man -a <xyz> opens all the man pages one by one which contain xyz.
On my unix servers man -a <xyz> doesn't work.
Is there any alternative for this on unix?


I am on HP-UX. Following message :

hemantj [109]> man -a printf
Usage: man [-M path] [-T macro-package] [ section ] name ...
or: man -k keyword ...
or: man -f file ...
  • 2
    Why man -a doesn't work? Install a proper version of man. Try to debug it: strace man -a term 2> strace.out and echo $LANG Try to add your user to the man group.
    – Alex Bitek
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 16:03
  • What Unix are you exactly using: Solaris, HP-UX, AIX, *BSD? Also what does it mean "doesn't work": the -a option isn't recognized and man doesn't show anything or man shows only the first page? One more thing: could you give examples of <xyz> just to be sure that there are multiple sections on that subject? Commented Sep 1, 2010 at 2:26
  • @cristian: I just updated my original question.
    – Hemant
    Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 11:22
  • what happens when you run man printf? Commented Sep 10, 2010 at 17:46
  • @Cristian: man printf opens man page for printf(1)
    – Hemant
    Commented Sep 12, 2010 at 8:25

3 Answers 3


Does man -k work? If so, then:

man -k "$@" | cut -f1 -d' ' | xargs man

might do what you want


Is apropos available on the system? It can be used to search for man pages.

With a quick one-liner, it can come close to the man -a behaviour

man `apropos -el apt | awk -F")" '{print $1}' | awk -F"(" '{print $2, $1}'`
  • Thanks for reply. But apropos not available.
    – Hemant
    Commented Aug 18, 2010 at 13:24
  • 1
    apropos is functionally identical to (and usually implemented using) man -k.
    – Alexios
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 1:36

There are always emcas-based info pages:

$ info --apropos=man
$ info --apropos=info
  • 1
    Not necessarily (the Unix in question is HP-UX). Haven't used HP-UX since the late 90s so I don't have one handy, but GNU-based tools like info(1) aren't globally available unless we're talking about Linux. They certainly weren't available on SunOS and Solaris, and still aren't. You have to install the GNU tools separately, often by compiling them.
    – Alexios
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 1:42

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