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Example: I am using tar -zxvf command but I don't know what 'x' stands for.

How can I check this single parameter without having to scroll all the way through man tar?

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Please check this [thread][1] on superuser.com. [1]: superuser.com/questions/441654/… – Einar Aug 8 '13 at 20:41
up vote 12 down vote accepted


x is for extract.

After you are inside man, type /-xenter to search info about the -x parameter,
Press n to jump to the next -x match, and N for the previous

Search with Regex

For large man pages, or a common terms, a little regex can be used to narrow the search.

If you just want the main entry, you can use /^ *-x to remove most extraneous matches.
This works as most man pages are formatted with the entry indented with spaces.

  • ^ * matches the start of line, with zero to many spaces.
  • -x is the search string.
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You could also grep it out of the man page with some context:

man tar | grep -C5 -- '-x\b'
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This works in RHEL6 with Bash

In .bashrc


function mans {
       man $1 | less -p "^ +$2"

start a new instance of bash

$ bash


mans ls -l

has the desired effect.

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If you use Emacs, M-x man RET tar, then C-s -x.

Hit C-s repeatedly until you get to the right place, then hit return.

C-r is the same, but backwards. (But both will wrap on a double strike at document top/bottom.)

Also, in cases like this (man page search), case sensitive search is preferable. Examine the case-fold-search variable.

The huge advantage of using your editor to view man pages is that you know all commands so well - navigation, copying, everything you'd like to do, you already know how.

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