A glyph is a graphical representation of a character. While a character is an abstract entity containing semantic information, a glyph is something that can be actually seen on screen or paper. It is possible that a character has multiple glyph representation forms (for example, the character ‘A’ can be either written in a roman or an italic font, yielding two different glyphs); sometimes more than one character maps to a single glyph (this is a ligature – the most common is ‘fi’).
A symbol is simply a named glyph. Within
gtroff, all glyph
names of a particular font are defined in its font file. If the user
requests a glyph not available in this font,
gtroff looks up an
ordered list of special fonts. By default, the POSTSCRIPT
output device supports the two special fonts ‘SS’ (slanted symbols)
and ‘S’ (symbols) (the former is looked up before the latter).
Other output devices use different names for special fonts. Fonts
mounted with the
fonts keyword in the DESC file are
globally available. To install additional special fonts locally (i.e.
for a particular font), use the
Here the exact rules how
gtroff searches a given symbol:
charrequest, use it. This hides a symbol with the same name in the current font.
fcharrequest, use it.
fspecialcall if appropriate.
fscharrequest for the current font, use it.
scharrequest, use it.
fontsline in the DESC file often contains empty positions, which are filled later on. For example, consider the following:
fonts 3 0 0 FOO
This mounts font
foo at font position 3. We assume that
FOO is a special font, containing glyph
foo, and that no
font has been loaded yet. The line
.fspecial BAR BAZ
BAZ special only if font
BAR is active. We
further assume that
BAZ is really a special font, i.e., the font
description file contains the
special keyword, and that it also
foo with a special shape fitting to font
BAR. After executing
BAR is loaded
at font position 1, and
BAZ at position 2.
We now switch to a new font
XXX, trying to access glyph
foo that is assumed to be missing. There are neither
font-specific special fonts for
XXX nor any other fonts made
special with the
special request, so
gtroff starts the
search for special fonts in the list of already mounted fonts, with
increasing font positions. Consequently, it finds
FOO even for
XXX, which is not the intended behaviour.
See Font Files, and Special Fonts, for more details.
The list of available symbols is device dependent; see the groff_char(7) man page for a complete list of all glyphs. For example, say
man -Tdvi groff_char > groff_char.dvi
for a list using the default DVI fonts (not all versions of the
man program support the -T option). If you want to use
an additional macro package to change the used fonts,
be called directly:
groff -Tdvi -mec -man groff_char.7 > groff_char.dvi
Glyph names not listed in groff_char(7) are derived algorithmically, using a simplified version of the Adobe Glyph List (AGL) algorithm, which is described in http://partners.adobe.com/public/developer/opentype/index_glyph.html. The (frozen) set of glyph names that can’t be derived algorithmically is called groff glyph list (GGL).
uXXXX[X[X]]. X must be an uppercase hexadecimal digit. Examples:
u12DB8. The largest Unicode value is 0x10FFFF. There must be at least four
Xdigits; if necessary, add leading zeroes (after the ‘u’). No zero padding is allowed for character codes greater than 0xFFFF. Surrogates (i.e., Unicode values greater than 0xFFFF represented with character codes from the surrogate area U+D800-U+DFFF) are not allowed too.
‘u’ component1 ‘_’ component2 ‘_’ component3 …
For simplicity, all Unicode characters that are composites must be
decomposed maximally (this is normalization form D in the Unicode
standard); for example,
u00CA_0301 is not a valid glyph name
since U+00CA (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH CIRCUMFLEX) can be
further decomposed into U+0045 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E) and U+0302
(COMBINING CIRCUMFLEX ACCENT).
u0045_0302_0301 is thus the
glyph name for U+1EBE, LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH CIRCUMFLEX AND
u0100(LATIN LETTER A WITH MACRON) is automatically decomposed into
u0041_0304. Additionally, a glyph name of the GGL is preferred to an algorithmically derived glyph name; groff also automatically does the mapping. Example: The glyph
u0045_0302is mapped to
Insert a symbol name (two-character name nm) or a composite glyph with component glyphs component1, component2, ... There is no special syntax for one-character names – the natural form ‘\n’ would collide with escapes.17
If name is undefined, a warning of type ‘char’ is generated, and the escape is ignored. See Debugging, for information about warnings.
\[...] with more than a single component as
uXXXXthat is found in the list of decomposable glyphs is decomposed.
No check for the existence of any component (similar to
request) is done.
‘A’ maps to
u0041, ‘ho’ maps to
u02DB, thus the
final glyph name would be
u0041_02DB. Note this is not the
expected result: The ogonek glyph ‘ho’ is a spacing ogonek, but for
a proper composite a non-spacing ogonek (U+0328) is necessary. Looking
into the file composite.tmac one can find ‘.composite ho u0328’, which changes the mapping of ‘ho’ while a composite glyph
name is constructed, causing the final glyph name to be
\[E a^ aa]
\[E ^ ']
‘^E’ maps to
u0045_0302, thus the final glyph name is
u0045_0302_0301 in all forms (assuming proper calls of the
It is not possible to define glyphs with names like ‘A ho’
within a groff font file. This is not really a limitation; instead, you
have to define
Typeset the glyph named xxx.18 Normally it is more
convenient to use
\C has the advantage
that it is compatible with newer versions of AT&T
and is available in compatibility mode.
Map glyph name from to glyph name to if it is used in
\[...] with more than one component. See above for examples.
