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tbl(1)                   General Commands Manual                  tbl(1)

Name         top

       tbl - format tables in groff documents

Synopsis         top

       tbl [-C] [file ...]

       tbl --help

       tbl -v
       tbl --version

Description         top

       The GNU implementation of tbl is part of the groff(1) document
       formatting system.  tbl is a troff(1) preprocessor that
       translates descriptions of tables embedded within a roff(7) input
       files into the language understood by troff(1).  It copies the
       contents of each file to the standard output stream, except that
       lines between .TS and .TE are interpreted as table descriptions.
       While GNU tbl's input syntax is highly compatible with AT&T tbl,
       the output tbl produces cannot be processed by AT&T troff; GNU
       troff (or a troff implementing relevant GNU extensions) must be
       used.  Normally, tbl is not executed directly by the user, but
       invoked by specifying the -t option to groff(1).  If no file
       operands are given on the command line, or if file is “-”, the
       standard input stream is read.

       tbl expects to find table descriptions wrapped in the .TS (table
       start) and .TE (table end) macros.  Within each such table
       sections, another table can be defined by using the request .T&
       before the final command .TE.  Each table definition has the
       following structure:

       Global options
              This is optional.  This table part can use several of
              these options distributed in 1 or more lines.  The global
              option part must always be finished by a semi-colon ; .

       Table format specification
              The table format specification is mandatory; it determines
              the number of columns in the table.  Each cell in a column
              is classified by being centered, left-aligned, numeric
              (aligned to a decimal point), and so on.  This
              specification can have several lines, but must be finished
              by a dot .  at the end of the last line.  After each cell
              definition, column specifiers can be appended, but that's

       Cells in table data are separated by a tab character by default.
       That can be changed by the global option tab(c), where c is an
       arbitrary character.

   Global options
       The line immediately following the .TS macro may contain any of
       the following global options (ignoring the case of characters –
       Unix tbl only accepts options with all characters lowercase or
       all characters uppercase), separated by spaces, tabs, or commas:

       allbox Enclose each item of the table in a box.

       box    Enclose the table in a box.

       center Center the table (default is left-justified).  The
              alternative keyword name centre is also recognized (this
              is a GNU tbl extension).

              Set the character to be recognized as the decimal point in
              numeric columns (GNU tbl only).

              Use x and y as start and end delimiters for eqn(1).

              Enclose the table in a double box.

              Same as doublebox (GNU tbl only).

       expand Make the table as wide as the current line length
              (providing a column separation factor).  Ignored if one or
              more ‘x’ column specifiers are used (see below).

              In case the sum of the column widths is larger than the
              current line length, the column separation factor is set
              to zero; such tables extend into the right margin, and
              there is no column separation at all.

       frame  Same as box (GNU tbl only).

              Set lines or rules (e.g., from box) in n-point type.

       nokeep Don't use diversions to prevent page breaks (GNU tbl
              only).  Normally tbl attempts to prevent undesirable
              breaks in boxed tables by using diversions.  This can
              sometimes interact badly with macro packages' own use of
              diversions—when footnotes, for example, are used.

              Ignore leading and trailing spaces in data items (GNU tbl

       nowarn Turn off warnings related to tables exceeding the current
              line width (GNU tbl only).

       tab(x) Use the character x instead of a tab to separate items in
              a line of input data.

       The global options must end with a semicolon.  There might be
       whitespace between an option and its argument in parentheses.

   Table format specification
       After global options come lines describing the format of each
       line of the table.  Each such format line describes one line of
       the table itself, except that the last format line (which you
       must end with a period) describes all remaining lines of the
       table.  A single-key character describes each column of each line
       of the table.  Key characters can be separated by spaces or tabs.
       You may run format specifications for multiple lines together on
       the same line by separating them with commas.

       You may follow each key character with specifiers that determine
       the font and point size of the corresponding item, that determine
       column width, inter-column spacing, etc.

       The longest format line defines the number of columns in the
       table; missing format descriptors at the end of format lines are
       assumed to be L.  Extra columns in the data (which have no
       corresponding format entry) are ignored.

