Your company here — click to reach over 10,000 unique daily visitors

grops - Man Page

groff output driver for PostScript


grops[-glm] [-b brokenness-flags] [-c num-copies] [-F font-directory] [-I inclusion-directory] [-p paper-format] [-P prologue-file] [-w rule-thickness] [file ...]


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

When called with multiple file arguments, grops doesn't produce a valid document structure (one conforming to the Document Structuring Conventions). To print such concatenated output, it is necessary to deactivate DSC handling in the printing program or previewer.

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


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

Work around problems with spoolers, previewers, and older printers. Normally, grops produces output at PostScript LanguageLevel 2 that conforms to version 3.0 of the Document Structuring Conventions. Some software and devices can't handle such a data stream. The value of n determines what grops does to make its output acceptable to such consumers. If n is 0, grops employs no workarounds, which is the default; it can be changed by modifying the broken directive in grops's DESC file.

Add 1 to suppress generation of %%BeginDocumentSetup and %%EndDocumentSetup comments; this is needed for early versions of TranScript that get confused by anything between the %%EndProlog comment and the first %%Page comment.

Add 2 to omit lines in included files beginning with %!, which confuse Sun's pageview previewer.

Add 4 to omit lines in included files beginning with %%Page, %%Trailer and %%EndProlog; this is needed for spoolers that don't understand %%BeginDocument and %%EndDocument comments.

Add 8 to write %!PS-Adobe-2.0 rather than %!PS-Adobe-3.0 as the first line of the PostScript output; this is needed when using Sun's Newsprint with a printer that requires page reversal.

Add 16 to omit media size information (that is, output neither a %%DocumentMedia comment nor the setpagedevice PostScript command). This was the behavior of groff 1.18.1 and earlier; it is needed for older printers that don't understand PostScript LanguageLevel 2, and is also necessary if the output is further processed to produce an EPS file; see subsection “Escapsulated PostScript” below.

-c n

Output n copies of each page.

-F dir

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


Generate PostScript code to guess the page length. The guess is correct only if the imageable area is vertically centered on the page. This option allows you to generate documents that can be printed on both U.S. letter and A4 paper formats without change.

-I dir

Search the directory dir for files named in \X'ps: file' and \X'ps: import' escape sequences. -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.


Use landscape orientation rather than portrait.


Turn on manual feed for the document.

-p fmt

Set physical dimensions of output medium, overriding the papersize, paperlength, and paperwidth directives in the DESC file. fmt can be any argument accepted by the papersize directive; see groff_font(5).

-P prologue

Use the file prologue, sought in the groff font search path, as the PostScript prologue, overriding the default (see section “Files” below) and the environment variable GROPS_PROLOGUE.

-w n

Draw rules (lines) with a thickness of n thousandths of an em. The default thickness is 40 (0.04 em).


The input to grops must be in the format output by troff(1), described in groff_out(5). In addition, the device and font description files for the device used must meet certain requirements. The device resolution must be an integer multiple of 72 times the sizescale. The device description file must contain a valid paper format; see groff_font(5). Each font description file must contain a directive

internalname psname

which says that the PostScript name of the font is psname.

A font description file may also contain a directive

encoding enc-file

which says that the PostScript font should be reencoded using the encoding described in enc-file; this file should consist of a sequence of lines of the form

pschar code

where pschar is the PostScript name of the character, and code is its position in the encoding expressed as a decimal integer; valid values are in the range 0 to 255. Lines starting with # and blank lines are ignored. The code for each character given in the font description file must correspond to the code for the character in encoding file, or to the code in the default encoding for the font if the PostScript font is not to be reencoded. This code can be used with the \N escape sequence in troff to select the character, even if it does not have a groff glyph name. Every character in the font description file must exist in the PostScript font, and the widths given in the font description file must match the widths used in the PostScript font. grops assumes that a character with a groff name of space is blank (makes no marks on the page); it can make use of such a character to generate more efficient and compact PostScript output.

