One Small Step For A Man Page

December 16th, 2006

Most of the time when I download some new piece of software, it’s mere seconds before I’m frothing at the mouth about some interface or usability problem.

Which makes me sit up and take notice when a piece of software just does something damned elegantly, damned easily, and damned beautifully. Bwana, from Bruji, is one of those pieces of software.

Bwana is a UNIX man page reader. I’ve tried them before, and been underwhelmed. They try to take over hot keys on my system, or leave some UI application running all the time. I’m not that into man pages. What Bwana does is brilliant: it uses your web browser as the interface to beautifully formatted HTML renditions of your system’s man pages. I just type, for instance, “man:diskutil”. Since I’m always running a web browser, it doesn’t hurt anything to have it suddenly able to show me man pages. And the pages look fantastic.

Even better, it’s been recently made open source. So I guess I can fix my only complaint, that a “not found” man page doesn’t automatically bring up a list of substring matches.

Update: I decided to go ahead and implement these changes. Download my modified sources for a version of Bwana that, when it doesn’t find an exact match, presents a filtered index of man pages whose names contain the substring.

Nice work, Bruji.

8 Responses to “One Small Step For A Man Page”

  1. Jens Ayton Says:

    I used Bwana for a while, but I”™ve found Xcode”™s Help->Open man page… more convenient since I tend to have Xcode running all the time too.

  2. Spyro Says:

    Hmmmm I use ManOpen and its usefull openman commande line tool.
    Nice how “open man:foo” works with Bwana (like “openman foo” with ManOpen).

  3. Kevin Walzer Says:

    Bwana is certainly an interesting application for viewing man pages. ManOpen is also nice if you prefer a more document-based approach, and for browsing man pages on your system.

    Good free apps like this make for tough competition for my own app, VuMan. It’s sold a few licenses, but not in the numbers I would have hoped for.

  4. Nigel Kersten Says:

    I’ve used ManOpen for a while, but don’t bother with the commandline tool anymore.

    I’ve bound x-man-page://*** as a Quicksilver shortcut called ‘uman’, so I just use QS to trigger all man page views.

    Looking at BWana now though… using the browser is a nice idea.

  5. Conor Says:

    I am glad you find Bwana useful; thank you for taking the time to make it even more useful. I have included your changes and made it Bwana 2.1. There have been a lot of suggestions for Bwana over the years, but users love the simplicity. I think the most repeated ones are apropos searching and a bezel type display while it builds the HTML for the index or man page.

    Nigel: Many users use Quicksilver, LaunchBar or even the command line to trigger Bwana as they prefer the browser display.

  6. Alberto Ricart Says:

    If you add the following to script.strings, you also get OmniWeb compatibility:

    tell application “OmniWeb”
    GetURL “file://%@”
    end tell

  7. Kelan Says:

    My friend and I came up with a little trick to view man pages as PDFs, so that you can view it with nice formatting, scroll around, search, etc. Basically, it saves the manpage as a postscript file on your desktop (this could probably be changed to /tmp/ or something) and then opens it with Preview, which converts it from ps to pdf. You can even then save the resulting file and keep the pdf for later use. Its pretty hacky, with the sleep step and all, but it works. I used have have it sleep 10 (seconds) on my old 450G4 tower, but sleep 2 seems to work on my MBP (and Preview reads the whole ps file immediately, so it doesn’t have to finish converting the file before this deletes it). We initially wrote it as a tcsh alias, but recently converted it to a bash function.

    Just copy one of the following to your .tcshrc or .profile file (respectively), open a new terminal window, and type “manview curl” (for example).

    alias manview 'man -t \!:1 > ~/Desktop/\!; open -a ~/Desktop/\!; sleep 10; rm ~/Desktop/\!'

    manview () {
    if [ "$#" = "1" ]; then
    man -t ${1} > ~/Desktop/${1}.ps
    open -a ~/Desktop/${1}.ps
    sleep 10
    rm ~/Desktop/${1}.ps

  8. Scott Stevenson Says:

    Perhaps slightly off topic, but I just noticed that Bruji is a gold sponsor for Child’s Play, alongside ATI, Konami, Firefox, and Ubisoft. I’m thinking that’s more than a small amount of money.

    For comparison, Blizzard and THQ are in Silver, which is one level down. I don’t mean that it’s competitve, just that Bruji is not only a sponsor, but apparently did a lot more than the minimum. Not bad for a indie Mac developer.

    Delicious Monster is a Platinum sponsor, alongside Dell and Sony.

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