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Kinds of Documentation

On Debian systems, you can find documentation in at least the following places:

The confusing variety of documentation sources exists for many reasons. For example, info is supposed to replace man, but man hasn't disappeared yet. However, it's nice to know that so much documentation exists!

So where to look for help? Here are some suggestions:

Using man pages is discussed above in section 5.1 on page [*]. It's very simple: press the space bar to go to the next page, and press q to quit reading. Using info, viewing files in /usr/doc, and asking for help from a person are all discussed in the remainder of this chapter.

Using info

info is the GNU documentation viewer. Some programs provide documentationin info format, and you can use info to view that documentation. You can start up the viewer by simply typing info, or by supplying a topic as well:

info emacs
You can also bring up the information on info itself, which includes a tutorial, like so:

info info
Now, you may navigate with these keys:

Move the cursor around the document
Select the menu item that's at the cursor
Move ``up'' in the document
Move to the next page
Move to the previous page
Search for something
Go to a specific page
Quit info
You might notice that the top line of the screen indicates the next, previous, and ``up'' pages, corresponding nicely to the actions for the n, p, and u keys.


In addition to their books, the Linux Documentation Project has made a series of short documents describing how to set up particular aspects of GNU/Linux. For instance, the SCSI-HOWTO describes some of the complications of using SCSI - a standard way of talking to devices - with GNU/Linux. In general, the HOWTOs have more specific information about particular hardware configurations and will be more up to date than this manual.

There are Debian packages for the HOWTOs. doc-linux-text contains the various HOWTOs in text form; the doc-linux-html package contains the HOWTOs in (surprise!) browsable HTML format. Note also that Debian has packaged translations of the HOWTOs in various languages that you may prefer if English is not your native language. Debian has packages for the German, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Swedish and Chinese versions of the HOWTOs. These are usually available in the package doc-linux-languagecode, where languagecode is fr for French, es for Spanish, etc. If you've installed one of these, you should have them in /usr/doc/HOWTO. However, you may be able to find more recent versions on the Net at the LDP homepage.

Personal Help

The correct place to ask for help with Debian is the debian-user mailing list at If you know how to use IRC (Internet Relay Chat), you can use the #debian channel on You can find general GNU/Linux help on the comp.os.linux.* USENET hierarchy. It is also possible to hire paid consultants to provide guaranteed support services. The Debian website has more information on many of these resources.

Again, please do not ask the authors of this book for help. We probably don't know the answer to your specific problem anyway; if you mail debian-user, you will get higher-quality responses, and more quickly.

Always be polite and make an effort to help yourself by reading the documentation. Remember, Debian is a volunteer effort and people are doing you a favor by giving their time to help you. Many of them charge hundreds of dollars for the same services during the day.

Tips for asking questions

Getting Information from the System

When diagnosing problems or asking for help, you'll need to get information about your system. Here are some ways to do so:

next up previous contents index
Next: Troubleshooting Up: Reading Documentation and Getting Previous: Reading Documentation and Getting   Contents   Index
John Goerzen / Ossama Othman