man pages

Seth W.Klein sk at sethwklein.net
Mon May 5 10:17:11 PDT 2003


"Michael A. Peters" <mpeters at mac.com> wrote:
> On Sat, 2003-05-03 at 17:00, Ken Moffat wrote:
> 
> >  Actually, I'm getting into info pages now - 
> 
> Me too.
> I never thought info was that useful until recently - but it seems to me
> to be a far superior method of documentation opposed to man.

But it's not. The only thing i can think of that info has and man
doesn't is links. And i don't miss them. At all. Here's why:

1) When i'm reading a man page (bash(1) in this example) and i see,
   "Expressions are composed of the primaries described below under
   CONDITIONAL EXPRESSIONS," i type:
   /^ *COND
   and guess where i find myself. And that is without using a fancy
   man page viewer that collapses sections into a tree.
2) The first time i'm looking for a list of perl operators i type
   "man perl" which gives an introduction and index page that tells
   me perl operators are in perlop(1). Next time i'll just type
   "man perlop".

I have already mentioned that:

1) Man pages are easy to skim (the standard macros use indentation
   to indicate sections so you can just press the page down key as
   fast as your eye can follow)
2) Man encourage brevity which is critical if you don't have all
   day or need to verify that the page is up-to-date

So let me demonstrate the primary reason i won't use info for most
of my day-to-day work:

Allow me a little "what if", if you will. What if i need to sort
a directory listing by file size and have forgotten the exact
options to ls that i need?

"info ls"
   gives me several paragraphs telling me things i already know
   (and several i never needed to be told) about ls and, at the
   bottom, a little menu. I get to skip the paragraphs, place the
   cursor exactly on one item, and press enter.

"man ls"
   gives me two sentences about ls, the second of which lists the
   sort options (one of which i'm looking for). This is followed
   by the list of options that i wanted to see and that list is
   nicely indented and highlighted so it is easy to skim.

There's nothing so difficult about info in this example, but there
is something so easy about man.

In conclusion, i'd like to distance myself from those who have trouble
navigating info. There is nothing intrinsiclly difficult about nav-
igating info--except the need to do so at all.

cheers,
Seth W. Klein
-- 
sk at sethwklein.net                         http://www.sethwklein.net/
Maintainer, LFS FAQ             http://www.linuxfromscratch.org/faq/

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