manpagez: man pages & more
man groff_tmac(5)
Home | html | info | man
groff_tmac(5)                 File Formats Manual                groff_tmac(5)


       groff_tmac - macro files in the GNU roff typesetting system


       Definitions of macros, strings, and registers for use in a roff(7)
       document can be collected into macro files, roff input files designed
       to produce no output themselves but instead ease the preparation of
       other roff documents.  There is no syntactical difference between a
       macro file and any other roff document; only its purpose distinguishes
       it.  When a macro file is installed at a standard location, named
       according to a certain convention, and suitable for use by a general
       audience, it is termed a macro package.  Macro packages can be loaded
       by supplying the -m option to troff(1) or a groff front end.

       Each macro package stores its macro, string, and register definitions
       in one or more tmac files.  This name originated in early Unix culture
       as an abbreviation of "troff macros".

       A macro file must have a name in the form name.tmac (or and
       be placed in a "tmac directory" to be loadable with the -mname option.
       Section "Environment" of troff(1) lists these directories.
       Alternatively, a groff document requiring a macro file can load it with
       the mso ("macro source") request.

       Like any other roff document, a macro file can use the "so" request
       ("source") to load further files relative to its own location.

       Macro files are named for their most noteworthy application, but a
       macro file need not define any macros.  It can restrict itself to
       defining registers and strings or invoking other groff requests.  It
       can even be empty.

Macro packages

       Macro packages come in two varieties; those which assume responsibility
       for page layout and other critical functions ("major" or "full-
       service") and those which do not ("supplemental" or "auxiliary").  GNU
       roff provides most major macro packages found in AT&T and BSD Unix
       systems, an additional full-service package, and many supplemental
       packages.  Multiple full-service macro packages cannot be used by the
       same document.  Auxiliary packages can generally be freely combined,
       though attention to their use of the groff language name spaces for
       identifiers (particularly registers, macros, strings, and diversions)
       should be paid.  Name space management was a significant challenge in
       AT&T troff; groff's support for arbitrarily long identifiers affords
       few excuses for name collisions, apart from attempts at compatibility
       with the demands of historical documents.

   Man pages
       man    an is used to compose man pages in the format originating in
              Version 7 Unix (1979).  It has a small macro interface and is
              widely used; see groff_man(7).

       mdoc   doc is used to compose man pages in the format originating in
              4.3BSD-Reno (1990).  It provides many more features than an, but
              is also larger, more complex, and not as widely adopted; see

       Because readers of man pages often do not know in advance which macros
       are used to format a given document, a wrapper is available.

       mandoc This macro file, specific to groff, recognizes whether a
              document uses man or mdoc format and loads the corresponding
              macro package.  Multiple man pages, in either format, can be
              handled; andoc reloads each macro package as necessary.

   Full-service packages
       The packages in this section provide a complete set of macros for
       writing documents of any kind, up to whole books.  They are similar in
       functionality; it is a matter of taste which one to use.

       me     The classical me macro package; see groff_me(7).

       mm     The semi-classical mm macro package; see groff_mm(7).

       mom    The mom macro package, only available in groff.  As this was not
              based on other packages, it was freely designed as quite a nice,
              modern macro package.  See groff_mom(7).

       ms     The classical ms macro package; see groff_ms(7).

   Localization packages
       For Western languages, the localization file sets the hyphenation mode
       and loads hyphenation patterns and exceptions.  Localization files can
       also adjust the date format and provide translations of strings used by
       some of the full-service macro packages; alter the input encoding (see
       the next section); and change the amount of additional inter-sentence
       space.  For Eastern languages, the localization file defines character
       classes and sets flags on them.  By default, troffrc loads the
       localization file for English.

       trans  loads localized strings used by various macro packages after
              their localized forms have been prepared by a localization macro

       groff provides the following localization files.

       cs     Czech; localizes man, me, mm, mom, and ms.  Sets the input
              encoding to Latin-2 by loading latin2.tmac.

       den    German; localizes man, me, mm, mom, and ms.  Sets the input
              encoding to Latin-1 by loading latin1.tmac.

              de.tmac selects hyphenation patterns for traditional
              orthography, and den.tmac does the same for the new orthography

       en     English.

       fr     French; localizes man, me, mm, mom, and ms.  Sets the input
              encoding to Latin-9 by loading latin9.tmac.

       it     Italian; localizes man, me, mm, mom, and ms.

       ja     Japanese.

       sv     Swedish; localizes man, me, mm, mom, and ms.  Sets the input
              encoding to Latin-1 by loading latin1.tmac.  Some of the
              localization of the mm package is handled separately; see

       zh     Chinese.

