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gropdf - Man Page

groff output driver for Portable Document Format


gropdf[-dels] [-F font-directory] [-I inclusion-directory] [-p paper-format] [-u [cmap-file]] [-y foundry] [file ...]


The GNU roff PDF output driver translates the output of troff(1) into Portable Document Format. Normally, gropdf is invoked by groff(1) when the latter is given the “-T pdf” option. (In this installation, ps is the default output device.) Use groff's -P option to pass any options shown above to gropdf. If no file arguments are given, or if file is “-”, gropdf reads the standard input stream. Output is written to the standard output stream.

See section “Font installation” below for a guide to installing fonts for gropdf.


displays a usage message, while -v and --version show version information; all exit afterward.

Include debug information as comments within the PDF. Also produces an uncompressed PDF.


Forces gropdf to embed all fonts (even the 14 base PDF fonts).

-F dir

Prepend directory dir/devname to the search path for font, and device description files; name is the name of the device, usually pdf.

-I dir

Search the directory dir for files named in \X'pdf: pdfpic' device control commands. -I may be specified more than once; each dir is searched in the given order. To search the current working directory before others, add “-I .” at the desired place; it is otherwise searched last.


Orient the document in landscape format.

-p paper-format

Set the physical dimensions of the output medium. This overrides the papersize, paperlength, and paperwidth directives in the DESC file; it accepts the same arguments as the papersize directive. See groff_font(5) for details.


Append a comment line to end of PDF showing statistics, i.e. number of pages in document. Ghostscript's ps2pdf complains about this line if it is included, but works anyway.

-u [cmap-file]

gropdf normally includes a ToUnicode CMap with any font created using text.enc as the encoding file, this makes it easier to search for words which contain ligatures. You can include your own CMap by specifying a cmap-file or have no CMap at all by omitting the argument.

-y foundry

Set the foundry to use for selecting fonts of the same name.


The input to gropdf must be in the format output by troff(1). This is described in groff_out(5). In addition, the device and font description files for the device used must meet certain requirements: The resolution must be an integer multiple of 72 times the sizescale. The pdf device uses a resolution of 72000 and a sizescale of 1000.

The device description file must contain a valid paper format; see groff_font(5). gropdf uses the same Type 1 Adobe PostScript fonts as the grops device driver. Although the PDF Standard allows the use of other font types (like TrueType) this implementation only accepts the Type 1 PostScript font. Fewer Type 1 fonts are supported natively in PDF documents than the standard 35 fonts supported by grops and all PostScript printers, but all the fonts are available since any which aren't supported natively are automatically embedded in the PDF.

gropdf supports the concept of foundries, that is different versions of basically the same font. During install a Foundry file controls where fonts are found and builds groff fonts from the files it discovers on your system.

Each font description file must contain a command

internalname psname

which says that the PostScript name of the font is psname. Lines starting with # and blank lines are ignored. The code for each character given in the font file must correspond to the code in the default encoding for the font. This code can be used with the \N escape sequence in troff to select the character, even if the character does not have a groff name. Every character in the font file must exist in the PostScript font, and the widths given in the font file must match the widths used in the PostScript font.

Note that gropdf is currently only able to display the first 256 glyphs in any font. This restriction will be lifted in a later version.

gropdf can automatically include the downloadable fonts necessary to print the document. Fonts may be in PFA or PFB format.

Any downloadable fonts which should, when required, be included by gropdf must be listed in the file /usr/share/groff/1.23.0/font/devpdf/download; this should consist of lines of the form

foundry font filename

where foundry is the foundry name or blank for the default foundry. font is the PostScript name of the font, and filename is the name of the file containing the font; lines beginning with # and blank lines are ignored; fields must be separated by tabs (spaces are not allowed); filename is searched for using the same mechanism that is used for groff font metric files. The download file itself is also sought using this mechanism. Foundry names are usually a single character (such as ‘U’ for the URW foundry) or empty for the default foundry. This default uses the same fonts as ghostscript uses when it embeds fonts in a PDF file.

