Finding and Reading Software Packages Documentation

Documentation for various software packages is included in the /usr/share/doc directory; that directory is stored in another directory that's labeled with the associated package's name. You can find other Linux documentation, known as HOWTOs and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), online by browsing to http://www.tldp.org/. HOWTO documents contain specific information related to a particular subject, such as printing, setting up a network, programming a serial port, or using a CD-ROM drive with Linux. These documents can be read by using your web browser. Of course, one of the best online tools you can use is a good search engine, such as Google.

You can read document formats such as text with less or another pager or text reader. For example, to read a copy of the GNU General Public License (GPL), a file named gpl_v2 under the /usr/share/apps/LICENSES directory, use less like this:

$ less /usr/share/common-licenses/GPL-2

After you press Enter, you can scroll back and forth through the file. Press q to quit reading. If a document is in compressed form (ending in .gz), use the zless pager, which will decompress a document first:

$ zless /usr/share/man/man1/renice.l.gz

Most users read document formats such as HTML using a web browser in a graphical desktop. Ubuntu includes at least two versatile text-based web browsers, however, accessed with the lynx and links commands. To browse an HTML file on your system without using X11, use either command, along with the path to the file. For example, to read an HTML version of the GNU GPL with links, use the command like this:

$ links /usr/share/doc/HTML/en/common/gpl-license.html

After you press Enter, use your Up and Down cursor keys to scroll back and forth through the file. Press q, Enter to quit reading. If you have configured a mouse, click the left button near the top of the screen, and links will display its menus.

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