grops is able to display all glyphs in a PostScript font; it is not limited to 256 of them. enc-file (or the default encoding if no encoding file is specified) just defines the order of glyphs for the first 256 characters; all other glyphs are accessed with additional encoding vectors which grops produces on the fly.

grops can embed fonts in a document that are necessary to render it; this is called “downloading”. Such fonts must be in PFA format. Use pfbtops(1) to convert a Type 1 font in PFB format. Downloadable fonts must be listed a download file containing lines of the form

psname file

where psname is the PostScript name of the font, and file is the name of the file containing it; lines beginning with # and blank lines are ignored; fields may be separated by tabs or spaces. file is sought using the same mechanism as that for groff font description files. The download file itself is also sought using this mechanism; currently, only the first matching file found in the device and font description search path is used.

If the file containing a downloadable font or imported document conforms to the Adobe Document Structuring Conventions, then grops interprets any comments in the files sufficiently to ensure that its own output is conforming. It also supplies any needed font resources that are listed in the download file as well as any needed file resources. It is also able to handle inter-resource dependencies. For example, suppose that you have a downloadable font called Garamond, and also a downloadable font called Garamond-Outline which depends on Garamond (typically it would be defined to copy Garamond's font dictionary, and change the PaintType), then it is necessary for Garamond to appear before Garamond-Outline in the PostScript document. grops handles this automatically provided that the downloadable font file for Garamond-Outline indicates its dependence on Garamond by means of the Document Structuring Conventions, for example by beginning with the following lines.

%!PS-Adobe-3.0 Resource-Font
%%DocumentNeededResources: font Garamond
%%IncludeResource: font Garamond

In this case, both Garamond and Garamond-Outline would need to be listed in the download file. A downloadable font should not include its own name in a %%DocumentSuppliedResources comment.

grops does not interpret %%DocumentFonts comments. The %%DocumentNeededResources, %%DocumentSuppliedResources, %%IncludeResource, %%BeginResource, and %%EndResource comments (or possibly the old %%DocumentNeededFonts, %%DocumentSuppliedFonts, %%IncludeFont, %%BeginFont, and %%EndFont comments) should be used.

The default stroke and fill color is black. For colors defined in the “rgb” color space, setrgbcolor is used; for “cmy” and “cmyk”, setcmykcolor; and for “gray”, setgray. setcmykcolor is a PostScript LanguageLevel 2 command and thus not available on some older printers.


Styles called R, I, B, and BI mounted at font positions 1 to 4. Text fonts are grouped into families A, BM, C, H, HN, N, P, and T, each having members in each of these styles.

































































Another text font is not a member of a family.



Special fonts include S, the PostScript Symbol font; ZD, Zapf Dingbats; SS (slanted symbol), which contains oblique forms of lowercase Greek letters derived from Symbol; EURO, which offers a Euro glyph for use with old devices lacking it; and ZDR, a reversed version of ZapfDingbats (with symbols flipped about the vertical axis). Most glyphs in these fonts are unnamed and must be accessed using \N. The last three are not standard PostScript fonts, but supplied by groff and therefore included in the default download file.

Device control commands

grops recognizes device control commands produced by the \X escape sequence, but interprets only those that begin with a “ps:” tag.

\X'ps: exec code'

Execute the arbitrary PostScript commands code. The PostScript currentpoint is set to the groff drawing position when the \X escape sequence is interpreted before executing code. The origin is at the top left corner of the page; x coordinates increase to the right, and y coordinates down the page. A procedure u is defined that converts groff basic units to the coordinate system in effect (provided the user doesn't change the scale). For example,

.nr x 1i
\X'ps: exec \nx u 0 rlineto stroke'

draws a horizontal line one inch long. code may make changes to the graphics state, but any changes persist only to the end of the page. A dictionary containing the definitions specified by the def and mdef commands is on top of the dictionary stack. If your code adds definitions to this dictionary, you should allocate space for them using “\X'ps: mdef  n'”. Any definitions persist only until the end of the page. If you use the \Y escape sequence with an argument that names a macro, code can extend over multiple lines. For example,

