groff_tmac - macro files in the roff typesetting system
The roff(7) type-setting system provides a set of macro packages suitable
for special kinds of documents. Each macro package stores its macros and
definitions in a file called the package's tmac file. The name is
deduced from ‘TroffMACros’.
The tmac files are normal roff source documents, except that they
usually contain only definitions and setup commands, but no text. All tmac
files are kept in a single or a small number of directories, the tmac
groff provides all classical macro packages, some more full packages, and
some secondary packages for special purposes. Note that it is not possible to
use multiple primary macro packages at the same time; saying e.g.
sh# groff -m man -m ms foo
sh# groff -m man foo -m ms bar
fails. Exception to this is the use of man pages written with
either the mdoc or the man macro package. See below the
description of the andoc.tmac file.
The packages in this section provide a complete set of macros for writing
documents of any kind, up to whole books. They are similar in functionality;
it is a matter of taste which one to use.
- This is the classical macro package for Unix manual pages
(man pages); it is quite handy and easy to use; see
- An alternative macro package for man pages mainly used in BSD
systems; it provides many new features, but it is not the standard for
man pages; see groff_mdoc(7).
- Use this file in case you don't know whether the man macros or the
mdoc package should be used. Multiple man pages (in either format)
can be handled.
- The classical me macro package; see groff_me(7).
- The semi-classical mm macro package; see groff_mm(7).
- The new mom macro package, only available in groff. As this is not
based on other packages, it can be freely designed. So it is expected to
become quite a nice, modern macro package. See groff_mom(7).
- The classical ms macro package; see groff_ms(7).
- This file adds support for Czech localization, including the main macro
packages (me, mom, mm, and ms).
- Note that cs.tmac sets the input encoding to latin-2.
- German localization support, including the main macro packages (me, mom,
mm, and ms).
- de.tmac selects hyphenation patterns for traditional orthography,
and den.tmac does the same for the new orthography
(‘Rechtschreibreform’). It should be used as the last macro
package on the command line.
- This file adds support for French localization, including the main macro
packages (me, mom, mm, and ms). Example:
sh# groff -ms -mfr foo.ms > foo.ps
- Note that fr.tmac sets the input encoding to latin-9 to get proper
support of the ‘oe’ ligature.
- Swedish localization support, including the me, mom, and ms macro
packages. Note that Swedish for the mm macros is handled separately; see
groff_mmse(7). It should be used as the last macro package on the
- Various input encodings supported directly by groff. Normally, this macro
is loaded at the very beginning of a document or specified as the first
macro argument on the command line. groff loads latin1 by default
at start-up. Note that these macro packages don't work on EBCDIC
- Encoding support for EBCDIC. On those platforms it is loaded automatically
at start-up. Due to different character ranges used in groff it
doesn't work on architectures which are based on ASCII.
Note that it can happen that some input encoding characters are
not available for a particular output device. For example, saying
groff -Tlatin1 -mlatin9 ...
fails if you use the Euro character in the input. Usually, this
limitation is present only for devices which have a limited set of output
glyphs (-Tascii, -Tlatin1); for other devices it is usually
sufficient to install proper fonts which contain the necessary glyphs.
The macro packages in this section are not intended for stand-alone usage, but
can be used to add special functionality to any other macro package or to
- Provides macros for addition, multiplication, and division of 62-bit
integers (allowing safe multiplication of 31-bit integers, for
- Switch to the EC and TC font families. To be used with grodvi(1)
– this man page also gives more details of how to use it.
- The Heidelberger table macros, contributed by Joachim Walsdorff, allow the
generation of tables through a syntax similar to the HTML table model.
Note that hdtbl is a macro package, not a preprocessor like
tbl(1). hdtbl works only with the -Tps and
-Tpdf output devices. See groff_hdtbl(7).
- This macro file is already loaded at start-up by gtroff so it isn't
necessary to call it explicitly. It provides an interface to set the paper
size on the command line with the option -dpaper=size.
Possible values for size are the same as the predefined
papersize values in the DESC file (only lowercase; see
groff_font(5) for more) except a7–d7. An
appended l (ell) character denotes landscape orientation. Examples:
a4, c3l, letterl.
- Most output drivers need additional command-line switches -p and
-l to override the default paper length and orientation as set in
the driver-specific DESC file. For example, use the following for PS
output on A4 paper in landscape orientation:
sh# groff -Tps -dpaper=a4l -P-pa4 -P-l -ms foo.ms > foo.ps
- A single macro is provided in this file, PSPIC, to include a PDF
graphic in a document, i.e., under the output device -Tpdf. For all
other devices, pspic is used. So pdfpic is an extension of
pspic. By that you can now even replace all PSPIC by
PDFPIC, nothing gets lost by that. The options of PDFPIC are
identical to the PSDIF options.
- This file provides proper definitions for the macros PS and
PE, needed for the gpic(1) preprocessor. They center each
picture. Use it only if your macro package doesn't provide proper
definitions for those two macros (actually, most of them already do).
