How to Tell When Man Page Changes?

Erik Trulsson ertr1013 at
Wed May 28 19:17:59 PDT 2003

On Wed, May 28, 2003 at 06:51:49PM -0700, Dave Tweten wrote:
> I've always believed that the date man puts at the middle of the bottom of 
> a man page is the date of last modification.  In at least the case of the 
> ssh_config man page, that seems to be wrong.
> I like to read lengthy man pages off dead trees instead of pixels.  To 
> avoid killing too many trees, I've made a practice of checking the pixel 
> copy's date against the dead-tree copy's date, and printing a new version 
> only when the date changes.
> For ssh_config, at least, that seems to be a bad idea.  My most recent 
> paper copy is from FreeBSD 4.6, and has a date of September 25, 1999.  The 
> most recent pixel copy from FreeBSD-STABLE says FreeBSD 4.8, and still has 
> a date of September 25, 1999.  Looks like they should be identical.  
> They're not.  At least the default for CheckHostIP reversed from "yes" to 
> "no" from the 4.6 page to the 4.8 page.
> Is the date at the bottom of the page supposed to be the date of last 
> modification?  If not, what is it good for?  Is there some other 
> recommended means of telling when a man page has changed?

The date displayed at the bottom is whatever date is specified in the
man-page sources.  This is probably supposed to be the date of last
modification, but since it is not updated automatically it requires
people to remember to update the date whenever the manpage is changed.
This often does not happen.  Many manpages has not had the date changed
since they were first created, even though they have changed since then.

In short: Yes, the date displayed is probably supposed to be the date
of last modification, but you can't rely on it being correct.

<Insert your favourite quote here.>
Erik Trulsson
ertr1013 at

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