Viewing man pages as HTML and PDF

If you’ve read about OpenBSD before, you’ve probably been advised to read the man pages. I’ll echo this advice, because the man pages are usually very good.

However, reading man pages through less leaves a lot to be desired, both in terms of readability and navigation. Fortunately, you can easily convert man pages to PDF or HTML (insert your favorite PDF reader or WWW browser):

$ MANPAGER=mupdf man -T pdf intro
$ MANPAGER=seamonkey man -T html intro

The PDF pages are much easier to read thanks to the typography, while the HTML pages are much easier to browse thanks to the hyperlinks. (They would be improved even further by a script that generates tables of contents.)

If you don’t want to leave the terminal, you can still enjoy the benefits of hypertext by reading man pages in lynx, using either of the following commands:

$ man -T html intro | lynx -stdin
$ MANPAGER=lynx\ -force_html man -T html intro

If you use Chromium, you might find that the line above doesn’t quite work: Chromium seems to interpret and display the temporary file, lacking a .html extension, as a plain text file.

The following script fixes that and should work with any $BROWSER:


# open man page as HTML document
# (with .html to make sure Chrome displays it correctly)

file=$(mktemp /tmp/man.XXXXXX) || exit 1
mv $file $file.html
MANPAGER=cat man -T html $@ > $file.html
$BROWSER $file.html
rm $file.html