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For example, say I'm trying to find the command that displays the routing table (like route) or to run a traceroute, but I don't actually know the commands that accomplish this. My understanding is that I should be able to use man -k [word], but it never seems to work: if I do man -k route on Scientific Linux 6.1, I get no results, even though I would expect it to return anything that includes the word "route" in it!

Unfortunately, when I search for the answer to this, it's confounded by people explaining the find command for a file search.

Thank you!

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I get 6 results for man -k route (which, incidentally, is the same as apropos route), including route(8). Do you have the relevant man pages installed? –  Michael Mrozek Jan 26 '12 at 3:27
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I get 10 results. In addition to what Michael Mrozek said, do you actually have the programs (tracerout, iproute, route, etc.) installed too? –  Kevin Jan 26 '12 at 3:36
    
I do have the commands installed, and I can "man route", but for some reason no results for man -k route. Is there a way to rebuild the man -k index or something? Thanks again. –  user115360 Jan 26 '12 at 5:10
    
One can do things like package searching, but this is somewhat distribution dependent. What distribution do you use, please? –  Faheem Mitha Jan 26 '12 at 14:16

2 Answers 2

The command /usr/bin/mandb will rebuild the man database on Linux. This should be set up as a cronjob. On other Unixes use the comamnd catman -w.

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Thanks for the insight! While these commands didn't work for me, they got me on the path to finding the one that did: "makewhatis". After running makewhatis, I now get 10 results for man -k route. –  user115360 Jan 27 '12 at 4:31

Have a look apropos:

runejuhl@lapaz:~$ apropos apropos 
apropos (1)          - search the manual page names and descriptions

From my system:

runejuhl@lapaz:~$ apropos route
ip-mroute (8)        - (unknown subject)
ip-route (8)         - (unknown subject)
lft (1)              - print the route packets trace to network host
lft.db (1)           - print the route packets trace to network host
NETLINK_ROUTE (7)    - Linux IPv4 routing socket
route (8)            - show / manipulate the IP routing table
routef (8)           - flush routes
routel (8)           - list routes with pretty output format
tcptraceroute (1)    - A traceroute implementation using TCP packets
tcptraceroute (8)    - print the route packets trace to network host
tcptraceroute.db (8) - print the route packets trace to network host
tcptraceroute.mt (1) - A traceroute implementation using TCP packets
traceproto (1)       - print the route packets trace to network host
traceproto.db (1)    - print the route packets trace to network host
traceroute (1)       - print the route packets trace to network host
traceroute-nanog (1) - print the route packets trace to network host
traceroute.db (1)    - print the route packets trace to network host
traceroute6 (1)      - print the route packets trace to network host
traceroute6.db (1)   - print the route packets trace to network host
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apropos is equivalent to man -k, which the OP already mentioned. –  Keith Thompson Jan 26 '12 at 21:38
    
Dang, you're right. Next time I'll read the answers all the way through :) –  runejuhl Jan 28 '12 at 20:17

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