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15.4. Online Help

Mac OS X comes with nearly 900 Unix programs like the ones described in this chapter. How are you supposed to learn what they all do? Fortunately, almost every Unix program comes with its own little help file. It may not appear within an elegant Aqua window—in fact, it's pretty darned plain—but it offers much more material than the regular Mac Help Center.

These help files are called user-manual pages, or manpages, which hold descriptions of virtually every command and program available. Mac OS X, in fact, comes with manpages on about 4,000 topics—about 9,000 printed pages' worth. Unfortunately, manpages rarely have the clarity of writing or the learner-focused approach you'll find in the Mac Help Center. They're generally terse, just-the-facts descriptions. In fact, you'll probably find yourself needing to reread certain sections again and again. The information they contain, however, is invaluable to new and experienced users alike, and the effort spent mining them is usually worthwhile.


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