a match will be made. This option causes whatis to be somewhat slower due to
the nature of database searches.

-w, --wildcard
Interpret each name as a pattern containing shell style wildcards. For a match to
be made, an expanded name must match the entire page name. This option causes
whatis to be somewhat slower due to the nature of database searches.

-l, --long
Do not trim output to the terminal width. Normally, output will be truncated to
the terminal width to avoid ugly results from poorly-written NAME sections.

-s list, --sections list, --section list
Search only the given manual sections. list is a colon- or comma-separated list of
sections. If an entry in list is a simple section, for example "3", then the
displayed list of descriptions will include pages in sections "3", "3perl", "3x",
and so on; while if an entry in list has an extension, for example "3perl", then
the list will only include pages in that exact part of the manual section.

-m system[,...], --systems=system[,...]
If this system has access to other operating system's manual page names, they can
be accessed using this option. To search NewOS's manual page names, use the option
-m NewOS.

The system specified can be a combination of comma delimited operating system
names. To include a search of the native operating system's manual page names,
include the system name man in the argument string. This option will override the
$SYSTEM environment variable.

-M path, --manpath=path
Specify an alternate set of colon-delimited manual page hierarchies to search. By
default, whatis uses the $MANPATH environment variable, unless it is empty or
unset, in which case it will determine an appropriate manpath based on your $PATH
environment variable. This option overrides the contents of $MANPATH.

-L locale, --locale=locale
whatis will normally determine your current locale by a call to the C function
setlocale(3) which interrogates various environment variables, possibly including
$LC_MESSAGES and $LANG. To temporarily override the determined value, use this
option to supply a locale string directly to whatis. Note that it will not take
effect until the search for pages actually begins. Output such as the help message
will always be displayed in the initially determined locale.

-C file, --config-file=file
Use this user configuration file rather than the default of ~/.manpath.

-?, --help
Print a help message and exit.

Print a short usage message and exit.

-V, --version
Display version information.


0 Successful program execution.

1 Usage, syntax or configuration file error.

2 Operational error.

16 Nothing was found that matched the criteria specified.


SYSTEM If $SYSTEM is set, it will have the same effect as if it had been specified as the
argument to the -m option.

If $MANPATH is set, its value is interpreted as the colon-delimited manual page
hierarchy search path to use.

If $MANWIDTH is set, its value is used as the terminal width (see the --long
option). If it is not set, the terminal width will be calculated using the value
of $COLUMNS, an ioctl(2) if available, or falling back to 80 characters if all else

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