.nr x 1i
.de y
ps: exec
\nx u 0 rlineto

is another way to draw a horizontal line one inch long. The single backslash before “nx”—the only reason to use a register while defining the macro “y”—is to convert a user-specified dimension “1i” to groff basic units which are in turn converted to PostScript units with the u procedure.

grops wraps user-specified PostScript code into a dictionary, nothing more. In particular, it doesn't start and end the inserted code with save and restore, respectively. This must be supplied by the user, if necessary.

\X'ps: file name'

This is the same as the exec command except that the PostScript code is read from file name.

\X'ps: def code'

Place a PostScript definition contained in code in the prologue. There should be at most one definition per \X command. Long definitions can be split over several \X commands; all the code arguments are simply joined together separated by newlines. The definitions are placed in a dictionary which is automatically pushed on the dictionary stack when an exec command is executed. If you use the \Y escape sequence with an argument that names a macro, code can extend over multiple lines.

\X'ps: mdef n code'

Like def, except that code may contain up to n definitions. grops needs to know how many definitions code contains so that it can create an appropriately sized PostScript dictionary to contain them.

\X'ps: import file llx lly urx ury width [height]'

Import a PostScript graphic from file. The arguments llx, lly, urx, and ury give the bounding box of the graphic in the default PostScript coordinate system. They should all be integers: llx and lly are the x and y coordinates of the lower left corner of the graphic; urx and ury are the x and y coordinates of the upper right corner of the graphic; width and height are integers that give the desired width and height in groff basic units of the graphic.

The graphic is scaled so that it has this width and height and translated so that the lower left corner of the graphic is located at the position associated with \X command. If the height argument is omitted it is scaled uniformly in the x and y axes so that it has the specified width.

The contents of the \X command are not interpreted by troff, so vertical space for the graphic is not automatically added, and the width and height arguments are not allowed to have attached scaling indicators.

If the PostScript file complies with the Adobe Document Structuring Conventions and contains a %%BoundingBox comment, then the bounding box can be automatically extracted from within groff input by using the psbb request.

See groff_tmac(5) for a description of the PSPIC macro which provides a convenient high-level interface for inclusion of PostScript graphics.

\X'ps: invis'
\X'ps: endinvis'

No output is generated for text and drawing commands that are bracketed with these \X commands. These commands are intended for use when output from troff is previewed before being processed with grops; if the previewer is unable to display certain characters or other constructs, then other substitute characters or constructs can be used for previewing by bracketing them with these \X commands.

For example, gxditview is not able to display a proper \[em] character because the standard X11 fonts do not provide it; this problem can be overcome by executing the following request

.char \[em] \X'ps: invis'\
\Z'\v'-.25m'\h'.05m' \D'l .9m 0'\h'.05m''\
\X'ps: endinvis'\[em]

In this case, gxditview is unable to display the \[em] character and draws the line, whereas grops prints the \[em] character and ignores the line (this code is already in file Xps.tmac, which is loaded if a document intended for grops is previewed with gxditview).

If a PostScript procedure BPhook has been defined via a “ps: def” or “ps: mdef” device control command, it is executed at the beginning of every page (before anything is drawn or written by groff). For example, to underlay the page contents with the word “DRAFT” in light gray, you might use

.de XX
ps: def
{ gsave .9 setgray clippath pathbbox exch 2 copy
  .5 mul exch .5 mul translate atan rotate pop pop
  /NewCenturySchlbk-Roman findfont 200 scalefont setfont
  (DRAFT) dup stringwidth pop -.5 mul -70 moveto show
  grestore }
.devicem XX

Or, to cause lines and polygons to be drawn with square linecaps and mitered linejoins instead of the round linecaps and linejoins normally used by grops, use

.de XX
ps: def
/BPhook { 2 setlinecap 0 setlinejoin } def
.devicem XX

(square linecaps, as opposed to butt linecaps (“0 setlinecap”), give true corners in boxed tables even though the lines are drawn unconnected).

