Make man files declaratively.
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Using RTFM, you can declaratively create nice, standard man pages for your Ruby projects using a slick, maintainable DSL. It also includes rake tasks to aid in debugging, generating, and installing your man files.

Normal manfiles are... interesting

You might say: "but wait, aren't man pages already written in a DSL?", and you'd be right! However, here's an example of it:

.It Fl p
Acts mostly same as -n switch, but print the value of variable
.Li "$_"
at the each end of the loop.  For example:
.Bd -literal -offset indent
% echo matz | ruby -p -e '$! "a-z", "A-Z"'
.It Fl r Ar library
Causes Ruby to load the library using require.  It is useful when using
.Fl n
.Fl p .

That's from the Ruby manfile. This is using the groff macro language, which is awfully spiffy. However, it makes man files extremely tedious to maintain. It even spits out errors if you put a blank line in your manfile!

A word of caution

Now, manfiles are long and complex, and contain a lot of information. Chances are, your RTFM-based manfile isn't actually going to be too much shorter than your normal groff-based entry. The difference is that by using the RTFM DSL, it should be very, very simple to maintain. Which is a huge win for your users.

Example Manual Page:"testing", 2) do |page|
  page.summary = "testing man page"
  page.option :verbose, "The verbose flag does a lot of stuff."
  page.option :silliness, "Set how silly the application should be.", :argument => "n"
  page.option :input, "The input flag takes a filename", :argument => "<input>"
  page.description do |desc|
    desc.body = "This is a small, temporary description of the testing " +
                "man page."
  page.see_also do |also|
    also.reference "rails", 1
    also.reference "ruby"
  page.bugs = "There are a few bugs, but nothing too serious."
  page.history = "This program has a storied history that I am too " +
                 "lazy to include here."
  page.authors do |authors|
    authors.add "Michael Edgar", ""

Other wins

The weird thing about making manfiles is that each section has its own semantics - sometimes, macros even change their meanings slightly. There are idioms and "best practices" for each. The cool part of RTFM is that we can try to match the idioms for you - you just provide the information we need.

An example: in the "SEE ALSO" section, you can provide a list of other manual pages that are related to yours. In the example above, you see a couple of simple references. If you read the deep, dark documentation on the subject, you'll know that these references should be sorted by manual section, and then alphabetically within sections. RTFM will do that for you. It's the little things that count.


Hopefully we can get some of this integrated into RubyGems, though that's a long shot - it's a long-standing, cross-platform project. But it's nice to dream.

I hope to add the ability to insert raw groff if you are an advanced user and want some really spiffy formatting.

Note on Patches/Pull Requests

  • Fork the project.
  • Make your feature addition or bug fix.
  • Add tests for it. This is important so I don't break it in a future version unintentionally.
  • Commit, do not mess with rakefile, version, or history. (if you want to have your own version, that is fine but bump version in a commit by itself I can ignore when I pull)
  • Send me a pull request. Bonus points for topic branches.


Copyright (c) 2010 Michael Edgar. See LICENSE for details.