This mapping is based on glyph names only; no check for the existence of either glyph is done.
A set of default mappings for many accents can be found in the file composite.tmac, which is loaded at start-up.
Typeset the glyph with code n in the current font
n is not the input character code). The number
n can be any non-negative decimal integer. Most devices only
have glyphs with codes between 0 and 255; the Unicode output device
uses codes in the range 0–65535. If the current font does not contain
a glyph with that code, special fonts are not searched. The
\N escape sequence can be conveniently used in conjunction with
.char \[phone] \f[ZD]\N'37'
The code of each glyph is given in the fourth column in the font
description file after the
charset command. It is possible to
include unnamed glyphs in the font description file by using a name of
\N escape sequence is the only way to use these.
No kerning is applied to glyphs accessed with
Some escape sequences directly map onto special glyphs.
This is a backslash followed by the apostrophe character,
0x27 (EBCDIC character
0x7D). The same as
\[aa], the acute accent.
This is a backslash followed by ASCII character
0x79 usually). The same as
\[ga], the grave accent.
This is the same as
\[-], the minus sign in the current font.
This is the same as
\[ul], the underline character.
Input characters and symbols have certain properties associated with
it.19 These properties can be
modified with the
cflags request. The first argument is the sum
of the desired flags and the remaining arguments are the characters or
symbols to have those properties. It is possible to omit the spaces
between the characters or symbols. Instead of single characters or
symbols you can also use character classes (see Character Classes
for more details).
The character ends sentences (initially characters ‘.?!’ have this property).
Lines can be broken before the character (initially no characters have
this property). This only works if both the characters before and after
have non-zero hyphenation codes (as set with the
Use value 64 to override this behaviour.
Lines can be broken after the character (initially the character
‘-’ and the symbols ‘\[hy]’ and ‘\[em]’ have this
property). This only works if both the characters before and after have
non-zero hyphenation codes (as set with the
hcode request). Use
value 64 to override this behaviour.
The character overlaps horizontally if used as a horizontal line building element. Initially the symbols ‘\[ul]’, ‘\[rn]’, ‘\[ru]’, ‘\[radicalex]’, and ‘\[sqrtex]’ have this property.
The character overlaps vertically if used as vertical line building element. Initially symbol ‘\[br]’ has this property.
An end-of-sentence character followed by any number of characters with this property is treated as the end of a sentence if followed by a newline or two spaces; in other words the character is transparent for the purposes of end-of-sentence recognition – this is the same as having a zero space factor in TeX (initially characters ‘"')]*’ and the symbols ‘\[dg]’, ‘\[rq]’, and ‘\[cq]’ have this property).
Ignore hyphenation code values of the surrounding characters. Use this in combination with values 2 and 4 (initially no characters have this property). For example, if you need an automatic break point after the hyphen in number ranges like ‘3000-5000’, insert
.cflags 68 -
into your document. Note, however, that this can lead to bad layout if
done without thinking; in most situations, a better solution instead of
cflags value is to insert
\: right after the
hyphen at the places that really need a break point.
Prohibit a line break before the character, but allow a line break after the character. This works only in combination with flags 256 and 512 (see below) and has no effect otherwise.
Prohibit a line break after the character, but allow a line break before the character. This works only in combination with flags 128 and 512 (see below) and has no effect otherwise.
Allow line break before or after the character. This works only in combination with flags 128 and 256 and has no effect otherwise.
Contrary to flag values 2 and 4, the flags 128, 256, and 512 work pairwise. If, for example, the left character has value 512, and the right character 128, no line break gets inserted. If we use value 6 instead for the left character, a line break after the character can’t be suppressed since the right neighbour character doesn’t get examined.
Define a new glyph g to be string (which can be empty).20 Every time glyph g needs to be printed, string is processed in a temporary environment and the result is wrapped up into a single object. Compatibility mode is turned off and the escape character is set to ‘\’ while string is being processed. Any emboldening, constant spacing or track kerning is applied to this object rather than to individual characters in string.
A glyph defined by these requests can be used just like a normal glyph
provided by the output device. In particular, other characters can be
translated to it with the
trin requests; it can be
made the leader character by the
lc request; repeated patterns
can be drawn with the glyph using the
sequences; words containing the glyph can be hyphenated correctly if the
hcode request is used to give the glyph’s symbol a hyphenation
There is a special anti-recursion feature: Use of
g within the
glyph’s definition is handled like normal characters and symbols not
Note that the
trin requests take precedence if
char accesses the same symbol.
.tr XY X ⇒ Y .char X Z X ⇒ Y .tr XX X ⇒ Z
fchar request defines a fallback glyph:
checks for glyphs defined with
fchar if it cannot find the glyph
in the current font.
gtroff carries out this test before
checking special fonts.
fschar defines a fallback glyph for font f:
gtroff checks for glyphs defined with
fschar after the
list of fonts declared as font-specific special fonts with the
fspecial request, but before the list of fonts declared as global
special fonts with the
schar request defines a global fallback glyph:
gtroff checks for glyphs defined with
schar after the list
of fonts declared as global special fonts with the
request, but before the already mounted special fonts.
See Using Symbols, for a detailed description of the glyph searching
Remove the definitions of glyphs c1, c2, ...
This undoes the effect of a
It is possible to omit the whitespace between arguments.
rfschar removes glyph definitions defined with
fschar for glyph f.
See Special Characters.