Encapsulated PostScript

grops itself doesn't emit bounding box information. The following script, groff2eps, produces an EPS file.

#! /bin/sh
groff -P-b16 "$1" > "$1".ps
gs -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=bbox -- "$1".ps 2> "$1".bbox
sed -e "/^%%Orientation/r $1.bbox" \
    -e "/^%!PS-Adobe-3.0/s/$/ EPSF-3.0/" "$1".ps > "$1".eps
rm "$1".ps "$1".bbox

You can then use “groff2eps foo” to convert file foo to foo.eps.

TrueType and other font formats

TrueType fonts can be used with grops if converted first to Type 42 format, a PostScript wrapper equivalent to the PFA format described in pfbtops(1). Several methods exist to generate a Type 42 wrapper; some of them involve the use of a PostScript interpreter such as Ghostscript—see gs(1).

One approach is to use FontForge, a font editor that can convert most outline font formats. Here's an example of using the Roboto Slab Serif font with groff. Several variables are used so that you can more easily adapt it into your own script.

BASE=$(basename "$TTF")
mkdir -p "$DIR"/devps
fontforge -lang=ff -c "Open(\"$TTF\");\
afmtodit "$DIR/devps/$AFM" "$MAP" "$DIR/devps/$GFN"
printf "$BASE\t$PFA\n" >> "$DIR/devps/download"

fontforge and afmtodit may generate warnings depending on the attributes of the font. The test procedure is simple.

printf ".ft RSR\nHello, world!\n" | groff -F "$DIR" > hello.ps

Once you're satisfied that the font works, you may want to generate any available related styles (for instance, Roboto Slab also has “Bold”, “Light”, and “Thin” styles) and set up GROFF_FONT_PATH in your environment to include the directory you keep the generated fonts in so that you don't have to use the -F option.

Font installation

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

Old fonts

groff versions 1.19.2 and earlier contained descriptions of a slightly different set of the base 35 PostScript level 2 fonts defined by Adobe. The older set has 229 glyphs and a larger set of kerning pairs; the newer one has 314 glyphs and includes the Euro glyph. For backwards compatibility, these old font descriptions are also installed in the /usr/share/groff/1.23.0/oldfont/devps directory.

To use them, make sure that grops finds the fonts before the default system fonts (with the same names): either give grops the -F command-line option,

$  groff -Tps -P-F -P/usr/share/groff/1.23.0/oldfont  ...

or add the directory to groff's font and device description search path environment variable,

$  GROFF_FONT_PATH=/usr/share/groff/1.23.0/oldfont \
    groff -Tps      ...

when the command runs.



A list of directories in which to seek the selected output device's directory of device and font description files. See troff(1) and groff_font(5).


If this is set to foo, then grops uses the file foo (in the font path) instead of the default prologue file prologue. The option -P overrides this environment variable.


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 ctime(3) and recorded in a PostScript 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 ps output device.


describes the font known as F on device ps.


lists fonts available for embedding within the PostScript document (or download to the device).


is the default PostScript prologue prefixed to every output file.


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


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


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


provides replacement glyphs for text fonts that lack complete coverage of the ISO Latin-1 character set; using it, groff can produce glyphs like eth (ð) and thorn (þ) that older PostScript printers do not natively support.

grops creates temporary files using the template “gropsXXXXXX”; see groff(1) for details on their storage location.

See also

PostScript Language Document Structuring Conventions Specification

afmtodit(1), groff(1), troff(1), pfbtops(1), groff_char(7), groff_font(5), groff_out(5), groff_tmac(5)

Referenced By

afmtodit(1), bookman(1), groff(1), groff_mom(7), groff_out(5), gropdf(1), pfbtops(1), pic(1), roff.groff(7).

24 January 2024 groff 1.23.0