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Chapter 5. Help

The help chapter provides information on how you may access the documentation of the GNU/Linux system. There is normally a document describing every single tool you have installed, even if its only brief...


This command displays summary information on a program from an online manual. For example typing man man will bring up the manual page for man (the manual page viewer). Note: q is the quit key.

Command syntax:

man program_name

TipAlso try

Specifying the section of the manual page, sometimes the man page is different for the same tool in different sections, note sections are numbered 1 to 9. Use apropos to find which section number to look in.

The syntax to look at a different section is:
man section_number tool_name
For example:
man 2 time
This will show you the man page called time in section 2, the equivalent page in section 1 is completely different

Search the manual pages for a string, as in it will search all manual pages for a particular string within each individual man page, it will then prompt whether you would like to view each page it will find. Use double quotes “ and ” if there are spaces in the string you are typing.

CautionSpeed issue

Please be warned that this method is going to be really, really slow. You are searching *all* man pages for a string


This will list details associated with the command. The root user must run makewhatis (see below) before this command will work.

NoteEquivalent to whatis

This command is the same as running whatis


Provides a more detailed hyper-text manual on a particular command, this only works for some commands.

Command syntax:

info program_name

Displays a one-line description of what a program does. The string needs to be an exact match, otherwise whatis won't output anything. Relies on the whatis database (see below).

Command syntax:

whatis program_name

Make the whatis database for apropos, whatis and man -f.

NoteRoot Privileges

This takes some time and you require root privileges to do this.


Searches the whatis database for strings, similar to whatis except it finds and prints anything matching the string (or any part of the string). Also relies on the whatis database (see above).

Command syntax:

apropos string

NoteEquivalent to...

apropos is the same as doing man -k (lowercase k).

NotePlease note

You need to run makewhatis (as root) so whatis, man -f and apropos will work.

TipAlso try

Using a program with the -?, --h, --help, and the -h options, they will display very short summary information on the command usage options.