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What is a Man Page?

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  • Written By: Derek Schauland
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 September 2014
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Man Page is shorthand for manual page. UNIX and Linux based operating systems include a help manual to assist users with command line items and syntax while using the software. The help manual is referred to both by the operating system and many of its users as man pages.

To access the man page for the Apache http server included with many Unix and Linux distributions, enter the following syntax at the command line:

Man httpd

This will return the man page containing information about the web server installed on the system. All of the included services with either Linux or Unix operating systems will each have a man page. Some third party software may also add pages to the manual when they are installed.

For beginning Linux or Unix users, the manual can be extremely helpful by bringing the necessary information to the screen as it is needed. This saves time and shelf space by not requiring a paper manual to be scoured for information when certain syntax or actions are in question.

Recently, Microsoft® released a new command shell based scripting environment called PowerShell®. This shell environment allows the man page to come to the Windows® operating system by combining the Windows command prompt and dos based commands with some of the commands traditionally found in Unix/Linux. For help screens within the new Windows shell environment, standard Windows syntax can be used to list help, or Linux/Unix syntax can be used as well.

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For example, entering get-help get-alias at the PowerShell command line would produce the help documentation for the get-alias command. Similarly, entering man get-alias at the Powershell command line will produce the same documentation for the get-alias command. The Unix style commands were included to make the shell environment more friendly to Windows and non-Windows users alike.

PowerShell is included with Windows Server 2008 and can be downloaded for Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. The introduction of Unix like syntax and commands in Powershell has increased the visibility of the shell. Prior to the new environment from Microsoft, the man page was utilized only in Unix or Linux based operating systems.

Any documents in the Unix manual can be retrieved from the command line to the screen at any time by entering a similar syntax beginning with the man keyword. Entering the name of the service or application after the man keyword and pressing enter will return the requested help documentation; its man page.

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