The success of Linux in the international arena
is partly due to the availability of sources as well as to the great documentation
and tutorials that exist about the operating system. If linux is going
to be a success in its spanish distribution we must have spanish manuals
of similar quality to the ones available in English. There are several
projects dealing with the translation of HOWTOs, mini-HOWTOs, LDP manuals
(Linux Documentation Project) and finally manual pages. Manpages-es is
the name chosen for the spanish translation of the last one.
One year ago, a group of volunteers decided to begin translating one
by one the manual pages normally included in the Linux distributions (Slackware,
Debian, RedHat,..). Until now all our efforts were centered on the translation
work itself. However, we realized that an important aspect of the project
has been left unattended to: the installation and use of the manual pages.
In this article we describe the process of installation and use of the
spanish manual pages for those new to UNIX.
UNIX has a system for the visualization of manuals and very specific
help pages . The main command to access to those pages is - man.
This command is the point of entry to a data base that controls all the
manual pages included in your Linux distribution. The pages themselves
are written in TROFF/NROFF, an old computer typesetting language. Each
version of UNIX has manual pages in a specific directory. The standard
adopted by the Linux community for this directory is /usr/man
It is important to mention first that the version of man pages
you have must be
capable of processing spanish characters. The standard characters known
as Latin1 gives support to the special characters used in most of the western
European languages, including spanish. Therefore, man must understand
Latin1 characters. Any version of man after man-1.4f is valid.
In fact we believe most current distributions of Linux includes an appropriate
version of man.
The next step is to get a recent distribution
of manpages-es and unpack it in a local directory. This distribution can
be found in various locations. A point of reference is the home page of
the project. The
last version available is man-pages-es-0.2.
After downloading the distribution, unpack it with the following command
gunzip -c man-pages-es-0.2.tar.gz | tar -xvf -
A new directory called man-pages-es-0.2 is created containing
the manual pages. Now we can change to this directory
and examining the distribution of manpages-es. The pages come in several
sections (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8) and they are respectively found in the sub-directories
man1, man2, .. man8. There is also a makefile
that we will use to install the pages. Take a look at the makefile to understand
what will happen during the installation.
To copy the pages to the destination
site we simply execute
This must be done as superuser since we are writing into the directory
/usr/man. When it ends, make will have created a sub-directory
/usr/man/es that contains the spanish manual pages. At this point,
the installation process ends.
Users with limited disk space can opt for installing the pages in their
compressed form. For this to work the command man installed in
your system has to be able to read TROFF compressed pages. Again, except
for the oldest of linux distributions, most current distributions include
a "man" supporting this feature. To install the compressed pages do the
Finally it is necessary to modify the
file /etc/man.config that controls the options of
the command man. In particular, we only have to make sure that
man will process TROFF/NROFF sources with Latin1 characters. For
example, here is the man.config
I use in my system. The only difference with the original configuration
file are the lines
NROFF /usr/bin/groff -Tlatin1 -mandoc
NEQN /usr/bin/geqn -Tlatin1
where I specified as output of groff and geqn, the set
of Latin1 characters.
We now have the pages properly installed and
configured. In order to use them every user must assign the following environment
variables LANG and LESSCHARSET (Note: this variables
could also be set globally, making the spanish pages the default). The
first variable controls the locale, that is the language to be used
in the active shell environment. if LANG=es then the command
man searches for the manual pages under the directory /usr/man/es
(spanish version) and if it does not find it there it tries again in /usr/man
(english version). The second variable makes the pager "less"
activate the processing of latin1 characters. Of course we are assuming
that we decided to use less as the default pager for man.
This is the default selection in the file man.config
given as an example before. If the user has a bash shell
both variables can bet set by
In case of csh or tcsh then one would use
The user can set these variables in the initialization files for the shells
.bashrc or .login