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Make Documentation Easier to Read February 4, 2006

Posted by Carthik in administration, snippets, ubuntu.
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Today’s tip rules them all, for it puts you in the driver’s seat.

Debian (and ergo Ubuntu) has some of the best documentation in the world. The best thing about the documentation is that it is on your machine, not on the internet. However not many realize this, and many a problem that can be solved just by reading the documentation remains unsolved, and many a user resorts to forums, mailing lists etc when the answer is right there on their own computer. I am guilty too, having realized the power of RTFM-ing before.

You can browse most of the html documentation on your system by
Clicking the System -> Help menu item on the desktop taskbar. Besides Manual Pages, and other Documentation, you will find lots of docs for the different applications.

But what if the tool/library you installed does not come with a GUI, or a menu entry? The documentation for all packages is installed in /usr/share/doc. You could use the terminal to change to that directory and then look around to find the directory containing documentation for the package. Or you could use today’s tip 🙂

To make documentation easier to access, set CDPATH as follows:
$export CDPATH=.:/usr/local:/usr/share/doc

To make the change permanent (across terminal sessions/restarts), add the line to your ~/.bashrc file.

Now, to find documentation for package-name
Type:
$cd package-name
and then you can do an $ls to see what documentation is on offer. You can then use your favourite editor/pager to read the documentation.

Often, if you have problems with a package, it is good to read the README.Debian file to see if there are any special notes explaining workarounds or expected problems.
$ pager README.Debian

If there is a file called index.html, you can read the html documentation using
$firefox index.html

There, now you are all set to go exploring and find out more about the packages installed on your system. I was literally overjoyed to find the “CDPATH” variable for bash which makes things so much easier.

Comments»

1. BEG - February 5, 2006

Well…don’t forget the man cmd, although that has been rightfully vilified in all of unix’s history. Still and all, the man page can very often point to where you would find critical files, either config or documentation or other info, and I use it quite frequently for that, if not for RTFMing…

2. Pascal Klein - February 5, 2006

Whoa, that is sleazy. Very cool. 🙂

3. Marcus - February 5, 2006

“You can browse most of the html documentation on your system by
Clicking the System -> Help menu item on the desktop taskbar. “

I notice it’s not search-able.. that’s a pretty big flaw, and perhaps one that could be pretty easily fixed (in particular if we got Beagle involved 😉 )

4. Dean - February 5, 2006

Marcus you’ll be happy to know it’s already fixed in Dapper 🙂

5. moko - February 6, 2006

i was unable to install skype in ubuntu. i took a lot of pain to install but no use. pls give suggestions.

6. Richard - February 9, 2006

Another tool that is quite useful is man2html (http://packages.debian.org/unstable/doc/man2html.html) – its just the regular man pages, but available in a browser, I find it makes it handier to view at times.

R

7. airtonix - February 11, 2006

skype? did you try using automatix? a search on forums.ubuntu will reveal all.

8. David - February 16, 2006

There is also a howto for installing skype on the ubuntu wiki
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/SkypeHowto?highlight=%28skype%29

9. nguyendinhtrung - September 11, 2007

Thanks!
Now I knew I can read documents easily with just one command line : pager filename.gz instead of open it in xarchiver and double click the file inside it!! ^_^

10. porno sikiş - September 27, 2010

Marcus you’ll be happy to know it’s already fixed in Dapper 🙂

11. sex sikiş - September 28, 2010

I notice it’s not search-able.. that’s a pretty big flaw, and perhaps one that could be pretty easily fixed (in particular if we got Beagle involved 😉

12. Gabriella - September 1, 2014

Hi, I would like to subscribe for this weblog to take most up-to-date updates, thus where can i do it please assist.


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