The roff(7) type-setting system provides a set of macro packages
suitable for special kinds of documents. Each macro package stores
its macros and definitions in a file called the package's tmac file.
The name is deduced from ‘TroffMACros’.
The tmac files are normal roff source documents, except that they
usually contain only definitions and setup commands, but no text.
All tmac files are kept in a single or a small number of directories,
the tmac directories.
groff provides all classical macro packages, some more full packages,
and some secondary packages for special purposes. Note that it is
not possible to use multiple primary macro packages at the same time;
sh# groff -m man -m ms foo
sh# groff -m man foo -m ms bar
fails. Exception to this is the use of man pages written with either
the mdoc or the man macro package. See below the description of the
Man Pagesman This is the classical macro package for UNIX manual pages
(man pages); it is quite handy and easy to use; see
docmdoc An alternative macro package for man pages mainly used in BSD
systems; it provides many new features, but it is not the
standard for man pages; see groff_mdoc(7).
andocmandoc Use this file in case you don't know whether the man macros or
the mdoc package should be used. Multiple man pages (in
either format) can be handled.
The packages in this section provide a complete set of macros for
writing documents of any kind, up to whole books. They are similar
in functionality; it is a matter of taste which one to use.
me The classical me macro package; see groff_me(7).
mm The semi-classical mm macro package; see groff_mm(7).
mom The new mom macro package, only available in groff. As this
is not based on other packages, it can be freely designed. So
it is expected to become quite a nice, modern macro package.
ms The classical ms macro package; see groff_ms(7).
Language-specific Packagescs This file adds support for Czech localization, including the
main macro packages (me, mom, mm, and ms).
Note that cs.tmac sets the input encoding to latin-2.
deden German localization support, including the main macro packages
(me, mom, mm, and ms).
de.tmac selects hyphenation patterns for traditional orthogra‐
phy, and den.tmac does the same for the new orthography
(‘Rechtschreibreform’). It should be used as the last macro
package on the command line.
fr This file adds support for French localization, including the
main macro packages (me, mom, mm, and ms). Example:
sh# groff -ms -mfr foo.ms > foo.ps
Note that fr.tmac sets the input encoding to latin-9 to get
proper support of the ‘oe’ ligature.
sv Swedish localization support, including the me, mom, and ms
macro packages. Note that Swedish for the mm macros is han‐
dled separately; see groff_mmse(7). It should be used as the
last macro package on the command line.
Input Encodingslatin1latin2latin5latin9 Various input encodings supported directly by groff. Nor‐
mally, this macro is loaded at the very beginning of a docu‐
ment or specified as the first macro argument on the command
line. roff loads latin1 by default at start-up. Note that
these macro packages don't work on EBCDIC hosts.
cp1047 Encoding support for EBCDIC. On those platforms it is loaded
automatically at start-up. Due to different character ranges
used in roff it doesn't work on architectures which are based
Note that it can happen that some input encoding characters are not
available for a particular output device. For example, saying
groff -Tlatin1 -mlatin9 ...
fails if you use the Euro character in the input. Usually, this lim‐
itation is present only for devices which have a limited set of out‐
put glyphs (-Tascii, -Tlatin1); for other devices it is usually suf‐
ficient to install proper fonts which contain the necessary glyphs.
The macro packages in this section are not intended for stand-alone
usage, but can be used to add special functionality to any other
macro package or to plain groff.
62bit Provide some macros for addition, multiplication, and division
of 60bit integers (allowing safe multiplication of 31bit inte‐
gers, for example).
ec Switch to the EC and TC font families. To be used with
grodvi(1) – this man page also gives more details of how to
This macro file is already loaded at start-up by troff so it
isn't necessary to call it explicitly. It provides an inter‐
face to set the paper size on the command line with the option
-dpaper=size. Possible values for size are the same as the
predefined papersize values in the DESC file (only lowercase;
see groff_font(5) for more) except a7–d7. An appended l (ell)
character denotes landscape orientation. Examples: a4, c3l,
Most output drivers need additional command line switches -p
and -l to override the default paper length and orientation as
set in the driver specific DESC file. For example, use the
following for PS output on A4 paper in landscape orientation:
sh# groff -Tps -dpaper=a4l -P-pa4 -P-l -ms foo.ms > foo.ps
pic This file provides proper definitions for the macros PS and
PE, needed for the pic(1) preprocessor. They center each pic‐
ture. Use it only if your macro package doesn't provide
proper definitions for those two macros (actually, most of
them already do).
pspic A single macro is provided in this file, PSPIC, to include a
PostScript graphic in a document. The following output
devices support inclusion of PS images: -Tps, -Tdvi, -Thtml,
and -Txhtml; for all other devices the image is replaced with
a hollow rectangle of the same size. This macro file is
already loaded at start-up by troff so it isn't necessary to
call it explicitly.
