MAKEWHATIS(8) System Manager's Manual MAKEWHATIS(8)


makewhatisindex UNIX manuals


makewhatis [-aDnpQ] [-T utf8] [-C file]

makewhatis [-aDnpQ] [-T utf8] dir ...

makewhatis [-DnpQ] [-T utf8] -d dir [file ...]

makewhatis [-Dnp] [-T utf8] -u dir [file ...]

makewhatis [-DQ] -t file ...


The makewhatis utility extracts keywords from UNIX manuals and indexes them in a database for fast retrieval by apropos(1), whatis(1), and man(1)'s -k option.
By default, makewhatis creates a database in each dir using the files mansection/[arch/]title.section and catsection/ [arch/]title.0 in that directory. Existing databases are replaced. If dir is not provided, makewhatis uses the default paths stipulated by man.conf(5).
The arguments are as follows:
Use all directories and files found below dir ....
-C file
Specify an alternative configuration file in man.conf(5) format.
Display all files added or removed to the index. With a second -D, also show all keywords added for each file.
-d dir
Merge (remove and re-add) file ... to the database in dir.
Do not create or modify any database; scan and parse only, and print manual page names and descriptions to standard output.
Print warnings about potential problems with manual pages to the standard error output.
Quickly build reduced-size databases by reading only the NAME sections of manuals. The resulting databases will usually contain names and descriptions only.
-T utf8
Use UTF-8 encoding instead of ASCII for strings stored in the databases.
-t file ...
Check the given files for potential problems. Implies -a, -n, and -p. All diagnostic messages are printed to the standard output; the standard error output is not used.
-u dir
Remove file ... from the database in dir.
If fatal parse errors are encountered while parsing, the offending file is printed to stderr, omitted from the index, and the parse continues with the next input file.


A database of manpages relative to the directory of the file. This file is portable across architectures and systems, so long as the manpage hierarchy it indexes does not change.
The default man(1) configuration file.


The makewhatis utility exits with one of the following values:
No errors occurred.
Invalid command line arguments were specified. No input files have been read.
An operating system error occurred, for example memory exhaustion or an error accessing input files. Such errors cause makewhatis to exit at once, possibly in the middle of parsing or formatting a file. The output databases are corrupt and should be removed.


apropos(1), man(1), whatis(1), man.conf(5)


A makewhatis utility first appeared in 2BSD. It was rewritten in perl(1) for OpenBSD 2.7 and in C for OpenBSD 5.6.
The dir argument first appeared in NetBSD 1.0; the options -dpt in OpenBSD 2.7; the option -u in OpenBSD 3.4; and the options -aCDnQT in OpenBSD 5.6.


Bill Joy wrote the original BSD makewhatis in February 1979, Marc Espie started the Perl version in 2000, and the current version of makewhatis was written by Kristaps Dzonsons <> and Ingo Schwarze <>.
July 19, 2016 OpenBSD 5.8