So in a recent fit of folly, I followed the instructions in this answer on the Ubuntu SE page since I wanted to remove most of the documentation. However, I didn't read the commands well enough and missed that that those would also remove the man pages, which I didn't want.

After the damage was done, I'm now trying to figure out how to recover from my mistake. After reinstalling man-db and manpages, it still does not work though. Currently, man cp for example only shows a bunch of


Exiting this view of the broken manpage leaves me with an error

man: command exited with status 3: /usr/lib/man-db/zsoelim | /usr/lib/man-db/manconv -f UTF-8:ISO-8859-1 -t UTF-8//IGNORE | preconv -e UTF-8 | tbl | nroff -mandoc -Tutf8

So even uninstalling certain packages and reinstalling still does not help this. Therefore, as far as I'm aware of this question is not a duplicate to questions like this one or this one .

Is anyone aware of an approach to fix this?

2 Answers 2


You need to remove the lines matching /usr/share/man and /usr/share/groff from /etc/dpkg/dpkg.cfg.d/01_nodoc, then reinstall groff, man-db, manpages and any other package whose manpages you want to restore. The cp manpage for example is in the coreutils package.


This error message can be a symptom of a recent bug in a couple of distributions (eg: Debian, bug #890861), and this SO question appears in the first results from a google search.

The temporary workaround until the fix comes out is to export a variable, or to start man with said variable set:




man man

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