       The available key characters are:

       a,A    Center longest line in this column and then left-justifies
              all other lines in this column with respect to that
              centered line.  The idea is to use such alphabetic sub-
              columns (hence the name of the key character) in
              combination with L; they are called sub-columns because
              A items are indented by 1n relative to L entries.

                     item one;1
                     sub-item two;2
                     sub-item three;3
                     item eleven;11
                     sub-item twenty-two;22
                     sub-item thirty-three;33


                     item one                   1
                      sub-item two              2
                      sub-item three            3
                     item eleven               11
                      sub-item twenty-two      22
                      sub-item thirty-three    33

       c,C    Center item within the column.

       l,L    Left-justify item within the column.

       n,N    Numerically justify item in the column; that is, align
              columns of numbers vertically at the units place.  If
              there are one or more dots adjacent to a digit, use the
              rightmost one for vertical alignment.  If there is no dot,
              use the rightmost digit for vertical alignment; otherwise,
              center the item within the column.  Alignment can be
              forced to a certain position using ‘\&’; if there are one
              or more instances of this special (non-printing) character
              present within the data, use the leftmost one for
              alignment.  Example:





              If numerical entries are combined with L or R entries—this
              this can happen if the table format is changed with
              .T&—center the widest number (of the data entered under
              the N specifier regime) relative to the widest L or
              R entry, preserving the alignment of all numerical
              entries.  Contrary to A type entries, there is no extra

              Using equations (to be processed with eqn) within columns
              which use the N specifier is problematic in most cases due
              to tbl's algorithm for finding the vertical alignment, as
              described above.  Using the global delim option, however,
              it is possible to make tbl ignore the data within eqn
              delimiters for that purpose.

       r,R    Right-justify item within the column.

       s,S    Span previous item on the left into this column.  Not
              allowed for the first column.

       ^      Span down entry from previous row in this column.  Not
              allowed for the first row.

       _,-    Replace this entry with a horizontal line.  Note that ‘_’
              and ‘-’ can be used for table fields only, not for column
              separator lines.

       =      Replace this entry with a double horizontal line.  Note
              that ‘=’ can be used for table fields only, not for column
              separator lines.

       |      The corresponding column becomes a vertical rule (if two
              of these are adjacent, a double vertical rule).

       A vertical bar to the left of the first key letter or to the
       right of the last one produces a line at the edge of the table.

       To change the data format within a table, use the .T& command (at
       the start of a line).  It is followed by format and data lines
       (but no global options) similar to the .TS request.

   Column specifiers
       Here are the specifiers that can appear in suffixes to column key
       letters (in any order):

       b,B    Short form of “fB” (make affected entries bold).

       d,D    Start an item that vertically spans rows, using the “^”
              column specifier or “\^” data item, at the bottom of its
              range rather than vertically centering it (GNU tbl only).

                     tab(;) allbox;
                     l l
                     l ld
                     r ^
                     l rd.


                     │0000 │ foobar │
                     │1111 │        │
                     │2222 │        │
                     ├─────┤        │
                     │   r │ foo    │
                     │3333 │        │
                     │4444 │    bar │
       e,E    Make equally-spaced columns.  All columns marked with this
              specifier get the same width; this happens after the
              affected column widths have been computed (this means that
              the largest-width value controls).

       f,F    Either of these specifiers may be followed by a font name
              (either one or two characters long), font number (a single
              digit), or long name in parentheses (this last form is a
              GNU tbl extension).  A one-letter font name must be
              separated by one or more blanks from whatever follows.

       i,I    Short form of “fI” (make affected entries italic).

       m,M    Call named macro before outputting table cell text (GNU
              tbl only).  Either of these specifiers may be followed by
              a macro name (either one or two characters long), or long
              name in parentheses.  A one-letter macro name must be
              separated by one or more blanks from whatever follows.
              The macro which name can be specified here must be defined
              before creating the table.  As implemented currently, this
              macro is only called if block input is used, that is, text
              between “T{” and “T}”.  The macro should contain only
              simple roff requests to change the text block formatting,
              like text adjustment, hyphenation, size, or font.  The
              macro is called after other cell modifications like “b”,
              “f”, or “v” are output.  Thus the macro can overwrite
              other modification specifiers.

       p,P    Followed by a number, this does a point size change for
              the affected fields.  If signed, the current point size is
              incremented or decremented (using a signed multi-digit
              number is a GNU tbl extension).  A point size specifier
              followed by a column separation number must be separated
              by one or more blanks.

       t,T    Start an item vertically spanning rows at the top of its
              range rather than vertically centering it.

       u,U    Move the corresponding column up one half-line.

       v,V    Followed by a number, this indicates the vertical line
              spacing to be used in a multi-line table entry.  If
              signed, the current vertical line spacing is incremented
              or decremented (using a signed number instead of a signed
              digit is a GNU tbl extension).  A vertical line spacing
              specifier followed by a column separation number must be
              separated by one or more blanks.  No effect if the
              corresponding table entry isn't a text block.