   Input encodings
       latin9 are various ISO 8859 input encodings supported by groff.  On
              systems using ISO character encodings, groff loads latin1.tmac
              automatically at startup.  A document that uses Latin-2,
              Latin-5, or Latin-9 can specify one of these alternative

       cp1047 provides support for EBCDIC-based systems.  On those platforms,
              groff loads cp1047.tmac automatically at startup.

       Because different input character codes constitute valid GNU troff
       input on ISO and EBCDIC systems, the latin macro files cannot be used
       on EBCDIC systems, and cp1047 cannot be used on ISO systems.

   Auxiliary packages
       The macro packages in this section are not intended for stand-alone
       use, but can add functionality to any other macro package or to plain
       ("raw") groff documents.

       62bit  provides macros for addition, multiplication, and division of
              62-bit integers (allowing safe multiplication of signed 31-bit
              integers, for example).

       hdtbl  allows the generation of tables using a syntax similar to the
              HTML table model.  This Heidelberger table macro package is not
              a preprocessor, which can be useful if the contents of table
              entries are determined by macro calls or string interpolations.
              Compare to tbl(1).  It works only with the ps and pdf output
              devices.  See groff_hdtbl(7).

              enables the paper format to be set on the command line by giving
              a "-d paper=format" option to troff.  Possible values for format
              are the ISO and DIN formats "A0-A6", "B0-B6", "C0-C6", and
              "D0-D6"; the U.S. formats "letter", "legal", "tabloid",
              "ledger", "statement", and "executive"; and the envelope formats
              "com10", "monarch", and "DL".  All formats, even those for
              envelopes, are in portrait orientation: the length measurement
              is vertical.  Appending "l" (ell) to any of these denotes
              landscape orientation instead.  This macro file assumes one-inch
              horizontal margins, and sets registers recognized by the groff
              man, mdoc, mm, mom, and ms packages to configure them
              accordingly.  If you want different margins, you will need to
              use those packages' facilities, or troff ll and/or po requests
              to adjust them.  An output device typically requires command-
              line options -p and -l to override the paper dimensions and
              orientation, respectively, defined in its DESC file; see
              subsection "Paper format" of groff(1).  This macro file is
              normally loaded at startup by the troffrc file when formatting
              for a typesetting device (but not a terminal).

       pdfpic provides a single macro, PDFPIC, to include a PDF graphic in a
              document using features of the pdf output driver.  For other
              output devices, PDFPIC calls PSPIC, with which it shares an
              interface (see below).  This macro file is normally loaded at
              startup by the troffrc file.

       pic    supplies definitions of the macros PS, PE, and PF, usable with
              the pic(1) preprocessor.  They center each picture.  Use it if
              your document does not use a full-service macro package, or that
              package does not supply working pic macro definitions.  Except
              for man and mdoc, those provided with groff already do so
              (exception: mm employs the name PF for a different purpose).

       pspic  provides a macro, PSPIC, that includes a PostScript graphic in a
              document.  The ps, dvi, html, and xhtml output devices support
              such inclusions; for all other drivers, the image is replaced
              with a rectangular border of the same size.  pspic.tmac is
              loaded at startup by the troffrc file.

              Its syntax is as follows.

                     .PSPIC [-L|-R|-C|-I n] file [width [height]]

              file is the name of the PostScript file; width and height give
              the desired width and height of the image.  If neither a width
              nor a height argument is specified, the image's natural width
              (as given in the file's bounding box) or the current line length
              is used as the width, whatever is smaller.  The width and height
              arguments may have scaling units attached; the default scaling
              unit is i.  PSPIC scales the graphic uniformly in the horizontal
              and vertical directions so that it is no more than width wide
              and height high.  Option -C centers the graphic horizontally;
              this is the default.  -L and -R left- and right-align the
              graphic, respectively.  -I indents the graphic by n (with a
              default scaling unit of m).

              To use PSPIC within a diversion, we recommend extending it with
              the following code, assuring that the diversion's width
              completely covers the image's width.

                     .am PSPIC
                     .  vpt 0
                     \h'(\\n[ps-offset]u + \\n[ps-deswid]u)'
                     .  sp -1
                     .  vpt 1

              Failure to load PSPIC's image argument is not an error.  (The
              psbb request does issue an error diagnostic.)  To make such a
              failure fatal, append to the pspic*error-hook macro.