In the default setup there are styles called R, I, B, and BI mounted at font positions 1 to 4. The fonts are grouped into families A, BM, C, H, HN, N, P, and T having members in each of these styles:

































































There is also the following font which is not a member of a family:



There are also some special fonts called S for the PS Symbol font. The lower case greek characters are automatically slanted (to match the SymbolSlanted font (SS) available to PostScript). Zapf Dingbats is available as ZD; the “hand pointing left” glyph (\[lh]) is available since it has been defined using the \X'pdf: xrev' device control command, which reverses the direction of letters within words.

The default color for \m and \M is black.

gropdf understands some of the device control commands supported by grops(1).

\X'ps: invis'

Suppress output.

\X'ps: endinvis'

Stop suppressing output.

\X'ps: exec gsave currentpoint 2 copy translate n rotate neg exch neg exch translate'

where n is the angle of rotation. This is to support the align command in pic(1).

\X'ps: exec grestore'

Used by pic(1) to restore state after rotation.

\X'ps: exec n setlinejoin'

where n can be one of the following values.

0 = Miter join
1 = Round join
2 = Bevel join

\X'ps: exec n setlinecap'

where n can be one of the following values.

0 = Butt cap
1 = Round cap, and
2 = Projecting square cap

\X'ps: ... pdfmark'

All the pdfmark macros installed by using -m pdfmark or -m mspdf (see documentation in pdfmark.pdf). A subset of these macros are installed automatically when you use -Tpdf so you should not need to use “-m pdfmark” to access most PDF functionality.

gropdf also supports a subset of the commands introduced in present.tmac. Specifically it supports:-


Which allows you to create presentation type PDFs. Many of the other commands are already available in other macro packages.

These commands are implemented with groff X commands:-

\X'ps: exec %%%%PAUSE'

The section before this is treated as a block and is introduced using the current BLOCK transition setting (see “\X'pdf: transition'” below). Equivalently, .pdfpause is available as a macro.

\X'ps: exec %%%%BEGINONCE'

Any text following this command (up to %%%%ENDONCE) is shown only once, the next %%%%PAUSE will remove it. If producing a non-presentation PDF, i.e. ignoring the pauses, see GROPDF_NOSLIDE below, this text is ignored.

\X'ps: exec %%%%ENDONCE'

This terminates the block defined by %%%%BEGINONCE. This pair of commands is what implements the .BLOCKS Once/.BLOCKE commands in present.tmac.

The mom macro package already integrates these extensions, so you can build slides with mom.

If you use present.tmac with gropdf there is no need to run the program presentps(1) since the output will already be a presentation PDF.

All other ps: tags are silently ignored.

One \X device control command used by the DVI driver is also recognised.


where the paper-format parameter is the same as that to the papersize directive. See groff_font(5). This means that you can alter the page size at will within the PDF file being created by gropdf. If you do want to change the paper format, it must be done before you start creating the page.

gropdf supports several more device control features using the pdf: tag. Some have counterpart convenience macros that take the same arguments and behave equivalently.

\X'pdf: pdfpic file alignment width height line-length'

Place an image of the specified width containing the PDF drawing from file file of desired width and height (if height is missing or zero then it is scaled proportionally). If alignment is -L the drawing is left-aligned. If it is -C or -R a line-length greater than the width of the drawing is required as well. If width is specified as zero then the width is scaled in proportion to the height.

\X'pdf: xrev'

Toggle the reversal of glyph direction. This feature works “letter by letter”, that is, each letter in a word is reversed left-to-right, not the entire word. One application is the reversal of glyphs in the Zapf Dingbats font. To restore the normal glyph orientation, repeat the command.

\X'pdf: markstart /ANN-definition'
\X'pdf: markend'

Macros that support PDF bookmarks use these calls internally to start and stop (respectively) the placement of the bookmark's hot spot; the user will have called “.pdfhref L” with the text of the hot spot. Normally, these are never used except from within the pdfmark macros.

\X'pdf: marksuspend'
\X'pdf: markrestart'

If you use a page location trap to produce a header or footer, or otherwise interrupt a document's text, you need to use these commands if a PDF hot spot crosses a trap boundary; otherwise any text output by the trap will be marked as part of the hot spot. To prevent this error, place these device control commands or their corresponding convenience macros .pdfmarksuspend and .pdfmarkrestart at the start and end of the trap macro, respectively.

\X'pdf: pagename name'

Assign the current page a name. All documents bear two default names, ‘top’ and ‘bottom’. The convenience macro for this command is .pdfpagename.