       w,W    Minimum column width value.  Must be followed either by a
              troff(1) width expression in parentheses or a unitless
              integer.  If no unit is given, en units are used.  Also
              used as the default line length for included text blocks.
              If used multiple times to specify the width for a
              particular column, the last entry takes effect.

       x,X    An expanded column.  After computing all column widths
              without an x specifier, use the remaining line width for
              this column.  If there is more than one expanded column,
              distribute the remaining horizontal space evenly among the
              affected columns (this is a GNU extension).  This feature
              has the same effect as specifying a minimum column width.

       z,Z    Ignore the corresponding column for width-calculation
              purposes, this is, don't use the fields but only the
              specifiers of this column to compute its width.

       A number suffix on a key character is interpreted as a column
       separation in en units (multiplied in proportion if the expand
       option is on – in case of overfull tables this might be zero).
       Default separation is 3n.

       The column specifier x is mutually exclusive with e and w (but e
       is not mutually exclusive with w); if specified multiple times
       for a particular column, the last entry takes effect: x unsets
       both e and w, while either e or w overrides x.

   Table data
       The format lines are followed by lines containing the actual data
       for the table, followed finally by .TE.  Within such data lines,
       items are normally separated by tab characters (or the character
       specified with the tab option).  Long input lines can be broken
       across multiple lines if the last character on the line is ‘\’
       (which vanishes after concatenation).

       Note that tbl computes the column widths line by line, applying
       \w on each entry which isn't a text block.  As a consequence,
       constructions like


       fail; you must either say




       A dot starting a line, followed by anything but a digit is
       handled as a troff command, passed through without changes.  The
       table position is unchanged in this case.

       If a data line consists of only ‘_’ or ‘=’, a single or double
       line, respectively, is drawn across the table at that point; if a
       single item in a data line consists of only ‘_’ or ‘=’, then that
       item is replaced by a single or double line, joining its
       neighbors.  If a data item consists only of ‘\_’ or ‘\=’, a
       single or double line, respectively, is drawn across the field at
       that point which does not join its neighbors.

       A data item consisting only of ‘\Rx’ (‘x’ any character) is
       replaced by repetitions of character ‘x’ as wide as the column
       (not joining its neighbors).

       A data item consisting only of ‘\^’ indicates that the field
       immediately above spans downward over this row.

   Text blocks
       A text block can be used to enter data as a single entry which
       would be too long as a simple string between tabs.  It is started
       with “T{” at the end of a line and finished with “T}” at the
       start of a line.  Further column data can follow the end of a
       text block on the same line.

       Text blocks are formatted as was the text prior to the table,
       modified as applicable by column specifiers.  Specifically, the
       key characters “a”, “c”, “l”, “n”, and “s” determine a text
       block's alignment within its cell, but not its adjustment.  You
       can add an .na or .ad request to the beginning of a text block to
       alter its adjustment distinctly from other text in the document.

       If “w” or “x” column specifiers are not given for all columns of
       a text block span, the default length of the text block (to be
       more precise, the line length used to process the text block
       diversion) is computed as L×C/(N+1), where L is the current line
       length, C the number of columns spanned by the text block, and N
       the total number of columns in the table.  If necessary, you can
       also control the text block width by inserting an .ll request
       right after “T{”.  Because a diversion is used to format the text
       block, its width is subsequently available in the register \n[dl]

       The number register \n[TW] holds the table width; it can't be
       used within the table itself but is defined right before calling
       .TE so that this macro can make use of it.

       tbl also defines a macro .T# which produces the bottom and side
       lines of a boxed table.  While tbl does call this macro itself at
       the end of the table, it can be used by macro packages to create
       boxes for multi-page tables by calling it within the page footer.
       An example of this is shown by the -ms macros which provide this
       functionality if a table starts with .TS H instead of the
       standard call to the .TS macro.

       Using tbl macros within conditional input (that is, contingent
       upon an .if, .ie, .el, or .while request) can result in
       misleading line numbers in subsequent diagnostics.  tbl
       unconditionally injects its output into the source document, but
       the conditional branch containing it may not be taken, and if it
       is not, the .lf requests that tbl injects to restore the source
       line number cannot take effect.  Consider copying the input line
       counter register .c and restoring its value at a convenient
       location after applicable arithmetic.