                     .am pspic*error-hook
                     .  ab

       ptx    provides a macro, xx, to format permuted index entries as
              produced by the GNU ptx(1) program.  If your formatting needs
              differ, copy the macro into your document and adapt it to your

              defines special character escape sequences named for the glyph
              mnemonics specified in RFC 1345 and the digraph table of the Vim
              text editor.  See groff_rfc1345(7).

       sboxes offers an interface to the "pdf: background" device control
              command supported by gropdf(1).  Using this package, groff ms
              documents can draw colored rectangles beneath any output.

              .BOXSTART SHADED color OUTLINED color INDENT size WEIGHT size
                     begins a box, where the argument after SHADED gives the
                     fill color and that after OUTLINED the border color.
                     Omit the former to get a borderless filled box and the
                     latter for a border with no fill.  The specified WEIGHT
                     is used if the box is OUTLINED.

                     INDENT precedes a value which leaves a gap between the
                     border and the contents inside the box.

                     Each color must be a defined groff color name, and each
                     size a valid groff numeric expression.  The keyword/value
                     pairs can be specified in any order.

              Boxes can be stacked, so you can start a box within another box;
              usually the later boxes would be smaller than the containing
              box, but this is not enforced.  When using BOXSTART, the left
              position is the current indent minus the INDENT in the command,
              and the right position is the left position (calculated above)
              plus the current line length and twice the indent.

                     takes no parameters.  It closes the most recently started
                     box at the current vertical position after adding its
                     INDENT spacing.

              Your groff documents can conditionally exercise the sboxes
              macros.  The register GSBOX is defined if the package is loaded,
              and interpolates a true value if the pdf output device is in

              sboxes furthermore hooks into the groff_ms(7) package to receive
              notifications when footnotes are growing, so that it can close
              boxes on a page before footnotes are printed.  When that
              condition obtains, sboxes will close open boxes two points above
              the footnote separator and re-open them on the next page.  (This
              amount probably will not match the box's INDENT.)

              See "Using PDF boxes with groff and the ms macros"
              <file:///opt/local/share/doc/groff-1.23.0/msboxes.pdf> for a

       trace  aids the debugging of groff documents by tracing macro calls.
              See groff_trace(7).

       www    defines macros corresponding to HTML elements.  See


       AT&T nroff and troff were implemented before the conventions of the
       modern C getopt(3) call evolved, and used a naming scheme for macro
       packages that looks odd to modern eyes.  Macro packages were typically
       loaded using the -m option to the formatter; when directly followed by
       its argument without an intervening space, this looked like a long
       option preceded by a single minus--a sensation in the computer stone
       age.  Macro packages therefore came to be known by names that started
       with the letter "m", which was omitted from the name of the macro file
       as stored on disk.  For example, the manuscript macro package was
       stored as tmac.s and loaded with the option -ms.

       groff commands permit space between an option and its argument.  The
       syntax "groff -m s" makes the macro file name more clear but may
       surprise users familiar with the original convention, unaware that the
       package's "real" name was "s" all along.  For such packages of long
       pedigree, groff accommodates different users' expectations by supplying
       wrapper macro files that load the desired file with mso requests.
       Thus, all of "groff -m s", "groff -m ms", "groff -ms", and "groff -mms"
       serve to load the manuscript macros.

       Wrappers are not provided for packages of more recent vintage, like

       As noted in passing above, AT&T troff named macro files in the form  It has since become conventional in operating systems to
       use a suffixed file name extension to suggest a file type or format.


       The traditional method of employing a macro package is to specify the
       -m package option to the formatter, which then reads package's macro
       file prior to any input files.  Historically, package was sought in a
       file named tmac.package (that is, with a "tmac." prefix).  GNU troff
       searches for package.tmac in the macro path; if not found, it looks for
       tmac.package instead, and vice versa.

       Alternatively, one could include a macro file by using the request ".so
       file-name" in the document; file-name is resolved relative to the
       location of the input document.  GNU troff offers an improved feature
       in the similar request "mso package-file-name", which searches the
       macro path for package-file-name.  Because its argument is a file name,
       its ".tmac" component must be included for the file to be found;
       however, as a convenience, if opening it fails, mso strips any such
       suffix and tries again with a "tmac." prefix, and vice versa.