- A single macro is provided in this file, PSPIC, to include a
PostScript graphic in a document. The following output devices support
inclusion of PS images: -Tps, -Tdvi, -Thtml, and
-Txhtml; for all other devices the image is replaced with a hollow
rectangle of the same size. This macro file is already loaded at start-up
by gtroff so it isn't necessary to call it explicitly.
- .PSPIC [-L|-R|-C|-I n]
file [width [height]]
- file is the name of the PostScript file; width and
height give the desired width and height of the image. If neither a
width nor a height argument is specified, the image's
natural width (as given in the file's bounding box) or the current line
length is used as the width, whatever is smaller. The width and
height arguments may have scaling indicators attached; the default
scaling indicator is i. This macro scales the graphic
uniformly in the x and y directions so that it is no more than
width wide and height high. Option -C centers the
graphic horizontally, which is the default. The -L and -R
options cause the graphic to be left-aligned and right-aligned,
respectively. The -I option causes the graphic to be indented
by n (default scaling indicator is m).
- For use of .PSPIC within a diversion it is recommended to extend it
with the following code, assuring that the diversion's width completely
covers the image's width.
. vpt 0
\h'(\\n[ps-offset]u + \\n[ps-deswid]u)'
. sp -1
. vpt 1
Classical roff systems were designed before the conventions of the modern C
getopt(3) call evolved, and used a naming scheme for macro packages
that looks odd to modern eyes. Macro packages were always included with the
option -m; when this option was directly followed by its argument
without an intervening space, this looked like a long option preceded by a
single minus — a sensation in the computer stone age. To make this
invocation form work, classical troff macro packages used names that started
with the letter ‘m’, which was omitted in the naming of the
- A single macro is provided in this file, xx, for formatting
permuted index entries as produced by the GNU ptx(1) program. In
case you need a different formatting, copy the macro into your document
and adapt it to your needs.
- Use this for tracing macro calls. It is only useful for debugging. See
- Overrides the definition of standard troff characters and some groff
characters for TTY devices. The optical appearance is intentionally
inferior compared to that of normal TTY formatting to allow processing
with critical equipment.
- Additions of elements known from the HTML format, as used in the internet
(World Wide Web) pages; this includes URL links and mail addresses; see
For example, the macro package for the man pages was called
man, while its macro file tmac.an. So it could be activated by
the argument an to option -m, or -man for short.
For similar reasons, macro packages that did not start with an
‘m’ had a leading ‘m’ added in the documentation
and in speech; for example, the package corresponding to tmac.doc was
called mdoc in the documentation, although a more suitable name would
be doc. For, when omitting the space between the option and its
argument, the command-line option for activating this package reads
To cope with all situations, actual versions of groff(1)
are smart about both naming schemes by providing two macro files for the
inflicted macro packages; one with a leading ‘m’ the other one
without it. So in groff, the man macro package may be
specified as one of the following four methods:
sh# groff -m man
sh# groff -man
sh# groff -mman
sh# groff -m an
Recent packages that do not start with ‘m’ do not
use an additional ‘m’ in the documentation. For example, the
www macro package may be specified only as one of the two
sh# groff -m www
sh# groff -mwww
Obviously, variants like -mmwww would not make much
A second strange feature of classical troff was to name macro
files in the form tmac.name. In modern operating systems, the type of
a file is specified as a postfix, the file name extension. Again, groff
copes with this situation by searching both anything.tmac and
tmac.anything if only anything is specified.
The easiest way to find out which macro packages are available on
a system is to check the man page groff(1), or the contents of
the tmac directories.
In groff, most macro packages are described in man
pages called groff_name(7), with a leading ‘m’
for the classical packages.
There are several ways to use a macro package in a document. The classical way
is to specify the troff/groff option -m name at run-time; this
makes the contents of the macro package name available. In groff, the
file name.tmac is searched within the tmac path; if not found,
tmac.name is searched for instead.
Alternatively, it is also possible to include a macro file by
adding the request .so filename into the document; the
argument must be the full file name of an existing file, possibly with the
directory where it is kept. In groff, this was improved by the similar
request .mso package, which added searching in the tmac path,
just like option -m does.
Note that in order to resolve the .so and .mso
requests, the roff preprocessor soelim(1) must be called if the files
to be included need preprocessing. This can be done either directly by a
pipeline on the command line or by using the troff/groff option -s.
man calls soelim automatically.
For example, suppose a macro file is stored as
and is used in some document called docu.roff.
At run-time, the formatter call for this is
sh# groff -m macros docu.roff
To include the macro file directly in the document either
is used or
In both cases, the formatter should be called with option
-s to invoke soelim.
sh# groff -s docu.roff
If you want to write your own groff macro file, call it
whatever.tmac and put it in a directory in the tmac path; see section
“Files” below. Then documents can include it with the
.mso request or the option -m.
