pdfroff is a wrapper program for the GNU text processing system,
groff. It transparently handles the mechanics of multiple pass groff
processing, when applied to suitably marked up groff source files,
such that tables of contents and body text are formatted separately,
and are subsequently combined in the correct order, for final
publication as a single PDF document. A further optional “style
sheet” capability is provided; this allows for the definition of
content which is required to precede the table of contents, in the
For each invocation of pdfroff, the ultimate groff output stream is
post-processed by the GhostScript interpreter, to produce a finished
pdfroff makes no assumptions about, and imposes no restrictions on,
the use of any groff macro packages which the user may choose to
employ, in order to achieve a desired document format; however, it
does include specific built in support for the pdfmark macro package,
should the user choose to employ it. Specifically, if the pdfhref
macro, defined in the pdfmark.tmac package, is used to define public
reference marks, or dynamic links to such reference marks, then
pdfroff performs as many preformatting groff passes as required, up
to a maximum limit of four, in order to compile a document reference
dictionary, to resolve references, and to expand the dynamically
defined content of links.
The command line is parsed in accordance with normal GNU conventions,
but with one exception — when specifying any short form option (i.e.,
a single character option introduced by a single hyphen), and if that
option expects an argument, then it must be specified independently
(i.e., it may not be appended to any group of other single character
short form options).
Long form option names (i.e., those introduced by a double hyphen)
may be abbreviated to their minimum length unambiguous initial
Otherwise, pdfroff usage closely mirrors that of groff itself.
Indeed, with the exception of the -h, -v, and -T dev short form
options, and all long form options, which are parsed internally by
pdfroff, all options and file name arguments specified on the command
line are passed on to groff, to control the formatting of the PDF
document. Consequently, pdfroff accepts all options and arguments,
as specified in groff(1), which may also be considered as the
definitive reference for all standard pdfroff options and argument
pdfroff accepts all of the short form options (i.e., those introduced
by a single hyphen), which are available with groff itself. In most
cases, these are simply passed transparently to groff; the following,
however, are handled specially by pdfroff.
-h Same as --help; see below.
-i Process standard input, after all other specified input files.
This is passed transparently to groff, but, if grouped with
other options, it must be the first in the group. Hiding it
within a group breaks standard input processing, in the
multiple pass groff processing context of pdfroff.
-T dev Only -T ps is supported by pdfroff. Attempting to specify any
other device causes pdfroff to abort.
-v Same as --version; see below.
See groff(1) for a description of all other short form options, which
are transparently passed through pdfroff to groff.
All long form options (i.e., those introduced by a double hyphen) are
interpreted locally by pdfroff; they are not passed on to groff,
unless otherwise stated below.
--help Causes pdfroff to display a summary of the its usage syntax,
and supported options, and then exit.
Suppresses the final output conversion step, causing pdfroff
to emit PostScript output instead of PDF. This may be useful,
to capture intermediate PostScript output, when using a
specialised postprocessor, such as gpresent for example, in
place of the default GhostScript PDF writer.
Suppresses the deletion of temporary files, which normally
occurs after pdfroff has completed PDF document formatting;
this may be useful, when debugging formatting problems.
See section FILES, for a description of the temporary files
used by pdfroff.
May be used with the --reference-dictionary=name option
(described below) to eliminate the overhead of PDF formatting,
when running pdfroff to create a reference dictionary, for use
in a different document.
May be used to eliminate the overhead of creating a reference
dictionary, when it is known that the target PDF document
contains no public references, created by the pdfhref macro.
May be used to eliminate the extra groff processing pass,
which is required to generate a table of contents, and
relocate it to the start of the PDF document, when processing
any document which lacks an automatically generated table of
While preparing for simulation of the manual collation step,
which is traditionally required to relocate of a table ofcontents to the start of a document, pdfroff accumulates a
number of empty page descriptions into the intermediate
PostScript output stream. During the final collation step,
these empty pages are normally discarded from the finished
document; this option forces pdfroff to leave them in place.
