I'm on FreeBSD, using a wide xterm with, say, 132 characters per line. When running

$ man man

the manual page is formatted to fit an 80 character per line terminal width. Is there a way to make the formatter (groff, grotty) use a line width I specify?

I read the manuals for man(1) and groff(1) but could not find an appropriate option. I know it can be done, since I have seen it work on some Linux distro.

  • 4
    There's a MANWIDTH environment variable. Could you try setting it?
    – muru
    Dec 4, 2014 at 18:02
  • @muru You da man! If you make it an answer, I'll bump your rep by 25.
    – Jens
    Dec 4, 2014 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


Ony my Linux systems, man 1 man mentions the MANWIDTH environment variable, which, now that I look it up, is also specified in the FreeBSD man(1) manpage:

MANWIDTH     If set to a numeric value, used as the width manpages should
             be displayed.  Otherwise, if set to a special value ``tty'',
             and output is to a terminal, the pages may be displayed over
             the whole width of the screen.
  • 1
    also likely permanently configurable in /etc/man${something here maybe?}.conf
    – mikeserv
    Dec 4, 2014 at 22:54
  • @mikeserv apparently /etc/man.conf is mentioned in the FreeBSD manpage, but the Ubuntu manpage only mentions /etc/manpath.config, and I don't have FBSD system to test what the former does.
    – muru
    Dec 5, 2014 at 5:36
  • yeah - manpath.conf on my arch system - you can also configure filters and cat file locations there, i think.
    – mikeserv
    Dec 5, 2014 at 7:25
  • 1
    @mikeserv My Arch system's man 1 man (and man manpath) only mentions a /etc/man_db.conf.
    – muru
    Dec 5, 2014 at 7:31
  • 1
    ok thats the one - mandb. they shouldnt be very different, i wouldnt think. mine has gnu written all over it, as i recall - pretty standard. manpath.conf is the name of the file you can create per user in $HOME - why the distros vary in /etc is beyond me.
    – mikeserv
    Dec 5, 2014 at 7:32

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