On Unix, the main form of on-line documentation was the manual page or man page. In the GNU operating system, we aim to replace man pages with better-organized manuals that you can browse with Info (see Misc Help). This process is not finished, so it is still useful to read manual pages.
You can read the man page for an operating system command, library
function, or system call, with the M-x man command. It
man program to format the man page; if the system
permits, it runs
man asynchronously, so that you can keep on
editing while the page is being formatted. (On MS-DOS and MS-Windows
3, you cannot edit while Emacs waits for
man to finish.) The
result goes in a buffer named ‘*Man topic*’. These buffers
use a special major mode, Man mode, that facilitates scrolling and
jumping to other manual pages. For details, type C-h m while in
a man page buffer.
Each man page belongs to one of ten or more sections, each
named by a digit or by a digit and a letter. Sometimes there are
multiple man pages with the same name in different sections. To read
a man page from a specific section, type
‘topic(section)’ or ‘section topic’
when M-x manual-entry prompts for the topic. For example, to
read the man page for the C library function
chmod (as opposed
to a command of the same name), type M-x manual-entry <RET>
chmod(2) <RET>. (
chmod is a system call, so it is in
If you do not specify a section, the results depend on how the
man program works on your system. Some of them display only
the first man page they find. Others display all man pages that have
the specified name, so you can move between them with the M-n
and M-p keys1.
The mode line shows how many manual pages are present in the Man buffer.
By default, Emacs highlights the text in man pages. For a long man
page, highlighting can take substantial time. You can turn off
highlighting of man pages by setting the variable
If you insert the text of a man page into an Emacs buffer in some other fashion, you can use the command M-x Man-fontify-manpage to perform the same conversions that M-x manual-entry does.
An alternative way of reading manual pages is the M-x woman
command2. Unlike M-x man, it does not run any external
programs to format and display the man pages; instead it does the job
in Emacs Lisp, so it works on systems such as MS-Windows, where the
man program (and other programs it uses) are not generally
M-x woman prompts for a name of a manual page, and provides
completion based on the list of manual pages that are installed on
your machine; the list of available manual pages is computed
automatically the first time you invoke
woman. The word at
point in the current buffer is used to suggest the default for the
name of the manual page.
With a numeric argument, M-x woman recomputes the list of the manual pages used for completion. This is useful if you add or delete manual pages.
If you type a name of a manual page and M-x woman finds that several manual pages by the same name exist in different sections, it pops up a window with possible candidates asking you to choose one of them.
For more information about setting up and using M-x woman, see.
 On some systems, the
accepts a ‘-a’ command-line option which tells it to display all
the man pages for the specified topic. If you want this behavior, you
can add this option to the value of the variable
 The name of the command,
woman, is an acronym
for “w/o (without) man,” since it doesn't use the