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1.1 What Is groff?

groff belongs to an older generation of document preparation systems, which operate more like compilers than the more recent interactive WYSIWYG1 systems. groff and its contemporary counterpart, TeX, both work using a batch paradigm: The input (or source) files are normal text files with embedded formatting commands. These files can then be processed by groff to produce a typeset document on a variety of devices.

groff should not be confused with a word processor, an integrated system of editor and text formatter. Also, many word processors follow the WYSIWYG paradigm discussed earlier.

Although WYSIWYG systems may be easier to use, they have a number of disadvantages compared to troff:

“GUIs normally make it simple to accomplish simple actions and impossible to accomplish complex actions.” –Doug Gwyn (22/Jun/91 in comp.unix.wizards)