Linux/Unix: Quickly accessing the man page on a command switch

📄 Wiki page | 🕑 Last updated: Nov 2, 2022

Instead of first opening the man page with man command and then searching for the command switch/option, you can do that in a quick, single step.



function msw() {
  man "$1" | less -p "^\s+$2"

Example use (the first argument is the name of the command, the second argument is command switch/option):

msw less -p

This should take you directly to the -p option on the less man page.


We're defining a function called msw which is basically just a wrapper around man:

function msw() {
  man "$1"

The next is step is to take the output (the whole man page of the command) and pass it as an input (stdin) to less:

function msw() {
  man "$1" | less -p "^\s+$2"

We're using -p (shorthand for --pattern) option of less to tell it to skip until the first occurrence of that regex pattern.

Pattern ^\s+$2 will match the line that starts with one or more whitespace characters, followed by our second argument to the script.

Note: To learn more about less -p, you can now use our new function: msw less -p :)


You can put the above function in your shell init file (e.g. ~/.bashrc), or create a script like this somewhere in your $PATH:


man "$1" | less -p "^\s+$2"

And make it executable:

chmod +x ./msw

The advantage of this over the function is that it will be available everywhere, not only in your current shell.

Ask me anything / Suggestions

If you have any suggestions or questions (related to this or any other topic), feel free to contact me. ℹ️

If you find this site useful in any way, please consider supporting it.