Specifies the name to be used for the resultant PDF document;
if unspecified, the PDF output is written to standard output.
A future version of pdfroff may use this option, to encode the
document name in a generated reference dictionary.
Specifies the name to be used for the generated reference
dictionary file; if unspecified, the reference dictionary is
created in a temporary file, which is deleted when pdfroff
completes processing of the current document. This option
must be specified, if it is desired to save the reference
dictionary, for use in references placed in other PDF
Causes pdfroff to display an informational message on standard
error, at the start of each groff processing pass.
Specifies the name of an input file, to be used as a style
sheet for formatting of content, which is to be placed before
the table of contents, in the formatted PDF document.
Causes pdfroff to display a version identification message.
The entire command line is then passed transparently to groff,
in a one pass operation only, in order to display the
associated groff version information, before exiting.
The following environment variables may be set, and exported, to
modify the behaviour of pdfroff.
Specifies the program to be used for collation of the finished
This collation step may be required to move tables of contents
to the start of the finished PDF document, when formatting
with traditional macro packages, which print them at the end.
However, users should not normally need to specify
PDFROFF_COLLATE, (and indeed, are not encouraged to do so).
If unspecified, pdfroff uses sed(1) by default, which normally
If PDFROFF_COLLATE is specified, then it must act as a filter,
accepting a list of file name arguments, and write its output
to the stdout stream, whence it is piped to the
PDFROFF_POSTPROCESSOR_COMMAND, to produce the finished PDF
When specifying PDFROFF_COLLATE, it is normally necessary to
also specify PDFROFF_KILL_NULL_PAGES.
PDFROFF_COLLATE is ignored, if pdfroff is invoked with the
Specifies options to be passed to the PDFROFF_COLLATE program.
It should not normally be necessary to specify
PDFROFF_KILL_NULL_PAGES. The internal default is a sed(1)
script, which is intended to remove completely blank pages
from the collated output stream, and which should be
appropriate in most applications of pdfroff. However, if any
alternative to sed(1) is specified for PDFROFF_COLLATE, then
it is likely that a corresponding alternative specification
for PDFROFF_KILL_NULL_PAGES is required.
As in the case of PDFROFF_COLLATE, PDFROFF_KILL_NULL_PAGES is
ignored, if pdfroff is invoked with the --no-kill-null-pages
Specifies the command to be used for the final document
conversion from PostScript intermediate output to PDF. It
must behave as a filter, writing its output to the stdout
stream, and must accept an arbitrary number of files ...
arguments, with the special case of - representing the stdin
If unspecified, PDFROFF_POSTPROCESSOR_COMMAND defaults to
gs -dBATCH -dQUIET -dNOPAUSE -dSAFER -sDEVICE=pdfwrite-sOutputFile=-GROFF_TMPDIR
Identifies the directory in which pdfroff should create tempo‐
rary files. If GROFF_TMPDIR is not specified, then the vari‐
ables TMPDIR, TMP and TEMP are considered in turn, as possible
temporary file repositories. If none of these are set, then
temporary files are created in the current directory.
Specifies the program to be invoked, when pdfroff converts
groff PostScript output to PDF. If
PDFROFF_POSTPROCESSOR_COMMAND is specified, then the command
name it specifies is implicitly assigned to
GROFF_GHOSTSCRIPT_INTERPRETER, overriding any explicit setting
specified in the environment. If
GROFF_GHOSTSCRIPT_INTERPRETER is not specified, then pdfroff
searches the process PATH, looking for a program with any of
the well known names for the GhostScript interpreter; if no
GhostScript interpreter can be found, pdfroff aborts.
Specifies the program to be invoked, when pdfroff is extract‐
ing reference dictionary entries from a groff intermediate
message stream. If GROFF_AWK_INTERPRETER is not specified,
then pdfroff searches the process PATH, looking for any of the
preferred programs, ‘gawk’, ‘mawk’, ‘nawk’, and awk’, in this
order; if none of these are found, pdfroff issues a warning
message, and continue processing; however, in this case, no
reference dictionary is created.
