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pdfroff is a wrapper program for the GNU text processing system, groff.
It transparently handles the mechanics of multiple pass groff process-
ing, when applied to suitably marked up groff source files, such that
tables of contents and body text are formatted separately, and are sub-
sequently combined in the correct order, for final publication as a
single PDF document. A further optional "style sheet" capability is
provided; this allows for the definition of content which is required
to precede the table of contents, in the published document.
For each invocation of pdfroff, the ultimate groff output stream is
post-processed by the GhostScript interpreter, to produce a finished
pdfroff makes no assumptions about, and imposes no restrictions on, the
use of any groff macro packages which the user may choose to employ, in
order to achieve a desired document format; however, it does include
specific built in support for the pdfmark macro package, should the
user choose to employ it. Specifically, if the pdfhref macro, defined
in the pdfmark.tmac package, is used to define public reference marks,
or dynamic links to such reference marks, then pdfroff performs as many
preformatting groff passes as required, up to a maximum limit of four,
in order to compile a document reference dictionary, to resolve refer-
ences, and to expand the dynamically defined content of links.
The command line is parsed in accordance with normal GNU conventions,
but with one exception -- when specifying any short form option (i.e., a
single character option introduced by a single hyphen), and if that
option expects an argument, then it must be specified independently
(i.e., it may not be appended to any group of other single character
short form options).
Long form option names (i.e., those introduced by a double hyphen) may
be abbreviated to their minimum length unambiguous initial substring.
Otherwise, pdfroff usage closely mirrors that of groff itself. Indeed,
with the exception of the -h, -v, and -T dev short form options, and
all long form options, which are parsed internally by pdfroff, all
options and file name arguments specified on the command line are
passed on to groff, to control the formatting of the PDF document.
Consequently, pdfroff accepts all options and arguments, as specified
in groff(1), which may also be considered as the definitive reference
for all standard pdfroff options and argument usage.
pdfroff accepts all of the short form options (i.e., those introduced
by a single hyphen), which are available with groff itself. In most
cases, these are simply passed transparently to groff; the following,
See groff(1) for a description of all other short form options, which
are transparently passed through pdfroff to groff.
All long form options (i.e., those introduced by a double hyphen) are
interpreted locally by pdfroff; they are not passed on to groff, unless
otherwise stated below.
--help Causes pdfroff to display a summary of the its usage syntax, and
supported options, and then exit.
Suppresses the final output conversion step, causing pdfroff to
emit PostScript output instead of PDF. This may be useful, to
capture intermediate PostScript output, when using a specialised
postprocessor, such as gpresent for example, in place of the
default GhostScript PDF writer.
Suppresses the deletion of temporary files, which normally
occurs after pdfroff has completed PDF document formatting; this
may be useful, when debugging formatting problems.
See section FILES, for a description of the temporary files used
May be used with the --reference-dictionary=name option
(described below) to eliminate the overhead of PDF formatting,
when running pdfroff to create a reference dictionary, for use
in a different document.
May be used to eliminate the overhead of creating a reference
dictionary, when it is known that the target PDF document con-
tains no public references, created by the pdfhref macro.
May be used to eliminate the extra groff processing pass, which
is required to generate a table of contents, and relocate it to
the start of the PDF document, when processing any document
which lacks an automatically generated table of contents.
While preparing for simulation of the manual collation step,
which is traditionally required to relocate of a table of con-
tents to the start of a document, pdfroff accumulates a number
of empty page descriptions into the intermediate PostScript out-
put stream. During the final collation step, these empty pages
are normally discarded from the finished document; this option
forces pdfroff to leave them in place.
Causes pdfroff to display an informational message on standard
error, at the start of each groff processing pass.
Specifies the name of an input file, to be used as a style sheet
for formatting of content, which is to be placed before the ta-
ble of contents, in the formatted PDF document.
Causes pdfroff to display a version identification message. The
entire command line is then passed transparently to groff, in a
one pass operation only, in order to display the associated
groff version information, before exiting.
The following environment variables may be set, and exported, to modify
the behaviour of pdfroff.
Specifies the program to be used for collation of the finshed
This collation step may be required to move tables of contents
to the start of the finished PDF document, when formatting with
traditional macro packages, which print them at the end. How-
ever, users should not normally need to specify PDFROFF_COLLATE,
(and indeed, are not encouraged to do so). If unspecified,
pdfroff uses sed(1) by default, which normally suffices.
If PDFROFF_COLLATE is specified, then it must act as a filter,
accepting a list of file name arguments, and write its output to
the stdout stream, whence it is piped to the
PDFROFF_POSTPROCESSOR_COMMAND, to produce the finished PDF out-
When specifying PDFROFF_COLLATE, it is normally necessary to
also specify PDFROFF_KILL_NULL_PAGES.
