Updated: 2021/Apr/14


TBL(7)                 Miscellaneous Information Manual                 TBL(7)

NAME
     tbl - tbl language reference for mandoc

DESCRIPTION
     The tbl language formats tables.  It is used within mdoc(7) and man(7)
     pages.  This manual describes the subset of the tbl language accepted by
     the mandoc(1) utility.

     Each table is started with a roff(7) TS macro, consist of at most one
     line of Options, one or more Layout lines, one or more Data lines, and
     ends with a TE macro.  All input must be 7-bit ASCII.

   Options
     If the first input line of a table ends with a semicolon, it contains
     case-insensitive options separated by spaces, tabs, or commas.
     Otherwise, it is interpreted as the first Layout line.

     The following options are available.  Some of them require arguments
     enclosed in parentheses:

     allbox  Draw a single-line box around each table cell.

     box     Draw a single-line box around the table.  For GNU compatibility,
             this may also be invoked with frame.

     center  Center the table instead of left-adjusting it.  For GNU
             compatibility, this may also be invoked with centre.

     decimalpoint
             Use the single-character argument as the decimal point with the n
             layout key.  This is a GNU extension.

     delim   Use the two characters of the argument as eqn(7) delimiters.
             Currently unsupported.

     doublebox
             Draw a double-line box around the table.  For GNU compatibility,
             this may also be invoked with doubleframe.

     expand  Increase the width of the table to the current line length.
             Currently ignored.

     linesize
             Draw lines with the point size given by the unsigned integer
             argument.  Currently ignored.

     nokeep  Allow page breaks within the table.  This is a GNU extension and
             currently ignored.

     nospaces
             Ignore leading and trailing spaces in data cells.  This is a GNU
             extension and currently ignored.

     nowarn  Suppress warnings about tables exceeding the current line length.
             This is a GNU extension and currently ignored.

     tab     Use the single-character argument as a delimiter between data
             cells.  By default, the horizontal tabulator character is used.

   Layout
     The table layout follows an Options line or a roff(7) TS or T& macro.
     Each layout line specifies how one line of Data is formatted.  The last
     layout line ends with a full stop.  It also applies to all remaining data
     lines.  Multiple layout lines can be joined by commas on a single
     physical input line.

     Each layout line consists of one or more layout cell specifications,
     optionally separated by whitespace.  The following case-insensitive key
     characters start a new cell specification:

     c   Center the string in this cell.

     r   Right-justify the string in this cell.

     l   Left-justify the string in this cell.

     n   Justify a number around its last decimal point.  If no decimal point
         is found in the number, it is assumed to trail the number.

     s   Horizontally span columns from the last non-s layout cell.  It is an
         error if a column span follows a _ or = cell, or comes first on a
         layout line.  The combined cell as a whole consumes only one cell of
         the corresponding data line.

     a   Left-justify a string and pad with one space.

     ^   Vertically span rows from the last non-^ layout cell.  It is an error
         to invoke a vertical span on the first layout line.  Unlike a
         horizontal span, a vertical span consumes a data cell and discards
         the content.

     _   Draw a single horizontal line in this cell.  This consumes a data
         cell and discards the content.  It may also be invoked with -.

     =   Draw a double horizontal line in this cell.  This consumes a data
         cell and discards the content.

     Each cell key may be followed by zero or more of the following case-
     insensitive modifiers:

     b   Use a bold font for the contents of this cell.

     d   Move content down to the last row of this vertical span.  Currently
         ignored.

     e   Make this column wider to match the maximum width of any other column
         also having the e modifier.

     f   The next character selects the font to use for this cell.  See the
         roff(7) manual for supported one-character font names.

     i   Use an italic font for the contents of this cell.

     m   Specify a cell start macro.  This is a GNU extension and currently
         unsupported.

     p   Set the point size to the following unsigned argument, or change it
         by the following signed argument.  Currently ignored.

     v   Set the vertical line spacing to the following unsigned argument, or
         change it by the following signed argument.  Currently ignored.

     t   Do not vertically center content in this vertical span, leave it in
         the top row.  Currently ignored.

     u   Move cell content up by half a table row.  Currently ignored.

     w   Specify a minimum column width.

     x   After determining the width of all other columns, distribute the rest
         of the line length among all columns having the x modifier.

     z   Do not use this cell for determining the width of this column.

     |   Draw a single vertical line to the right of this cell.

     ||  Draw a double vertical line to the right of this cell.

     If a modifier consists of decimal digits, it specifies a minimum spacing
     in units of n between this column and the next column to the right.  The
     default is 3.  If there is a vertical line, it is drawn inside the
     spacing.

   Data
     The data section follows the last Layout line.  Each data line consists
     of one or more data cells, delimited by tab characters.

