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Generate man pages for click based CLI applications

Project description


Build Status PyPI Package version

Create man pages for click application as easy as this:

python3 --command-packages=click_man.commands man_pages

→ Checkout the debian packaging example

What it does

click-man will generate one man page per command of your click CLI application specified in console_scripts in your


pip3 install click-man

click-man is also available for Python 2:

pip install click-man

Usage Recipes

The following sections describe different usage example for click-man.

Use with a previously installed package

click-man provides its own command line tool which can be passed the name of an installed script:

click-man commandname

where commandname is the name of an installed console_script entry point.

To specify a target directory for the man pages, use the --target option:

click-man --target path/to/man/pages commandname

Use with setuptools

click-man provides a sane setuptools command extension which can be used like the following:

python3 --command-packages=click_man.commands man_pages

or specify the man pages target directory:

python3 --command-packages=click_man.commands man_pages --target path/to/man/pages

Automatic man page installation with setuptools and pip

This approach of installing man pages is problematic for various reasons:

(1) Man pages are a UNIX thing

Python in general and with that pip and setuptools are aimed to be platform independent. Man pages are not: they are a UNIX thing which means setuptools does not provide a sane solution to generate and install man pages. We should consider using automatic man page installation only with vendor specific packaging, e.g. for *.deb or *.rpm packages.

(2) Man pages are not compatable with Python virtualenvs

Even on systems that support man pages, Python packages can be installed in virtualenvs via pip and setuptools, which do not make commands available globally. In fact, one of the "features" of a virtualenv is the ability to install a package without affecting the main system. As it is imposable to ensure a man page is only generated when not installing into a virtualenv, auto-generated man pages would pollute the main system and not stay contained in the virtualenv. Additionally, as a user could install multiple different versions of the same package into multiple different virtualenvs on the same system, there is no guarantee that a globally installed man page will document the version and behavior available in any given virtualenv.

(3) We want to generate man pages on the fly

First, we do not want to commit man pages to our source control. We want to generate them on the fly. Either during build or installation time.

With setuptools and pip we face two problems:

  1. If we generate and install them during installation of the package pip does not know about the man pages and thus cannot uninstall it.
  2. If we generate them in our build process and add them to your distribution we do not have a way to prevent installation to /usr/share/man for non-UNIX-like Operating Systems or from within virtualenvs.

Debian packages

The debhelper packages provides a very convenient script called dh_installman. It checks for the debian/(pkg_name.)manpages file and it's content which is basically a line by line list of man pages or globs:


We override the rule provided by dh_installman to generate our man pages in advance, like this:

	python3 --command-packages=click_man.commands man_pages --target debian/tmp/manpages
	dh_installman -O--buildsystem=pybuild

Now we are able to build are debian package with the tool of your choice, e.g.:

debuild -us -uc

Checkout a working example here: repo debian package

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