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20. Creating and Installing Info Files

This chapter describes how to create and install info files. See section 1.3 Info files, for general information about the file format itself.

20.1 Creating an Info File

makeinfo is a program that converts a Texinfo file into an Info file, HTML file, or plain text. texinfo-format-region and texinfo-format-buffer are GNU Emacs functions that convert Texinfo to Info.

For information on installing the Info file in the Info system, see section 20.2 Installing an Info File.

20.1.1 makeinfo Preferred

The makeinfo utility creates an Info file from a Texinfo source file more quickly than either of the Emacs formatting commands and provides better error messages. We recommend it. makeinfo is a C program that is independent of Emacs. You do not need to run Emacs to use makeinfo, which means you can use makeinfo on machines that are too small to run Emacs. You can run makeinfo in any one of three ways: from an operating system shell, from a shell inside Emacs, or by typing the C-c C-m C-r or the C-c C-m C-b command in Texinfo mode in Emacs.

The texinfo-format-region and the texinfo-format-buffer commands are useful if you cannot run makeinfo. Also, in some circumstances, they format short regions or buffers more quickly than makeinfo.

20.1.2 Running makeinfo from a Shell

To create an Info file from a Texinfo file, type makeinfo followed by the name of the Texinfo file. Thus, to create the Info file for Bison, type the following to the shell:

makeinfo bison.texinfo

(You can run a shell inside Emacs by typing M-x shell.)

Sometimes you will want to specify options. For example, if you wish to discover which version of makeinfo you are using, type:

makeinfo --version

See section 20.1.3 Options for makeinfo, for more information.

20.1.3 Options for makeinfo

The makeinfo command takes a number of options. Most often, options are used to set the value of the fill column and specify the footnote style. Each command line option is a word preceded by `--' or a letter preceded by `-'. You can use abbreviations for the long option names as long as they are unique.

For example, you could use the following shell command to create an Info file for `bison.texinfo' in which each line is filled to only 68 columns:

makeinfo --fill-column=68 bison.texinfo

You can write two or more options in sequence, like this:

makeinfo --no-split --fill-column=70 ...

This would keep the Info file together as one possibly very long file and would also set the fill column to 70.

The options are:

-D var
Cause the variable var to be defined. This is equivalent to @set var in the Texinfo file (see section 16.4 @set, @clear, and @value).
Allow @-commands in node names. This is not recommended, as it can probably never be implemented in TeX. It also makes makeinfo much slower. Also, this option is ignored when `--no-validate' is used. See section 20.1.4 Pointer Validation, for more details.
-e limit
Set the maximum number of errors that makeinfo will report before exiting (on the assumption that continuing would be useless); default 100.
-f width
Specify the maximum number of columns in a line; this is the right-hand edge of a line. Paragraphs that are filled will be filled to this width. (Filling is the process of breaking up and connecting lines so that lines are the same length as or shorter than the number specified as the fill column. Lines are broken between words.) The default value is 72. Ignored with `--html'.
-s style
Set the footnote style to style, either `end' for the end node style (the default) or `separate' for the separate node style. The value set by this option overrides the value set in a Texinfo file by an @footnotestyle command (see section 13.10 Footnotes). When the footnote style is `separate', makeinfo makes a new node containing the footnotes found in the current node. When the footnote style is `end', makeinfo places the footnote references at the end of the current node. Ignored with `--html'.
Ordinarily, if the input file has errors, the output files are not created. With this option, they are preserved.
Print a usage message listing all available options, then exit successfully.
Generate HTML output rather than Info. See section 20.1.9 Generating HTML.
-I dir
Append dir to the directory search list for finding files that are included using the @include command. By default, makeinfo searches only the current directory. If dir is not given, the current directory `.' is appended. Note that dir can actually be a list of several directories separated by the usual path separator character (`:' on Unix, `;' on MS-DOS/MS-Windows).
-E file
Output the Texinfo source with all the macros expanded to the named file. Normally, the results of macro expansion are used internally by makeinfo and then discarded. This option is used by @command{texi2dvi} if you are using an old version of `texinfo.tex' that does not support @macro.
For Info output, do not include menus or node lines in the output and write to standard output (unless @option{--output} is specified). This results in an ASCII file that you cannot read in Info since it does not contain the requisite nodes or menus. It is primarily useful to extract certain pieces of a manual into separate files to be included in a distribution, such as `INSTALL' files. For HTML output, if `--no-split' is also specified, do not include a navigation links at the top of each node. See section 20.1.9 Generating HTML.
Suppress the splitting stage of makeinfo. By default, large output files (where the size is greater than 70k bytes) are split into smaller subfiles. For Info output, each one is approximately 50k bytes. For HTML output, each file contains one node (see section 20.1.9 Generating HTML).
Suppress the pointer-validation phase of makeinfo. This can also be done with the @novalidate command (see section 19.1 Use TeX). Normally, after a Texinfo file is processed, some consistency checks are made to ensure that cross references can be resolved, etc. See section 20.1.4 Pointer Validation.
Suppress warning messages (but not error messages). You might want this if the file you are creating has examples of Texinfo cross references within it, and the nodes that are referenced do not actually exist.
Output chapter, section, and appendix numbers as in printed manuals.
Suppress automatic footnote numbering. By default, makeinfo numbers each footnote sequentially in a single node, resetting the current footnote number to 1 at the start of each node.
-o file
Specify that the output should be directed to file and not to the file name specified in the @setfilename command found in the Texinfo source (see section 3.3.3 @setfilename). If file is `-', output goes to standard output and `--no-split' is implied. For split HTML output, file is the name of the output file for the top node (see section 20.1.9 Generating HTML).
-P dir
Prepend dir to the directory search list for @include. If dir is not given, the current directory `.' is prepended. See `-I' for more details.
-p indent
Set the paragraph indentation style to indent. The value set by this option overrides the value set in a Texinfo file by an @paragraphindent command (see section 3.3.6 Paragraph Indenting). The value of indent is interpreted as follows:
Preserve any existing indentation at the starts of paragraphs.
`0' or `none'
Delete any existing indentation.
Indent each paragraph by num spaces.
-r limit
Set the value of the number of references to a node that makeinfo will make without reporting a warning. If a node has more than this number of references in it, makeinfo will make the references but also report a warning. The default is 1000.
-U var
Cause var to be undefined. This is equivalent to @clear var in the Texinfo file (see section 16.4 @set, @clear, and @value).
Cause makeinfo to display messages saying what it is doing. Normally, makeinfo only outputs messages if there are errors or warnings.
Print the version number, then exit successfully.