     If a data cell contains only the two bytes `\^', the cell above spans to
     this row, as if the layout specification of this cell were ^.

     If a data cell contains only the single character `_' or `=', a single or
     double horizontal line is drawn across the cell, joining its neighbours.
     If a data cell contains only the two character sequence `\_' or `\=', a
     single or double horizontal line is drawn inside the cell, not joining
     its neighbours.  If a data line contains nothing but the single character
     `_' or `=', a horizontal line across the whole table is inserted without
     consuming a layout row.

     In place of any data cell, a text block can be used.  It starts with T{
     at the end of a physical input line.  Input line breaks inside the text
     block neither end the text block nor its data cell.  It only ends if T}
     occurs at the beginning of a physical input line and is followed by an
     end-of-cell indicator.  If the T} is followed by the end of the physical
     input line, the text block, the data cell, and the data line ends at this
     point.  If the T} is followed by the tab character, only the text block
     and the data cell end, but the data line continues with the data cell
     following the tab character.  If T} is followed by any other character,
     it does not end the text block, which instead continues to the following
     physical input line.

EXAMPLES
     String justification and font selection:

           .TS
           rb c  lb
           r  ci l.
           r       center  l
           ri      ce      le
           right   c       left
           .TE

               r   center   l
              ri     ce     le
           right     c      left

     Some ports in OpenBSD 6.1 to show number alignment and line drawing:

           .TS
           box tab(:);
           r| l
           r  n.
           software:version
           _
           AFL:2.39b
           Mutt:1.8.0
           Ruby:1.8.7.374
           TeX Live:2015
           .TE

           +---------+-----------+
           |software | version   |
           +---------+-----------+
           |     AFL       2.39b |
           |    Mutt     1.8.0   |
           |    Ruby   1.8.7.374 |
           |TeX Live    2015     |
           +---------------------+

     Spans and skipping width calculations:

           .TS
           box tab(:);
           lz  s | rt
           lt| cb| ^
           ^ | rz  s.
           left:r
           l:center:
           :right
           .TE

           +-----------+---+
           |left       | r |
           |l | center |   |
           |  |      right |
           +--+------------+

     Text blocks, specifying spacings and specifying and equalizing column
     widths, putting lines into individual cells, and overriding allbox:

           .TS
           allbox tab(:);
           le le||7 lw10.
           The fourth line:_:line 1
           of this column:=:line 2
           determines:_:line 3
           the column width.:T{
           This text is too wide to fit into a column of width 17.
           T}:line 4
           T{
           No break here.
           T}::line 5
           .TE

           +--------------------+-----------------------++-------------+
           |The fourth line     +-----------------------+|  line 1     |
           +--------------------+-----------------------++-------------+
           |of this column      +=======================+|  line 2     |
           +--------------------+-----------------------++-------------+
           |determines          | -------------------   ||  line 3     |
           +--------------------+-----------------------++-------------+
           |the column width.   | This text is too      ||  line 4     |
           |                    | wide to fit into a    ||             |
           |                    | column of width 17.   ||             |
           +--------------------+-----------------------++-------------+
           |No break here.      |                       ||  line 5     |
           +--------------------+-----------------------++-------------+

     These examples were constructed to demonstrate many tbl features in a
     compact way.  In real manual pages, keep tables as simple as possible.
     They usually look better, are less fragile, and are more portable.

COMPATIBILITY
     The mandoc(1) implementation of tbl doesn't support mdoc(7) and man(7)
     macros and eqn(7) equations inside tables.

SEE ALSO
     mandoc(1), man(7), mandoc_char(7), mdoc(7), roff(7)

     M. E. Lesk, Tbl--A Program to Format Tables, June 11, 1976.

HISTORY
     The tbl utility, a preprocessor for troff, was originally written by M.
     E. Lesk at Bell Labs in 1975.  The GNU reimplementation of tbl, part of
     the groff package, was released in 1990 by James Clark.  A standalone tbl
     implementation was written by Kristaps Dzonsons in 2010.  This formed the
     basis of the implementation that first appeared in OpenBSD 4.9 as a part
     of the mandoc(1) utility.

AUTHORS
     This tbl reference was written by Kristaps Dzonsons <kristaps@bsd.lv> and
     Ingo Schwarze <schwarze@openbsd.org>.

BUGS
     In -T utf8 output mode, heavy lines are drawn instead of double lines.
     This cannot be improved because the Unicode standard only provides an
     incomplete set of box drawing characters with double lines, whereas it
     provides a full set of box drawing characters with heavy lines.  It is
     unlikely this can be improved in the future because the box drawing
     characters are already marked in Unicode as characters intended only for
     backward compatibility with legacy systems, and their use is not
     encouraged.  So it seems unlikely that the missing ones might get added
     in the future.

NetBSD 9.99                      March 2, 2019                     NetBSD 9.99