A roff(7) document is a text file that is enriched by predefined
formatting constructs, such as requests, escape sequences, strings, numeric
registers, and macros from a macro package. These elements are described in
To give a document a personal style, it is most useful to extend
the existing elements by defining some macros for repeating tasks; the best
place for this is near the beginning of the document or in a separate
Macros without arguments are just like strings. But the full power
of macros reveals when arguments are passed with a macro call. Within the
macro definition, the arguments are available as the escape sequences
\$1, ..., \$9, \$[...], \$*, and
\$@, the name under which the macro was called is in \$0, and
the number of arguments is in register \n[.$]; see
The phase when groff reads a macro is called copy-in mode or copy
mode in roff-talk. This is comparable to the C preprocessing phase
during the development of a program written in the C language.
In this phase, groff interprets all backslashes; that means that
all escape sequences in the macro body are interpreted and replaced by their
value. For constant expressions, this is wanted, but strings and registers
that might change between calls of the macro must be protected from being
evaluated. This is most easily done by doubling the backslash that
introduces the escape sequence. This doubling is most important for the
positional parameters. For example, to print information on the arguments
that were passed to the macro to the terminal, define a macro named
.ds midpart was called with
. tm \f[I]\\$0\f \*[midpart] \\n[.$] arguments:
. tm \\$*
When calling this macro by
.print_args arg1 arg2
the following text is printed to the terminal:
print_args was called with the following 2 arguments:
Let's analyze each backslash in the macro definition. As the
positional parameters and the number of arguments change with each call of
the macro their leading backslash must be doubled, which results in
\\$* and \\[.$]. The same applies to the macro name because it
could be called with an alias name, so \\$0.
On the other hand, midpart is a constant string, it does
not change, so no doubling for \*[midpart]. The \f escape
sequences are predefined groff elements for setting the font within the
text. Of course, this behavior does not change, so no doubling with
\f[I] and \f.
Writing groff macros is easy when the escaping mechanism is temporarily
disabled. In groff, this is done by enclosing the macro definition(s) into a
pair of .eo and .ec requests. Then the body in the macro
definition is just like a normal part of the document — text enhanced
by calls of requests, macros, strings, registers, etc. For example, the code
above can be written in a simpler way by
.ds midpart was called with
. tm \f[I]\$0\f \*[midpart] \n[.$] arguments:
. tm \$*
Unfortunately, draft mode cannot be used universally. Although it
is good enough for defining normal macros, draft mode fails with advanced
applications, such as indirectly defined strings, registers, etc. An optimal
way is to define and test all macros in draft mode and then do the backslash
doubling as a final step; do not forget to remove the .eo
- Start every line with a dot, for example, by using the groff request
.nop for text lines, or write your own macro that handles also text
lines with a leading dot.
. if (\\n[.$] == 0) \
. nop \)\\$*\)
- Write a comment macro that works both for copy-in and draft mode; for as
escaping is off in draft mode, trouble might occur when normal comments
are used. For example, the following macro just ignores its arguments, so
it acts like a comment line:
.c This is like a comment line.
Diversions can be used to implement quite advanced programming constructs. They
are comparable to pointers to large data structures in the
C programming language, but their usage is quite different.
- In long macro definitions, make ample use of comment lines or almost-empty
lines (this is, lines which have a leading dot and nothing else) for a
- To increase readability, use groff's indentation facility for requests and
macro calls (arbitrary whitespace after the leading dot).
In their simplest form, diversions are multi-line strings, but
they get their power when diversions are used dynamically within macros. The
(formatted) information stored in a diversion can be retrieved by calling
the diversion just like a macro.
Most of the problems arising with diversions can be avoided if you
remain aware of the fact that diversions always store complete lines. If
diversions are used when the line buffer has not been flushed, strange
results are produced; not knowing this, many people get desperate about
diversions. To ensure that a diversion works, line breaks should be added at
the right places. To be on the secure side, enclose everything that has to
do with diversions into a pair of line breaks; for example, by explicitly
using .br requests. This rule should be applied to diversion
definition, both inside and outside, and to all calls of diversions. This is
a bit of overkill, but it works nicely.
[If you really need diversions which should ignore the current
partial line, use environments to save the current partial line and/or use
the .box request.]
The most powerful feature using diversions is to start a diversion
within a macro definition and end it within another macro. Then everything
between each call of this macro pair is stored within the diversion and can
be manipulated from within the macros.
All macro package files must be named name.tmac to fully use the tmac
mechanism. tmac.name as with classical packages is possible as well,
The macro files are kept in the tmac directories; a colon
separated list of these constitutes the tmac path.
The search sequence for macro files is (in that order):
- the directories specified with troff/groff's -M command-line
- the directories given in the GROFF_TMAC_PATH environment
- the current directory (only if in unsafe mode, which is enabled by the
-U command-line switch)
- the home directory
- a platform-specific directory, being
- in this installation
- a site-specific (platform-independent) directory, being
- in this installation
- the main tmac directory, being
- in this installation
- A colon separated list of additional tmac directories in which to search
for macro files. See the previous section for a detailed description.