20.1.4 Pointer Validation

If you do not suppress pointer validation with the `--no-validate' option or the @novalidate command in the source file (see section 19.1 Use TeX), makeinfo will check the validity of the final Info file. Mostly, this means ensuring that nodes you have referenced really exist. Here is a complete list of what is checked:

  1. If a `Next', `Previous', or `Up' node reference is a reference to a node in the current file and is not an external reference such as to `(dir)', then the referenced node must exist.
  2. In every node, if the `Previous' node is different from the `Up' node, then the node pointed to by the `Previous' field must have a `Next' field which points back to this node.
  3. Every node except the `Top' node must have an `Up' pointer.
  4. The node referenced by an `Up' pointer must itself reference the current node through a menu item, unless the node referenced by `Up' has the form `(file)'.
  5. If the `Next' reference of a node is not the same as the `Next' reference of the `Up' reference, then the node referenced by the `Next' pointer must have a `Previous' pointer that points back to the current node. This rule allows the last node in a section to point to the first node of the next chapter.
  6. Every node except `Top' should be referenced by at least one other node, either via the `Previous' or `Next' links, or via a menu or a cross-reference.

Some Texinfo documents might fail during the validation phase because they use commands like @value and @definfoenclose in node definitions and cross-references inconsistently. Consider the following example:

@set nodename Node 1

@node @value{nodename}, Node 2, Top, Top

This is node 1.

@node Node 2, , Node 1, Top

This is node 2.

Here, the node "Node 1" was referenced both verbatim and through @value.

By default, makeinfo fails such cases, because node names are not fully expanded until they are written to the output file. You should always try to reference nodes consistently; e.g., in the above example, the second @node line should have also used @value. However, if, for some reason, you must reference node names inconsistently, and makeinfo fails to validate the file, you can use the `--commands-in-node-names' option to force makeinfo to perform the expensive expansion of all node names it finds in the document. This might considerably slow down the program, though; twofold increase in conversion time was measured for large documents such as the Jargon file.

The support for @-commands in @node directives is not general enough to be freely used. For example, if the example above redefined nodename somewhere in the document, makeinfo will fail to convert it, even if invoked with the `--commands-in-node-names' option.

`--commands-in-node-names' has no effect if the `--no-validate' option is given.

20.1.5 Running makeinfo inside Emacs

You can run makeinfo in GNU Emacs Texinfo mode by using either the makeinfo-region or the makeinfo-buffer commands. In Texinfo mode, the commands are bound to C-c C-m C-r and C-c C-m C-b by default.

C-c C-m C-r
M-x makeinfo-region
Format the current region for Info.
C-c C-m C-b
M-x makeinfo-buffer
Format the current buffer for Info.

