Mac OS X comes with over 900 Unix programs like the ones described in this chapter. How are you supposed to learn what they all do?
Fortunately, almost every Unix program comes with its own little help file. It may not appear within an elegant, brushed-metal Tiger window—in fact, it’s pretty darned plain—but it offers much more material than the regular Mac Help Center.
These help files are called user-manual pages, or manpages, which hold descriptions of virtually every command and program available. Mac OS X, in fact, comes with manpages on about 7,000 topics—over 10,000 printed pages’ worth.
Alas, manpages rarely have the clarity of writing or the learner-focused approach you find in the Mac Help Center. They’re generally terse, just-the-facts descriptions. In fact, you’ll probably find yourself needing to reread certain sections again and again. The information they contain, however, is invaluable to new and experienced Unix fans alike, and the effort spent mining them is usually worthwhile.
To access the manpage for a given command, type man followed by the name of the command you’re researching. For example, to view the manpage for the ls command, enter: man ls.
The -k option flag lets you search by keyword. For example, man -k appletalk produces a list of all manpages that refer to AppleTalk, whereupon you can pick one of the names in the list and man that page name.
Now the manual appears, one screen at a time, as shown in Figure 16-7.
A typical manpage ...