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Manual Page Search Parameters

MAN.CONF(5) File Formats Manual MAN.CONF(5)

man.confconfiguration file for man

This is the configuration file for the man(1), apropos(1), and makewhatis(8) utilities. Its presence, and all directives, are optional.

This file is an ASCII text file. Leading whitespace on lines, lines starting with ‘#’, and blank lines are ignored. Words are separated by whitespace. The first word on each line is the name of a configuration directive.

The following directives are supported:

Override the default search path for man(1), apropos(1), and makewhatis(8). It can be used multiple times to specify multiple paths, with the order determining the manual page search order.

Each path is a tree containing subdirectories whose names consist of the strings ‘man’ and/or ‘cat’ followed by the names of sections, usually single digits. The former are supposed to contain unformatted manual pages in mdoc(7) and/or man(7) format; file names should end with the name of the section preceded by a dot. The latter should contain preformatted manual pages; file names should end with ‘.0’.

Creating a mandoc.db(5) database with makewhatis(8) in each directory configured with manpath is recommended and necessary for apropos(1) to work, and also for man(1) on operating systems like OpenBSD that install each manual page with only one file name in the file system, even if it documents multiple utilities or functions.

option [value]
Configure the default value of an output option. These directives are overridden by the -O command line options of the same names. For details, see the mandoc(1) manual.

option value used by -T purpose
none print only body
string path to header files
integer , utf8 left margin
string path for Xr links
string , pdf paper size
string CSS file
none print table of contents
integer , utf8 right margin


The following configuration file reproduces the defaults: installing it is equivalent to not having a man.conf file at all.

manpath /usr/share/man
manpath /usr/X11R6/man
manpath /usr/local/man

apropos(1), man(1), makewhatis(8)

A relatively complicated man.conf file format first appeared in 4.3BSD-Reno. For OpenBSD 5.8, it was redesigned from scratch, aiming for simplicity.

Ingo Schwarze <>

February 10, 2020 OpenBSD-7.2