.PSPIC [-L|-R|-C|-I n] file [width [height]]
file is the name of the PostScript file; width and height give
the desired width and height of the image. If neither a width
nor a height argument is specified, the image's natural width
(as given in the file's bounding box) or the current line
length is used as the width, whatever is smaller. The width
and height arguments may have scaling indicators attached; the
default scaling indicator is i. This macro scales the graphic
uniformly in the x and y directions so that it is no more than
width wide and height high. Option -C centers the graphic
horizontally, which is the default. The -L and -R options
cause the graphic to be left-aligned and right-aligned,
respectively. The -I option causes the graphic to be indented
by n (default scaling indicator is m).
For use of .PSPIC within a diversion it is recommended to
extend it with the following code, assuring that the diver‐
sion's width completely covers the image's width.
. vpt 0
\h'(\\n[ps-offset]u + \\n[ps-deswid]u)'
. sp -1
. vpt 1
ptx A single macro is provided in this file, xx, for formatting
permuted index entries as produced by the GNU ptx(1) program.
In case you need a different formatting, copy the macro into
your document and adapt it to your needs.
trace Use this for tracing macro calls. It is only useful for
debugging. See groff_trace(7).
Overrides the definition of standard troff characters and some
groff characters for TTY devices. The optical appearance is
intentionally inferior compared to that of normal TTY format‐
ting to allow processing with critical equipment.
www Additions of elements known from the HTML format, as used in
the internet (World Wide Web) pages; this includes URL links
and mail addresses; see groff_www(7).
Classical roff systems were designed before the conventions of the
modern C getopt(3) call evolved, and used a naming scheme for macro
packages that looks odd to modern eyes. Macro packages were always
included with the option -m; when this option was directly followed
by its argument without an intervening space, this looked like a long
option preceded by a single minus — a sensation in the computer stone
age. To make this invocation form work, classical troff macro
packages used names that started with the letter ‘m’, which was
omitted in the naming of the macro file.
For example, the macro package for the man pages was called man,
while its macro file tmac.an. So it could be activated by the
argument an to option -m, or -man for short.
For similar reasons, macro packages that did not start with an ‘m’
had a leading ‘m’ added in the documentation and in speech; for
example, the package corresponding to tmac.doc was called mdoc in the
documentation, although a more suitable name would be doc. For, when
omitting the space between the option and its argument, the command
line option for activating this package reads -mdoc.
To cope with all situations, actual versions of groff(1) are smart
about both naming schemes by providing two macro files for the
inflicted macro packages; one with a leading ‘m’ the other one
without it. So in groff, the man macro package may be specified as
on of the following four methods:
sh# groff -m man
sh# groff -man
sh# groff -mman
sh# groff -m an
Recent packages that do not start with ‘m’ do not use an additional
‘m’ in the documentation. For example, the www macro package may be
specified only as one of the two methods:
sh# groff -m www
sh# groff -mwww
Obviously, variants like -mmwww would not make much sense.
A second strange feature of classical troff was to name macro files
in the form tmac.name. In modern operating systems, the type of a
file is specified as a postfix, the file name extension. Again,
groff copes with this situation by searching both anything.tmac and
tmac.anything if only anything is specified.
The easiest way to find out which macro packages are available on a
system is to check the man page groff(1), or the contents of the tmac
In groff, most macro packages are described in man pages called
groff_name(7), with a leading ‘m’ for the classical packages.
There are several ways to use a macro package in a document. The
classical way is to specify the troff/groff option -m name at run-
time; this makes the contents of the macro package name available.
In groff, the file name.tmac is searched within the tmac path; if not
found, tmac.name is searched for instead.
Alternatively, it is also possible to include a macro file by adding
the request .so filename into the document; the argument must be the
full file name of an existing file, possibly with the directory where
it is kept. In groff, this was improved by the similar request .msopackage, which added searching in the tmac path, just like option -m
Note that in order to resolve the .so and .mso requests, the roff
preprocessor soelim(1) must be called if the files to be included
need preprocessing. This can be done either directly by a pipeline
on the command line or by using the troff/groff option -s. man calls
For example, suppose a macro file is stored as
and is used in some document called docu.roff.
At run-time, the formatter call for this is
sh# groff -m macros docu.roff
To include the macro file directly in the document either
is used or
In both cases, the formatter should be called with option -s to
sh# groff -s docu.roff
If you want to write your own groff macro file, call it whatever.tmac
and put it in some directory of the tmac path, see section FILES.
Then documents can include it with the .mso request or the option -m.
A roff(7) document is a text file that is enriched by predefined
formatting constructs, such as requests, escape sequences, strings,
numeric registers, and macros from a macro package. These elements
are described in roff(7).
To give a document a personal style, it is most useful to extend the
existing elements by defining some macros for repeating tasks; the
best place for this is near the beginning of the document or in a
Macros without arguments are just like strings. But the full power
of macros reveals when arguments are passed with a macro call.