       If a sourced file requires preprocessing, for example if it includes
       tbl tables or eqn equations, the preprocessor soelim(1) must be used.
       This can be achieved with a pipeline or, in groff, by specifying the -s
       option to the formatter (or front end).  man(1) librarian programs
       generally call soelim automatically.  (Macro packages themselves
       generally do not require preprocessing.)

Writing macros

       A roff(7) document is a text file that is enriched by predefined
       formatting constructs, such as requests, escape sequences, strings,
       numeric registers, and macros from a macro package.  These elements are
       described in roff(7).

       To give a document a personal style, it is most useful to extend the
       existing elements by defining some macros for repeating tasks; the best
       place for this is near the beginning of the document or in a separate

       Macros without arguments are just like strings.  But the full power of
       macros occurs when arguments are passed with a macro call.  Within the
       macro definition, the arguments are available as the escape sequences
       \$1, ..., \$9, \$[...], \$*, and \$@, the name under which the macro
       was called is in \$0, and the number of arguments is in register
       \n[.$]; see groff(7).

   Draft mode
       Writing groff macros is easy when the escaping mechanism is temporarily
       disabled.  In groff, this is done by enclosing the macro definition(s)
       within a pair of .eo and .ec requests.  Then the body in the macro
       definition is just like a normal part of the document -- text enhanced
       by calls of requests, macros, strings, registers, etc.  For example,
       the code above can be written in a simpler way by

              .ds midpart was called with the following
              .de print_args
              \f[I]\$0\f[] \*[midpart] \n[.$] arguments:

       Unfortunately, draft mode cannot be used universally.  Although it is
       good enough for defining normal macros, draft mode fails with advanced
       applications, such as indirectly defined strings, registers, etc.  An
       optimal way is to define and test all macros in draft mode and then do
       the backslash doubling as a final step; do not forget to remove the .eo

   Tips for macro definitions
       o      Start every line with a dot, for example, by using the groff
              request .nop for text lines, or write your own macro that
              handles also text lines with a leading dot.

                     .de Text
                     .  if (\\n[.$] == 0) \
                     .    return
                     .  nop \)\\$*\)

       o      Write a comment macro that works both for copy and draft modes;
              since the escape character is off in draft mode, trouble might
              occur when comment escape sequences are used.  For example, the
              following macro just ignores its arguments, so it acts like a
              comment line:

                     .de c
                     .c This is like a comment line.

       o      In long macro definitions, make ample use of comment lines or
              almost-empty lines (this is, lines which have a leading dot and
              nothing else) for a better structuring.

       o      To increase readability, use groff's indentation facility for
              requests and macro calls (arbitrary whitespace after the leading

       Diversions can be used to implement quite advanced programming
       constructs.  They are comparable to pointers to large data structures
       in the C programming language, but their usage is quite different.

       In their simplest form, diversions are multi-line strings, but
       diversions get their power when used dynamically within macros.  The
       (formatted) information stored in a diversion can be retrieved by
       calling the diversion just like a macro.

       Most of the problems arising with diversions can be avoided if you
       remember that diversions always store complete lines.  Using diversions
       when the line buffer has not been flushed produces strange results; not
       knowing this, many people get desperate about diversions.  To ensure
       that a diversion works, add line breaks at the right places.  To be
       safe, enclose everything that has to do with diversions within a pair
       of line breaks; for example, by explicitly using .br requests.  This
       rule should be applied to diversion definition, both inside and
       outside, and to all calls of diversions.  This is a bit of overkill,
       but it works nicely.

       (If you really need diversions which should ignore the current partial
       line, use environments to save the current partial line and/or use the
       .box request.)

       The most powerful feature using diversions is to start a diversion
       within a macro definition and end it within another macro.  Then
       everything between each call of this macro pair is stored within the
       diversion and can be manipulated from within the macros.


       This document was written by Bernd Warken <groff-bernd.warken-72@web
       .de>, Werner Lemberg <>, and G. Branden Robinson <g.branden>.

See also

       Groff: The GNU Implementation of troff, by Trent A. Fisher and Werner
       Lemberg, is the primary groff manual.  You can browse it interactively
       with "info groff".

       The Filesystem Hierarchy Standard <
       lsb/fhs> is maintained by the Linux Foundation.

              is an overview of the groff system.

              are groff macro packages.

              summarizes the language recognized by GNU troff.

              documents the default macro file search path.

groff 1.23.0                      2 July 2023                    groff_tmac(5)

groff 1.23.0 - Generated Sat Dec 23 10:01:45 CST 2023
© 2000-2024
Individual documents may contain additional copyright information.