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nroff (short for "new roff") is a text-formatting program on Unix and Unix-like operating systems. It produces output suitable for simple fixed-width printers and terminal windows. It is an integral part of the Unix help system, being used to format man pages for display.

Original author(s)Joe Ossanna
Developer(s)AT&T Bell Laboratories
Initial releaseJune 12, 1972; 47 years ago (1972-06-12)
Operating systemUnix and Unix-like



nroff was written by Joe Ossanna for Version 2 Unix,[1] in Assembly language and then ported to C.

It was a descendant of the RUNOFF program from CTSS, the first computerized text-formatting program, and is a predecessor of the Unix troff document processing system.

There is also a free software version of nroff in the groff package.


The Minix operating system, among others, uses a clone of nroff called cawf by Vic Abell, based on awf, the Amazingly Workable Formatter designed in awk by Henry Spencer. These are not full replacements for the nroff/troff suite of tools, but are sufficient for display and printing of basic documents and manual pages.

In addition, a simplified version of nroff is available in Ratfor source code form as an example in the book Software Tools by Brian Kernighan and P.J. Plauger.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ McIlroy, M. D. (1987). A Research Unix reader: annotated excerpts from the Programmer's Manual, 1971–1986 (PDF) (Technical report). CSTR. Bell Labs. 139.
  2. ^

External linksEdit