PDFROFF_COLLATE is ignored, if pdfroff is invoked with the
Specifies options to be passed to the PDFROFF_COLLATE program.
It should not normally be necessary to specify
PDFROFF_KILL_NULL_PAGES. The internal default is a sed(1)
script, which is intended to remove completely blank pages from
the collated output stream, and which should be appropriate in
most applications of pdfroff. However, if any alternative to
sed(1) is specified for PDFROFF_COLLATE, then it is likely that
a corresponding alternative specification for
gs -dBATCH -dQUIET -dNOPAUSE -dSAFER -sDEVICE=pdfwrite
Identifies the directory in which pdfroff should create tempo-
rary files. If GROFF_TMPDIR is not specified, then the vari-
ables TMPDIR, TMP and TEMP are considered in turn, as possible
temporary file repositories. If none of these are set, then
temporary files are created in the current directory.
Specifies the program to be invoked, when pdfroff converts groff
PostScript output to PDF. If PDFROFF_POSTPROCESSOR_COMMAND is
specified, then the command name it specifies is implicitly as-
signed to GROFF_GHOSTSCRIPT_INTERPRETER, overriding any explicit
setting specified in the environment. If
GROFF_GHOSTSCRIPT_INTERPRETER is not specified, then pdfroff
searches the process PATH, looking for a program with any of the
well known names for the GhostScript interpreter; if no
GhostScript interpreter can be found, pdfroff aborts.
Specifies the program to be invoked, when pdfroff is extracting
reference dictionary entries from a groff intermediate message
stream. If GROFF_AWK_INTERPRETER is not specified, then pdfroff
searches the process PATH, looking for any of the preferred pro-
grams, 'gawk', 'mawk', 'nawk' and 'awk', in this order; if none
of these are found, pdfroff issues a warning message, and con-
tinue processing; however, in this case, no reference dictionary
OSTYPE Typically defined automatically by the operating system, OSTYPE
is used on Microsoft Win32/MS-DOS platforms only, to infer the
default PATH_SEPARATOR character, which is used when parsing the
process PATH to search for external helper programs.
If set, PATH_SEPARATOR overrides the default separator charac-
ter, (':' on POSIX/UNIX systems, inferred from OSTYPE on Mi-
crosoft Win32/MS-DOS), which is used when parsing the process
PATH to search for external helper programs.
If this is set to a non-empty value, then pdfroff always behaves
as if the --report-progress option is specified, on the command
Input and output files for pdfroff may be named according to any con-
vention of the user's choice. Typically, input files may be named ac-
cording to the choice of the principal formatting macro package, e.g.,
cess ID of the pdfroff process itself, and * represents any of the ex-
tensions used by pdfroff to identify the following temporary and inter-
A scratch pad file, used to capture reference data emitted by
groff, during the reference dictionary compilation phase.
The reference dictionary, as compiled in the last but one pass
of the reference dictionary compilation phase; (at the start of
the first pass, this file is created empty; in successive pass-
es, it contains the reference dictionary entries, as collected
in the preceding pass).
If the --reference-dictionary=name option is specified, this in-
termediate file becomes permanent, and is named name, rather
Used to collect reference dictionary entries during the active
pass of the reference dictionary compilation phase. At the end
of any pass, when the content of pdf$$.cmp compares as identical
to pdf$$.ref, (or the corresponding file named by the
--reference-dictionary=name option), then reference dictionary
compilation is terminated, and the document reference map is ap-
pended to this intermediate file, for inclusion in the final
An intermediate PostScript file, in which "Table of Contents"
entries are collected, to facilitate relocation before the body
text, on ultimate output to the GhostScript postprocessor.
An intermediate PostScript file, in which the body text is col-
lected prior to ultimate output to the GhostScript postproces-
sor, in the proper sequence, after pdf$$.tc.
See groff(1) for the definitive reference to document formatting with
groff. Since pdfroff provides a superset of all groff capabilities,
groff(1) may also be considered to be the definitive reference to all
standard capabilities of pdfroff, with this document providing the ref-
erence to pdfroff's extended features.
While pdfroff imposes neither any restriction on, nor any requirement
for, the use of any specific groff macro package, a number of supplied
macro packages, and in particular those associated with the package
pdfmark.tmac, are best suited for use with pdfroff as the preferred
formatter. Detailed documentation on the use of these packages may be
found, in PDF format, in the reference guide "Portable Document Format
Groff Version 1.21 01 April 2012 PDFROFF(1)