OSTYPE Typically defined automatically by the operating system, OS‐TYPE is used on Microsoft Win32/MS-DOS platforms only, to in‐
fer the default PATH_SEPARATOR character, which is used when
parsing the process PATH to search for external helper pro‐
If set, PATH_SEPARATOR overrides the default separator charac‐
ter, (‘:’ on POSIX/UNIX systems, inferred from OSTYPE on Mi‐
crosoft Win32/MS-DOS), which is used when parsing the process
PATH to search for external helper programs.
If this is set to a non-empty value, then pdfroff always be‐
haves as if the --report-progress option is specified, on the
Input and output files for pdfroff may be named according to any
convention of the user's choice. Typically, input files may be named
according to the choice of the principal formatting macro package,
e.g., file.ms might be an input file for formatting using the ms
macros (s.tmac); normally, the final output file should be named
Temporary files, created by pdfroff, are placed in the file system
hierarchy, in or below the directory specified by environment
variables (see section ENVIRONMENT). If mktemp(1) is available, it
is invoked to create a private subdirectory of the nominated
temporary files directory, (with subdirectory name derived from the
template pdfroff-XXXXXXXXXX); if this subdirectory is successfully
created, the temporary files will be placed within it, otherwise they
will be placed directly in the directory nominated in the
All temporary files themselves are named according to the convention
pdf$$.*, where $$ is the standard shell variable representing the
process ID of the pdfroff process itself, and * represents any of the
extensions used by pdfroff to identify the following temporary and
A scratch pad file, used to capture reference data emitted by
groff, during the reference dictionary compilation phase.
The reference dictionary, as compiled in the last but one pass
of the reference dictionary compilation phase; (at the start
of the first pass, this file is created empty; in successive
passes, it contains the reference dictionary entries, as
collected in the preceding pass).
If the --reference-dictionary=name option is specified, this
intermediate file becomes permanent, and is named name, rather
Used to collect reference dictionary entries during the active
pass of the reference dictionary compilation phase. At the
end of any pass, when the content of pdf$$.cmp compares as
identical to pdf$$.ref, (or the corresponding file named by
the --reference-dictionary=name option), then referencedictionary compilation is terminated, and the documentreference map is appended to this intermediate file, for
inclusion in the final formatting passes.
An intermediate PostScript file, in which “Table of Contents”
entries are collected, to facilitate relocation before the
body text, on ultimate output to the GhostScript
An intermediate PostScript file, in which the body text is
collected prior to ultimate output to the GhostScript
postprocessor, in the proper sequence, afterpdf$$.tc.
See groff(1) for the definitive reference to document formatting with
groff. Since pdfroff provides a superset of all groff capabilities,
groff(1) may also be considered to be the definitive reference to all
standard capabilities of pdfroff, with this document providing the
reference to pdfroff's extended features.
While pdfroff imposes neither any restriction on, nor any requirement
for, the use of any specific groff macro package, a number of
supplied macro packages, and in particular those associated with the
package pdfmark.tmac, are best suited for use with pdfroff as the
preferred formatter. Detailed documentation on the use of these
packages may be found, in PDF format, in the reference guide
“Portable Document Format Publishing with GNU Troff”, included in the
installed documentation set as
This page is part of the groff (GNU troff) project. Information
about the project can be found at
⟨http://www.gnu.org/software/groff/⟩. If you have a bug report for
this manual page, see ⟨http://www.gnu.org/software/groff/⟩. This
page was obtained from the tarball groff-1.22.3.tar.gz fetched from
⟨ftp://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/groff/⟩ on 2016-09-01. If you discover any
rendering problems in this HTML version of the page, or you believe
there is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or you have
corrections or improvements to the information in this COLOPHON
(which is not part of the original manual page), send a mail to
Groff Version 1.22.3 4 November 2014 PDFROFF(1)