The manual pages are a reliable source of information.
They also offer the advantage of being readable on an ASCII terminal.
For example, they can be read quickly over a cable modem or wireless internet connection.
However, the manual pages are clumsy and do not support any type of hypertext linking.Various alternative forms of online documentation are therefore coming into wider use. Unfortunately, these different forms vary dramatically from one type of machine to another.
Notable examples of such hypertext help systems are:
The manual pages, usually called man pages" because they are read with the man command, constitute the traditional "on-line" documentation. "
(Of course, these days all the documentation is on-line in some form or another.) Man pages are typically installed with the system.
Program-specific man pages come along for the ride when you install new software packages. Man pages are concise descriptions of individual commands, drivers, file formats, or library routines.
They do not address more general topics such as
- How do I install a new device? or
- Why is this system so damn slow?
For those questions, consult your vendor's administration guides or, for Linux systems, the documents available from the Linux Documentation Project.