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groff_filenames - filename extensions for roff and groff


Since the evolution of roff in the 1970s, a whole bunch of filename extensions for roff files were used.

The roff extensions refer to preprocessors or macro packages. These extensions are fixed in all Unix-like operating systems.

Later on, groff added some more extensions. This man page is about these filename extensions.


Each roff file can be optionally compressed. That means that the total filename ends with a compressor name. So the whole filename has the structure <name>.<extension>[.<compression>].

Best-known are the compressor extensions .Z, .gz, and .bzip2. Relatively new is .xz.

From now on, we will ignore the compressions and only comment the structure <name>.<extension>.


The Unix manual pages are widely called man pages. The man page style is the best known part of the roff language.

The extensions for man should be better documented. So this is documented here.

Files written in the man language use the following extension: *.<section>[<group>].

Man page Sections

The traditional man page <section> is a digit from 1 to 8.

Classic man page sections.

In older commercial Unix systems, the 3 characters l, n, and o were also used as section names. This is today deprecated, but there are still documents in this format.

Deprecated man page sections, which stood for “local”, “new”, and “old”, respectively.

Man page Group Extensions

The <group> extension in .<section>[<group>] is optional, but it can be any string of word characters. Usually programmers use a group name that is already used, e.g. x for X Window System documents or tcl to refer to the Tcl programming language.


is the man page for groff in section 1 without a group
is the man page for the program xargs in section 1 and group posix; moreover it is compressed with gz (gzip).
OpenSSL CONF library configuration files from section 5 with group ssl.
man page for the program dpkg-reconfigure in section 8 and group cdebconf.

Source of man pages

There are 2 roff languages for writing man pages: man and mdoc.

The names of these 2 styles are taken as extensions for the source code files of man pages in the groff package.

traditional Unix-like man page format within groff source files.
A temporary man page file produced from a man page by a run of make within the groff source package.
Man page format in BSD.
Man page format in heirloom roff .
Files using this extension recognize both man page formats in groff and other processors.


Files Using Macro Packages

The classical roff languages were interpreted by the traditional troff and nroff programs.

There were several roff languages, each represented by a macro-package. Each of these provided a suitable file name extension:

roff file using the me macro package.
roff file using the mm macro package
roff file using the ms macro package

All of these classical roff languages and their extensions are still very active in groff.

Source Code for Macro Packages (TMAC Files)

In traditional roff the source code for the macro packages was stored in TMAC files. Their file names have the form:

<package> is the name of the macro package without the leading m character, which is reintegrated by the option -m.

For example, is the source for the man macro package.

In the groff source, more suitable file names were integrated, see later on.


Moreover, the following preprocessors were used as filename extension:

for the integration of chemical formulas
for the mathematical use of equations
graphical tool
for tables with tbl
for files using the prefer preprocessor

Classical Roff Files

for files using the roff language of any kind


GNU roff groff is the actual roff standard, both for classical roff and new extensions. So even the used new extensions in the source code should be regarded as actual standard. The following extensions are used instead of classical .t or .tr:

general ending for files using the groff language

Source Code for Macro Packages (TMAC Files)

As the classical form tmac.<package_without_m>, of the TMAC file names is quite strange, groff added the following structures:


Files Using new Macro Packages

Groff uses the following new macro packages:

file with swedish mm macros for groff
files written in the groff macro package mom
files written in HTML-like groff macros.

Preprocessors and Postprocessors

Heidelberger tables, an alternative to the preprocessor tbl. See groff_hdtbl(7).
files written for the graphical grap processor.
for including gremlin(1), pictures, see grn(1).
transform this file with pdfroff of the groff system


This document was written by Bernd Warken.


roff(7), man-pages(7), groff_diff(7), groff(7)
uncompress(1posix), gzip2(1), bzip2(1), xz(1)

A man page of the naming form name(n) can be read in text mode by

man n name
or in graphical mode (PDF) by
groffer n name

Gunnar Ritter's Heirloom roff project. You can get this package with the shell command:

26 December 2021 groff 1.22.4