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From: "Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)" <>
To: "G. Branden Robinson" <>
Cc:, linux-man <>
Subject: Re: [PATCH] drop spurious t comment header
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2020 14:30:05 +0200
Message-ID: <> (raw)
In-Reply-To: <20200724121555.e4l2okob3x3fzk5z@localhost.localdomain>

Hi Branden, Mike,

On 7/24/20 2:15 PM, G. Branden Robinson wrote:
> At 2020-07-24T12:13:33+0200, Michael Kerrisk (man-pages) wrote:
>> On Fri, 24 Jul 2020 at 02:03, G. Branden Robinson
>> <> wrote:
>>> it is a hint to the man
>>> program to preprocess the man page text through tbl.
>> Yes, that's my understanding. But I believe that these days it's no
>> longer needed(?). tbl(1) just gets used as needed, regardless of the
>> presence of the 't' comment, right?
> [A few "strace -f -e execve"s later...]
> Hmm, for the man-db man(1) in Debian bullseye (testing), at least, this
> is true!  And checking its own man page, it looks like it was true as
> far back as April 2001 (the horizon of its Git history).
> I guess there are so many man pages that embed tables without including
> the hint that the man-db maintainers decided not to leave the comment to
> chance.  

That would be my guess.

> The only other man-like program I know if in anything like wide
> use on Linux systems is mandoc, which does all its own parsing and
> doesn't depend on a *roff at all.
> Retaining an accurate comment would be a kindness to other man
> implementations I'm not aware of and to weirdos like me who run groff
> directly because we develop it (though admittedly, even for us, there is
> the crutch of grog(1)).  But I'll grant--these populations may be small.

Yes, and in any case, the man-pages pages are already widely omitting
this comment.

>> See my comments above. For 15 years or at least, I've not paid any
>> attention to adding the 't' comments when I added tables to pages, and
>> I do recall anyone reporting ill effects. So, I'm inclined to apply
>> Mike's patch, but will hold off a moment, in case there's other
>> feedback.
> Sounds fair.

Branden, thanks for your detailed analysis.

Mike, I've applied the patch, but completely rewrote the commit
message, as below.




Various pages: Drop t comment header
Historically, a comment of the following form at the top of a
manual page was used to indicate too man(1) that the use of tbl(1)
was required in order to process tables:

    '\" t

However, at least as far back as 2001 (according to Branden),
man-db's man(1) automatically uses tbl(1) as needed, rendering
this comment unnecessary. And indeed many existing pages in
man-pages that have tables don't have this comment at the top of
the file.  So, drop the comment from those files where it is

Michael Kerrisk
Linux man-pages maintainer;
Linux/UNIX System Programming Training:

  reply index

Thread overview: 7+ messages / expand[flat|nested]  mbox.gz  Atom feed  top
2020-07-23 21:53 Mike Frysinger
2020-07-24  0:03 ` G. Branden Robinson
2020-07-24 10:13   ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)
2020-07-24 12:15     ` G. Branden Robinson
2020-07-24 12:30       ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages) [this message]
2020-07-24 13:13         ` Stefan Puiu
2020-07-24 15:17           ` Michael Kerrisk (man-pages)

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