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On Debian-based systems, can one view the man page of packages that aren't yet installed? I want to check what they are capable first, before installing them.

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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

You can use debman to view man pages before installing a package. See: http://www.debian-administration.org/articles/454.

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Thank you very much! Yet didn't have time to test it, but if it works like it claims, then it's the perfect solution for me while working on the shell, especially one should get the correct man page (correct version, distribution...). I still like the other answers for reading on another system using my browser. So also thank you very to the other users that replied! Unfortunately I can only select one answer ): –  stefan.at.wpf Jun 24 '12 at 12:39
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Usually the man pages get installed as part of the package.

Perhaps the best idea is starting your search at the web page of your distribution and looking for specific documenation there. I currently use Ubuntu and a quick search yielded the Ubuntu Manpage Repository. I am sure similar pages exist for all the major distributions.

However, anytime I've quickly looked for a man page, I've just googled 'man page some_command' and found several copies of the Unix/Linux man pages on line. I do this frequently when posting here or on SO and want to provide a reference for some command I'm mentioning in a post.

UNIX ON-LINE Man Pages is a repository of man pages.

And here is another index of On-line UNIX manual pages.

Finally,

  sudo apt-get install manpages-dev

will install the man pages for system and library calls.

Update: As @jasonwryan points out in a helpful comment, the GNU Manuals are available online too.

Update 2: Another useful comment by @user606723 reminds us that there can be different versions of commands/man pages, so while looking at the documentation it would be prudent to note specifics.

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The GNU Manuals are also online: gnu.org/manual –  jasonwryan Jun 23 '12 at 21:56
    
@jasonwryan ...thanks, makes it a more complete answer. –  Levon Jun 23 '12 at 21:59
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keep in mind that online man pages aren't always the same as the package you might install. There are multiple versions of many programs; multiple forks; sometimes they are completely different... so this should be taken with a grain of salt. –  user606723 Jun 24 '12 at 4:55
    
@user606723 good point about different versions, OP should be aware of this (I may update my answer to include a note about this). Note that OP was asking about man pages for command they had not installed yet. Still it's good to know about this, and perhaps if they googled they could be more specific by including the distribution they use. Thanks for the comment. –  Levon Jun 24 '12 at 12:19
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A debian developer provides a service named manpages.debian.net where you can access shipped manpages online and can also get a release specific man page.

There is also manpages.ubuntu.com which does the same for Ubuntu.

As this method allows you to access release specific man pages you'll probably get the correct versions for your Distribution.

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I am currently on my raspberry pi and the page you linked unfortunately only distinguishes between debian releases, not architecture. e.g. the dump tool on raspberry pi is a different one only supporting ext2, while documentation on the linked page claims also ext4. Still a useful link in most cases! –  stefan.at.wpf Jun 24 '12 at 12:40
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To the more command-line inclined, there is the option of using a combination of surfraw, elinks and less.

Add the following to ~/.config/surfraw/conf:

SURFRAW_graphical="no"
SURFRAW_text_browser="elinks -dump"

And you're good to go, e.g.

sr google -l man ls | less

NOTE: The comment by user606723 still holds.

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+1 for surfraw goodness... –  jasonwryan Jun 24 '12 at 23:54
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