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Command line users are no doubt familiar with man pages, or man pages, which contain details, help, and documentation for specified commands and functions. Referencing a man page can be essential when trying to learn the correct syntax or how a command works, but with how large some of the man pages are, it can be tricky to scroll through the entire man page to try and get a relevant section. Plus, sometimes you just don’t know exactly which man page to search for relevant data for. Fortunately, there are two search tools to crawl through man pages and quickly find and access exactly what you are looking for, whether it is finding and matching a string or search term in a currently active man page or by all man pages for a match.
Searching man pages works the same in just about any unix-based command line, be it Mac OS, Linux, BSD, or whatever. This is how it works:
How to Search all Man pages for a string match
If you want to find something about a generic command, function, or featurebut you’re not sure which man page the data will be on, or maybe you just want to find all the references to something, you’re using a wide string match to search every single man page on the computer for all matches:
man -K “String”
Note that the flag is uppercase -K, the string can be anything. For example, to find all manual pages that contain the string “eraseDisk”, use the syntax:
man -K “eraseDisk” / usr / share / man / man3 / Common Crypto.3cc? n / usr / share / man / man8 / diskutil.8? y
Pressing return will immediately search for all man pages in / usr / share / man / * and if it finds a match, report the corresponding man page which you can accept with ‘y’ or ignore with ‘ n ‘(or stop with’ q ‘)
If you are a Terminal.app user on the Mac, you will notice that the -K flag is similar to using the Man index for right-clicking search trick we’ve covered it here, except it’s done entirely from the command line and doesn’t require mouse or cursor interaction.
Search the current manual page for matches
Once you are in a man page, you may also want to search the currently open man page for a string match. That’s done with / like so:
/ search term
Let’s say we are on the launchd man page and you want to find matches for “LaunchAgents” on that man page. Once you are in man for launchd (man launchd) use the following:
All syntax matches in the current man page are highlighted. You can then navigate between matches with n and shift + n.
The boom tricks to remember to search once you are on a man page are:
- / search string – matches “search string” in the current man page “
- n – go to the next game
- shift + n – go to the previous game
Remember this one tips the next time you search man pages at the command line. And for those using the Terminal app, remember that you can also search and launch man pages directly from the Terminal Help menu, allowing you to use the aforementioned string search to search a help document for more details.
Know about another manual page search tricks? Let us know in the comments.
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