\X'pdf: switchtopage when name'

Normally each new page is appended to the end of the document, this command allows following pages to be inserted at a ‘named’ position within the document (see pagename command above). ‘when’ can be either ‘after’ or ‘before’. If it is omitted it defaults to ‘before’. It should be used at the end of the page before you want the switch to happen. This allows pages such as a TOC to be moved to elsewhere in the document, but more esoteric uses are possible. The convenience macro for this command is .pdfswitchtopage.

\X'pdf: transition feature mode duration dimension motion direction scale bool'

where feature can be either SLIDE or BLOCK. When it is SLIDE the transition is used when a new slide is introduced to the screen, if BLOCK then this transition is used for the individual blocks which make up the slide.

mode is the transition type between slides:-

Split - Two lines sweep across the screen, revealing the new page. The lines may be either horizontal or vertical and may move inward from the edges of the page or outward from the center, as specified by the dimension and motion entries, respectively.
Blinds - Multiple lines, evenly spaced across the screen, synchronously sweep in the same direction to reveal the new page. The lines may be either horizontal or vertical, as specified by the dimension entry. Horizontal lines move downward; vertical lines move to the right.
Box - A rectangular box sweeps inward from the edges of the page or outward from the center, as specified by the motion entry, revealing the new page.
Wipe - A single line sweeps across the screen from one edge to the other in the direction specified by the direction entry, revealing the new page.
Dissolve - The old page dissolves gradually to reveal the new one.
Glitter - Similar to Dissolve, except that the effect sweeps across the page in a wide band moving from one side of the screen to the other in the direction specified by the direction entry.
R - The new page simply replaces the old one with no special transition effect; the direction entry shall be ignored.
Fly - (PDF 1.5) Changes are flown out or in (as specified by motion), in the direction specified by direction, to or from a location that is offscreen except when direction is None.
Push - (PDF 1.5) The old page slides off the screen while the new page slides in, pushing the old page out in the direction specified by direction.
Cover - (PDF 1.5) The new page slides on to the screen in the direction specified by direction, covering the old page.
Uncover - (PDF 1.5) The old page slides off the screen in the direction specified by direction, uncovering the new page in the direction specified by direction.
Fade - (PDF 1.5) The new page gradually becomes visible through the old one.

duration is the length of the transition in seconds (default 1).

dimension (Optional; Split and Blinds transition styles only) The dimension in which the specified transition effect shall occur: H Horizontal, or V Vertical.

motion (Optional; Split, Box and Fly transition styles only) The direction of motion for the specified transition effect: I Inward from the edges of the page, or O Outward from the center of the page.

direction (Optional; Wipe, Glitter, Fly, Cover, Uncover and Push transition styles only) The direction in which the specified transition effect shall moves, expressed in degrees counterclockwise starting from a left-to-right direction. If the value is a number, it shall be one of: 0 = Left to right, 90 = Bottom to top (Wipe only), 180 = Right to left (Wipe only), 270 = Top to bottom, 315 = Top-left to bottom-right (Glitter only) The value can be None, which is relevant only for the Fly transition when the value of scale is not 1.0.

scale (Optional; PDF 1.5; Fly transition style only) The starting or ending scale at which the changes shall be drawn. If motion specifies an inward transition, the scale of the changes drawn shall progress from scale to 1.0 over the course of the transition. If motion specifies an outward transition, the scale of the changes drawn shall progress from 1.0 to scale over the course of the transition

bool (Optional; PDF 1.5; Fly transition style only) If true, the area that shall be flown in is rectangular and opaque.

This command can be used by calling the macro .pdftransition using the parameters described above. Any of the parameters may be replaced with a "." which signifies the parameter retains its previous value, also any trailing missing parameters are ignored.

Note: not all PDF Readers support any or all these transitions.