Within the macro definition, the arguments are available as the
escape sequences \$1, ..., \$9, \$[...], \$*, and \$@, the name under
which the macro was called is in \$0, and the number of arguments is
in register \n[.$]; see groff(7).
The phase when groff reads a macro is called copy-in mode or copymode in roff-talk. This is comparable to the C preprocessing phase
during the development of a program written in the C language.
In this phase, groff interprets all backslashes; that means that all
escape sequences in the macro body are interpreted and replaced by
their value. For constant expressions, this is wanted, but strings
and registers that might change between calls of the macro must be
protected from being evaluated. This is most easily done by doubling
the backslash that introduces the escape sequence. This doubling is
most important for the positional parameters. For example, to print
information on the arguments that were passed to the macro to the
terminal, define a macro named ‘.print_args’, say.
.ds midpart was called with
. tm \f[I]\\$0\f \*[midpart] \\n[.$] arguments:
. tm \\$*
When calling this macro by
.print_args arg1 arg2
the following text is printed to the terminal:
print_args was called with the following 2 arguments:
Let's analyze each backslash in the macro definition. As the posi‐
tional parameters and the number of arguments change with each call
of the macro their leading backslash must be doubled, which results
in \\$* and \\[.$]. The same applies to the macro name because it
could be called with an alias name, so \\$0.
On the other hand, midpart is a constant string, it does not change,
so no doubling for \*[midpart]. The \f escape sequences are prede‐
fined groff elements for setting the font within the text. Of
course, this behavior does not change, so no doubling with \f[I] and
Writing groff macros is easy when the escaping mechanism is temporar‐
ily disabled. In groff, this is done by enclosing the macro defini‐
tion(s) into a pair of .eo and .ec requests. Then the body in the
macro definition is just like a normal part of the document — text
enhanced by calls of requests, macros, strings, registers, etc. For
example, the code above can be written in a simpler way by
.ds midpart was called with
. tm \f[I]\$0\f \*[midpart] \n[.$] arguments:
. tm \$*
Unfortunately, draft mode cannot be used universally. Although it is
good enough for defining normal macros, draft mode fails with
advanced applications, such as indirectly defined strings, registers,
etc. An optimal way is to define and test all macros in draft mode
and then do the backslash doubling as a final step; do not forget to
remove the .eo request.
Tips for Macro Definitions
· Start every line with a dot, for example, by using the groff
request .nop for text lines, or write your own macro that han‐
dles also text lines with a leading dot.
. if (\\n[.$] == 0) \
. nop \)\\$*\)
· Write a comment macro that works both for copy-in and draft
mode; for as escaping is off in draft mode, trouble might
occur when normal comments are used. For example, the follow‐
ing macro just ignores its arguments, so it acts like a com‐
.c This is like a comment line.
· In long macro definitions, make ample use of comment lines or
almost-empty lines (this is, lines which have a leading dot
and nothing else) for a better structuring.
· To increase readability, use groff's indentation facility for
requests and macro calls (arbitrary whitespace after the lead‐
Diversions can be used to implement quite advanced programming con‐
structs. They are comparable to pointers to large data structures in
the C programming language, but their usage is quite different.
In their simplest form, diversions are multi-line strings, but they
get their power when diversions are used dynamically within macros.
The (formatted) information stored in a diversion can be retrieved by
calling the diversion just like a macro.
Most of the problems arising with diversions can be avoided if you
remain aware of the fact that diversions always store complete lines.
If diversions are used when the line buffer has not been flushed,
strange results are produced; not knowing this, many people get des‐
perate about diversions. To ensure that a diversion works, line
breaks should be added at the right places. To be on the secure
side, enclose everything that has to do with diversions into a pair
of line breaks; for example, by explicitly using .br requests. This
rule should be applied to diversion definition, both inside and out‐
side, and to all calls of diversions. This is a bit of overkill, but
it works nicely.
[If you really need diversions which should ignore the current par‐
tial line, use environments to save the current partial line and/or
use the .box request.]
The most powerful feature using diversions is to start a diversion
within a macro definition and end it within another macro. Then
everything between each call of this macro pair is stored within the
diversion and can be manipulated from within the macros.
All macro names must be named name.tmac to fully use the tmac
mechanism. tmac.name as with classical packages is possible as well,
The macro files are kept in the tmac directories; a colon separated
list of these constitutes the tmac path.
The search sequence for macro files is (in that order):
· the directories specified with troff/groff's -M command line
· the directories given in the $GROFF_TMAC_PATH environment
· the current directory (only if in unsafe mode, which is
enabled by the -U command line switch)
· the home directory
· a platform-specific directory, being
in this installation
· a site-specific (platform-independent) directory, being
in this installation
· the main tmac directory, being
in this installation
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 2016-10-04. 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 GROFF_TMAC(5)