8 Jan 2010 pud 1.002, 10-008
PUD — Portable Unix Documentation for manual pages and FAQ documents
Portable Unix Documentation or PUD currently provides two mini-languages for authoring in the UNIX environment. The two mini-languages are for writing UNIX manual pages and FAQ documents. Source documents in PUD languages can be compiled to either cross-linked html or to troff. The troff output can be further compiled into PostScript, PDF, and plain text.
Portable Unix Documentation (PUD) is part of the Aephea documentation framework. Aephea is built on top of zoem, an all-purpose macro/programming language. Both Aephea and PUD documents are processed by compiling them with the zoem processor. The documents themselves are generally well-structured, relatively free of formatting statements and compact to write. They can be easily extended since the full zoem language is available from within a PUD document.
Portable Unix Documentation is currently shipped with Aephea. You will also need to install zoem.
All PUD files will be installed as you install Aephea. If you are reading this locally on your system, chances are zoem and Aephea are installed.
On this page read the pointers in section Section 6 if you want to write a manual page. Read the pointers in section Section 7 if you want to write an FAQ. The fastest way to get up to speed is to copy and modify a template or existing source document.
Off you go. If you need macro facilities or programming facilities, zoem is there to assist you. Simple macro tasks are easy to accomplish. For more involved stuff you might want to consult the Zoem User Manual (or ZUM). ZUM should be installed locally. Alternatively view the latest ZUM at micans or subscribe to the mailing list (http://micans.org/zoem/index.html#list).
With the pud-man package you create manual pages for output in either troff (groff, nroff) or html. The first can be viewed from a terminal, the second in a browser.
The fictitious buzzz utility is described in a PUD manual page. It is shipped with every zoem distribution and the manual page should be installed locally in the same location as its source. If the location is hard to find you can just obtain the PUD source from the zoem source distribution, or alternatively you may view the latest buzzz source upstream at micans. Further links are to the PostScript version and the plain text format.
For other examples consider the oldest PUD manual page ever written: the MCL manual page, the same in PostScript output, and the source for all this. By using the venerable col program, the troff output can be converted to nice looking plain text format. Find the troff output disclosed as well.
There are some 20+ manual pages for different utilities in the mcl family.
Create FAQ documents with pud-faq for output in either troff (groff, nroff) or html. The former can be viewed in a terminal via the UNIX man page system, the latter can be viewed in a browser.
The PUD FAQ mini-language is described as a rather trivial FAQ itself. It can be viewed in PostScript (compiled from troff compiled from the zoem source and in plain text (again compiled from troff).
For examples behold the browsing delight that is the mcl FAQ, and the PostScript pleasure. Find the noblest format, the impregnable troff, and the source for all that jazz.
Other people exist writing PUD. Not many yet. Joost van Baal has used the pud-faq package and the pud-man package to create documentation for GnuPG (in Dutch), caspar, and the strong (fire)walls of uruk. The links point to directory listings; the zoem source files have .azm suffixes. The Makefile(.am) files might be of interest as well.
People justly wonder why PUD turns away from the blazing light of goodness that is DocBook. DocBook does provide manual page elements and it does support gazillions of output devices. Nevertheless DocBook man pages are a cruelty, a curse and the bane of all things good and pure.
DocBook cannot be written, it cannot be maintained, it cannot be programmed. Yes, XML and DocBook are not supposed to be programmed, but where is the decree that man should toil and suffer so that his documentation would be transmogrifyable into all eternity?
DocBook provides some sort of manual page ontology, describing supposedly every element you might ever need. Inevitably you will want to do things that are not provided and then you are stuck. DocBook lists and enumerations are painful and limited. The verbosity of DocBook makes a mountain out of what should be a mole hill.
PUD manual pages are concise and can be easily cross-referenced. The source is a pleasure to read and output from self-documenting commands can be imported. Zoem IO, macro and programming facilities make the source extendable so that new requirements can be coped with.
Wise people argue that one cannot fathom the needs of future generations and urge the good people of UNIX to use DocBook. The fool knows that this particular premise disproves the thesis and that joy begets joy. Factor the present into the authoring sustainability equation and the scales tip.
At this juncture, I am hesitantly willing to bet that the PUD languages can easily be ported to DocBook. None of the pain, all of the gain. The PUD itemize environment is a sticking point though. It provides, horrors, a few formatting options. Optional paragraphs skips, compact mode, right-alignment of items, automatic enumeration, and the fantabulous intermezzo feature.
The good people of info consider manual pages obsolete. What more is there to say? It is all written here.
PUD was written by Stijn van Dongen.