   Interaction with eqn
       tbl(1) should always be called before eqn(1) (groff(1)
       automatically takes care of the correct order of preprocessors).
       Don't call the EQ and EN macros within tables; instead, set up
       delimiters in your eqn input and use the delim() table option so
       that tbl will recognize them.

   GNU tbl enhancements
       There is no limit on the number of columns in a table, nor any
       limit on the number of text blocks.  All the lines of a table are
       considered in deciding column widths, not just the first 200.
       Table continuation (.T&) lines are not restricted to the first
       200 lines.

       Numeric and alphabetic items may appear in the same column.

       Numeric and alphabetic items may span horizontally.

       tbl uses register, string, macro and diversion names beginning
       with the digit 3.  When using tbl you should avoid using any
       names beginning with a 3.

   Using GNU tbl within macros
       Since tbl defines its own macros (right before each table) it is
       necessary to use an ‘end-of-macro’ macro.  Additionally, the
       escape character has to be switched off.  Here's an example.

              .de ATABLE ..
              allbox tab(;);
              .ATABLE A table
              .ATABLE Another table
              .ATABLE And "another one"

       Note, however, that not all features of tbl can be wrapped into a
       macro because tbl sees the input earlier than troff.  For
       example, number formatting with vertically aligned decimal points
       fails if those numbers are passed on as macro parameters because
       decimal point alignment is handled by tbl itself: it only sees
       \$1, \$2, etc., and therefore can't recognize the decimal point.

Options         top

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

       -C     Enable compatibility mode to recognize .TS and .TE even
              when followed by a character other than space or newline.
              Leader characters (\a) are handled as interpreted.

Bugs         top

       You should use .TS H/.TH in conjunction with a supporting macro
       package for all multi-page boxed tables.  If there is no header
       that you wish to appear at the top of each page of the table,
       place the .TH line immediately after the format section.  Do not
       enclose a multi-page table within keep/release macros, or divert
       it in any other way.

       A text block within a table must be able to fit on one page.

       The bp request cannot be used to force a page-break in a multi-
       page table.  Instead, define BP as follows

              .de BP
              .  ie '\\n(.z'' .bp \\$1
              .  el \!.BP \\$1

       and use BP instead of bp.

       Using \a directly in a table to get leaders does not work (except
       in compatibility mode).  This is correct behavior: \a is an
       uninterpreted leader.  To get leaders use a real leader, either
       by using a control A or like this:

              .ds a \a
              lw(1i) l.

       A leading and/or trailing ‘|’ in a format line, such as

              |l r|.

       gives output which has a 1n space between the resulting bordering
       vertical rule and the content of the adjacent column, as in

              |l r|.
              left column#right column

       If it is desired to have zero space (so that the rule touches the
       content), this can be achieved by introducing extra “dummy”
       columns, with no content and zero separation, before and/or
       after, as in

              r0|l r0|l.
              #left column#right column#

       The resulting “dummy” columns are invisible and have zero width;
       note that such columns usually don't work with terminal devices.

Examples         top

       A simple table definition follows.
              c c c .
              This          iscentered
              Well,         thisalso
       By using c c c, each cell in the whole table will be centered.
       The separating character is here the default tab.

       The result is

              This     is    centered
              Well,   this     also

       This definition is identical to
       Here, the separating tab character is changed to the letter @.

       Moreover a title can be added and the centering directions can be
       changed to many other formats:
              c s s
              l c n .
       The result is

              left      centers   123
              another   number     75
       Here l means left-justified, and n means numerical, which is here

See also         top

       “Tbl—A Program to Format Tables”; Computing Science Technical
       Report #49; M. E. Lesk; AT&T Bell Laboratories; 1979.

       groff(1), troff(1)

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of the groff (GNU troff) project.  Information
       about the project can be found at 
       ⟨http://www.gnu.org/software/groff/⟩.  If you have a bug report
       for this manual page, see ⟨http://www.gnu.org/software/groff/⟩.
       This page was obtained from the project's upstream Git repository
       ⟨https://git.savannah.gnu.org/git/groff.git⟩ on 2021-08-27.  (At
       that time, the date of the most recent commit that was found in
       the repository was 2021-08-23.)  If you discover any rendering
       problems in this HTML version of the page, or you believe there
       is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or you have
       corrections or improvements to the information in this COLOPHON
       (which is not part of the original manual page), send a mail to

groff 1.23.0.rc1.654-4e1db-dir1t9yAugust 2021                       tbl(1)

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