1 # Pipe man into col -b to get rid of \^H 2 3 The man page reading club is returning soon. In the meantime, 4 here is a short post on a trick related to `man` itself that I skipped in the 5 [first post of the series](../2022-05-29-man). 6 7 ## Vi rocks 8 9 A cool feature of vi-like editors is that you can insert the 10 output a command in the file you are editing, without doing any awkard 11 copy-pasting. You can do this with the `r` ex command: 12 13 ``` 14 :r !date 15 ``` 16 17 Inserts the output of the `date` command on a new line. You can also 18 use the `!` (bang) command, combined with a motion, to feed the 19 text between the cursor and the target of the motion to a command and 20 replace it with the output of the command itself. For example 21 I often use `!}fmt` to format the next paragraph when I am writing 22 an email. 23 24 ## Man pages and ANSI escape codes 25 26 Unfortunately, if you try to use this feature to include parts of a man page, 27 you might not like the result. Typing `:r !man man | head` gives 28 29 ``` 30 MAN(1) General Commands Manual MAN(1) 31 32 N^HNA^HAM^HME^HE 33 m^Hma^Han^Hn - display manual pages 34 35 S^HSY^HYN^HNO^HOP^HPS^HSI^HIS^HS 36 m^Hma^Han^Hn [-^H-a^Hac^Hcf^Hfh^Hhk^Hkl^Hlw^Hw] [-^H-C^HC _^Hf_^Hi_^Hl_^He] [-^H-M^HM _^Hp_^Ha_^Ht_^Hh] [-^H-m^Hm _^Hp_^Ha_^Ht_^Hh] [-^H-S^HS _^Hs_^Hu_^Hb_^Hs_^He_^Hc_^Ht_^Hi_^Ho_^Hn] 37 [[-^H-s^Hs] _^Hs_^He_^Hc_^Ht_^Hi_^Ho_^Hn] _^Hn_^Ha_^Hm_^He _^H._^H._^H. 38 39 D^HDE^HES^HSC^HCR^HRI^HIP^HPT^HTI^HIO^HON^HN 40 ``` 41 42 Not cool! This happens because manual pages are not made of plain text. They 43 contain *ANSI escape codes* to provide some basic formatting, like 44 bold text and whatnot (you might or might not see them, depending on the 45 capabilities of your terminal emulator). This is a complex topic and I don't 46 know much about it. Check out the excellent post 47 [Anatomy of a Terminal Emulator](https://poor.dev/terminal-anatomy) 48 by [poor.dev](https://poor.dev) if you want to learn more. 49 50 Long story short, the workaround is included in the man page itself: 51 52 ``` 53 When using -c, most terminal devices are unable to show the 54 markup. To print the output of man to the terminal with markup 55 but without using a pager, pipe it to ul(1). To remove the 56 markup, pipe the output to col(1) -b instead. 57 ``` 58 59 Indeed, using `:r !man man | col -b | head` gives: 60 61 ``` 62 MAN(1) General Commands Manual MAN(1) 63 64 NAME 65 man - display manual pages 66 67 SYNOPSIS 68 man [-acfhklw] [-C file] [-M path] [-m path] [-S subsection] 69 [[-s] section] name ... 70 71 DESCRIPTION 72 ``` 73 74 Hooray!