makewhatis - Unix, Linux Command

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makewhatis - Create the whatis database


makewhatis [-u] [-v] [-w] [-s sections ] [-c [catpath]] [manpath]


makewhatis reads all the manual pages contained in the given sections of manpath or the preformatted pages contained in the given sections of catpath. For each page, it writes a line in the whatis database; each line consists of the name of the page and a short description, separated by a dash. The description is extracted using the content of the NAME section of the manual page.

Since other languages use a different term for the NAME section, makewhatis recognizes the equivalent terms in Czech, Italian, Finnish, French, German and Spanish.

If no manpath argument is given, /usr/man is assumed by default.


-u Update database with new pages (file’s status was last changed 24 hours ago)
-v Verbose output
-w Use manpath obtained from ‘man --path‘
-s sections
  Looks in the sections of manpath or catpath. If the option is absent, its value is assumed to be '1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 n l'
-c catpath
  The preformatted manual pages located in catpath are scanned. If the argument is not provided, it is assumed to be the first existing directory between /usr/man/preformat and /usr/man.


To rebuild only /usr/X11R6/man/whatis and /usr/local/man/whatis

makewhatis /usr/X11R6/man /usr/local/man
To rebuild all the databases, including those of the Finnish, French and Italian translations
LANGUAGE=fi:fr:it makewhatis -w


makewhatis may not handle too well manual pages written with non-standard troff macros, such as the Tcl/Tk pages.

makewhatis does not work on preformatted translations.


John W. Eaton was the original author of man. Zeyd M. Ben-Halim released man 1.2, and Andries Brouwer followed up with versions 1.3 thru 1.5p. Federico Lucifredi <> is the current maintainer.


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