Ronn is a humane text format and toolchain for creating UNIX man pages, and things that appear as man pages from a distance. Use it to build and install standard UNIX roff man pages or to generate nicely formatted HTML manual pages for the web.
The Ronn file format is based on Markdown. In fact, Ronn files are a compatible subset of Markdown syntax but have a more rigid structure and extend Markdown in some ways to provide features commonly found in man pages (e.g., definition lists). The ronn(5) manual page defines the format in more detail.
.ronn files located under the
man/ directory show off a wide
range of ronn capabilities and are the source of Ronn's own documentation.
The source files and generated HTML / roff output files are available
Install with Rubygems:
$ [sudo] gem install ronn $ ronn --help
Or, clone the git repository:
$ git clone git://github.com/rtomayko/ronn.git $ PATH=ronn/bin:$PATH $ ronn --help
To generate a roff man page from the included
markdown.5.ronn file and open it with man(1):
$ ronn -b man/markdown.5.ronn building: man/markdown.5 $ man man/markdown.5
To generate a standalone HTML version:
$ ronn -b --html man/markdown.5.ronn building: man/markdown.5.html $ open man/markdown.5.html
To build roff and HTML versions of all ronn files:
$ ronn -b --roff --html man/*.ronn
If you just want to view a ronn file as if it were a man page without building intermediate files:
$ ronn -m man/markdown.5.ronn
The ronn(1) manual page
includes comprehensive documentation on
ronn command line options.
Some people think UNIX manual pages are a poor and outdated style of documentation. I disagree:
Man pages follow a well defined structure that's immediately familiar and provides a useful starting point for developers documenting new tools, libraries, and formats.
Man pages get to the point. Because they're written in an inverted style, with a SYNOPSIS section followed by additional detail, prose and references to other sources of information, man pages provide the best of both cheat sheet and reference style documentation.
Man pages have extremely -- unbelievably -- limited text formatting capabilities. You get a couple of headings, lists, bold, underline and no more. This is a feature.
Although two levels of section hierarchy are technically supported, most man pages use only a single level. Unwieldy document hierarchies complicate otherwise good documentation. Feynman covered all of physics -- heavenly bodies through QED -- with only two levels of document hierarchy (The Feynman Lectures on Physics, 1970).
Man pages have a simple referencing syntax; e.g., sh(1), fork(2), markdown(5). HTML versions can use this to generate links between pages.
The classical terminal man page display is typographically well thought out. Big bold section headings, justified monospace text, nicely indented paragraphs, intelligently aligned definition lists, and an informational header and footer.
Unfortunately, trying to figure out how to create a man page is a fairly tedious process. The roff/man macro languages are highly extensible, fractured between multiple dialects, and include a bunch of device specific stuff that's entirely irrelevant to modern publishing tools.
Ronn aims to address many of the issues with man page creation while preserving the things that makes man pages a great form of documentation.
Ronn is Copyright (C) 2009 Ryan Tomayko See the file COPYING for information of licensing and distribution.