\X'pdf: background cmd left top right bottom weight'
\X'pdf: background off'
\X'pdf: background footnote bottom'

produces a background rectangle on the page, where


is the command, which can be any of “page|fill|box” in combination. Thus, “pagefill” would draw a rectangle which covers the whole current page size (in which case the rest of the parameters can be omitted because the box dimensions are taken from the current media size). “boxfill”, on the other hand, requires the given dimensions to place the box. Including “fill” in the command will paint the rectangle with the current fill colour (as with \M[]) and including “box” will give the rectangle a border in the current stroke colour (as with \m[]).

cmd may also be “off” on its own, which will terminate drawing the current box. If you have specified a page colour with “pagefill”, it is always the first box in the stack, and if you specify it again, it will replace the first entry. Be aware that the “pagefill” box renders the page opaque, so tools that “watermark” PDF pages are unlikely to be successful. To return the background to transparent, issue an “off” command with no other boxes open.

Finally, cmd may be “footnote” followed by a new value for bottom, which will be used for all open boxes on the current page. This is to allow room for footnote areas that grow while a page is processed (to accommodate multiple footnotes, for instance). (If the value is negative, it is used as an offset from the bottom of the page.)


are the coordinates of the box. The top and bottom coordinates are the minimum and maximum for the box, since the actual start of the box is groff's drawing position when you issue the command, and the bottom of the box is the point where you turn the box “off”. The top and bottom coordinates are used only if the box drawing extends onto the next page; ordinarily, they would be set to the header and footer margins.


provides the line width for the border if “box” is included in the command.

The convenience macro for this escape sequence is .pdfbackground. An sboxes macro file is also available; see groff_tmac(5).


gropdf's support macros in pdf.tmac define the convenience macros described above. Some features have no direct device control command counterpart.

.pdfinfo /field content ...

Define PDF metadata. field may be be one of Title, Author, Subject, Keywords, or another datum supported by the PDF standard or your reader. field must be prefixed with a slash.

Importing graphics

gropdf supports only the inclusion of other PDF files for inline images. Such a PDF file may, however, contain any of the graphic formats supported by the PDF standard, such as JPEG/JFIF, PNG, and GIF. Any application that outputs PDF can thus be used to prepare files for embedding in documents processed by groff and gropdf.

The PDF file you wish to insert must be a single page and the drawing must just fit inside the media size of the PDF file. In inkscape(1) or gimp(1), for example, make sure the canvas size just fits the image.

The PDF parser gropdf implements has not been rigorously tested with all applications that produce PDF. If you find a single-page PDF which fails to import properly, try processing it with the pdftk(1) program.

pdftk  existing-file  output  new-file

You may find that new-file imports successfully.

TrueType and other font formats

gropdf does not yet support any font formats besides Adobe Type 1 (PFA or PFB).

Font installation

The following is a step-by-step font installation guide for gropdf.



A list of directories in which to seek the selected output device's directory of device and font description files. If, in the download file, the font file has been specified with a full path, no directories are searched. See troff(1) and groff_font(5).


If set and evaluates to a true value (to Perl), gropdf ignores commands specific to presentation PDFs, producing a normal PDF instead.


A timestamp (expressed as seconds since the Unix epoch) to use as the output creation timestamp in place of the current time. The time is converted to human-readable form using Perl's localtime() function and recorded in a PDF comment.


The time zone to use when converting the current time (or value of SOURCE_DATE_EPOCH) to human-readable form; see tzset(3).



describes the pdf output device.


describes the font known as F on device pdf.


describes the font from the URW foundry (versus the Adobe default) known as F on device pdf.


lists fonts available for embedding within the PDF document (by analogy to the ps device's downloadable font support).


is a data file used by the groff build system to locate PostScript Type 1 fonts.


describes the encoding scheme used by most PostScript Type 1 fonts; the encoding directive of font description files for the pdf device refers to it.


defines macros for use with the pdf output device. It is automatically loaded by troffrc when the pdf output device is selected.


defines the PDFPIC macro for embedding images in a document; see groff_tmac(5). It is automatically loaded by troffrc.


gropdf was written and is maintained by Deri James.

See also


“Using PDF boxes with groff and the ms macros”, by Deri James.


is part of gpresent, a software package by Bob Diertens that works with groff to produce presentations (“foils”, or “slide decks”).

afmtodit(1), groff(1), troff(1), groff_font(5), groff_out(5)

Referenced By

afmtodit(1), groff(1), groff_mom(7), groff_out(5), groff_tmac(5), pdfmom(1), pfbtops(1), pic(1).

24 January 2024 groff 1.23.0