When you invoke either makeinfo-region or makeinfo-buffer, Emacs prompts for a file name, offering the name of the visited file as the default. You can edit the default file name in the minibuffer if you wish, before pressing RET to start the makeinfo process.

The Emacs makeinfo-region and makeinfo-buffer commands run the makeinfo program in a temporary shell buffer. If makeinfo finds any errors, Emacs displays the error messages in the temporary buffer.

You can parse the error messages by typing C-x ` (next-error). This causes Emacs to go to and position the cursor on the line in the Texinfo source that makeinfo thinks caused the error. See section `Running make or Compilers Generally' in The GNU Emacs Manual, for more information about using the next-error command.

In addition, you can kill the shell in which the makeinfo command is running or make the shell buffer display its most recent output.

C-c C-m C-k
M-x makeinfo-kill-job
Kill the current running makeinfo job (from makeinfo-region or makeinfo-buffer).
C-c C-m C-l
M-x makeinfo-recenter-output-buffer
Redisplay the makeinfo shell buffer to display its most recent output.

(Note that the parallel commands for killing and recentering a TeX job are C-c C-t C-k and C-c C-t C-l. See section 19.6 Formatting and Printing in Texinfo Mode.)

You can specify options for makeinfo by setting the makeinfo-options variable with either the M-x edit-options or the M-x set-variable command, or by setting the variable in your `.emacs' initialization file.

For example, you could write the following in your `.emacs' file:

(setq makeinfo-options
      "--paragraph-indent=0 --no-split
       --fill-column=70 --verbose")

For more information, see
section `Editing Variable Values' in The GNU Emacs Manual,
section `Examining and Setting Variables' in The GNU Emacs Manual,
section `Init File' in The GNU Emacs Manual, and
section 20.1.3 Options for makeinfo.

20.1.6 The texinfo-format... Commands

In GNU Emacs in Texinfo mode, you can format part or all of a Texinfo file with the texinfo-format-region command. This formats the current region and displays the formatted text in a temporary buffer called `*Info Region*'.

Similarly, you can format a buffer with the texinfo-format-buffer command. This command creates a new buffer and generates the Info file in it. Typing C-x C-s will save the Info file under the name specified by the @setfilename line which must be near the beginning of the Texinfo file.

C-c C-e C-r
Format the current region for Info.
C-c C-e C-b
Format the current buffer for Info.

The texinfo-format-region and texinfo-format-buffer commands provide you with some error checking, and other functions can provide you with further help in finding formatting errors. These procedures are described in an appendix; see section G. Formatting Mistakes. However, the makeinfo program is often faster and provides better error checking (see section 20.1.5 Running makeinfo inside Emacs).

20.1.7 Batch Formatting

You can format Texinfo files for Info using batch-texinfo-format and Emacs Batch mode. You can run Emacs in Batch mode from any shell, including a shell inside of Emacs. (See section `Command Line Switches and Arguments' in The GNU Emacs Manual.)

Here is a shell command to format all the files that end in `.texinfo' in the current directory:

emacs -batch -funcall batch-texinfo-format *.texinfo

Emacs processes all the files listed on the command line, even if an error occurs while attempting to format some of them.

Run batch-texinfo-format only with Emacs in Batch mode as shown; it is not interactive. It kills the Batch mode Emacs on completion.

batch-texinfo-format is convenient if you lack makeinfo and want to format several Texinfo files at once. When you use Batch mode, you create a new Emacs process. This frees your current Emacs, so you can continue working in it. (When you run texinfo-format-region or texinfo-format-buffer, you cannot use that Emacs for anything else until the command finishes.)

20.1.8 Tag Files and Split Files

If a Texinfo file has more than 30,000 bytes, texinfo-format-buffer automatically creates a tag table for its Info file; makeinfo always creates a tag table. With a tag table, Info can jump to new nodes more quickly than it can otherwise.

In addition, if the Texinfo file contains more than about 70,000 bytes, texinfo-format-buffer and makeinfo split the large Info file into shorter indirect subfiles of about 50,000 bytes each. Big files are split into smaller files so that Emacs does not need to make a large buffer to hold the whole of a large Info file; instead, Emacs allocates just enough memory for the small, split-off file that is needed at the time. This way, Emacs avoids wasting memory when you run Info. (Before splitting was implemented, Info files were always kept short and include files were designed as a way to create a single, large printed manual out of the smaller Info files. See section E. Include Files, for more information. Include files are still used for very large documents, such as The Emacs Lisp Reference Manual, in which each chapter is a separate file.)

When a file is split, Info itself makes use of a shortened version of the original file that contains just the tag table and references to the files that were split off. The split-off files are called indirect files.

The split-off files have names that are created by appending `-1', `-2', `-3' and so on to the file name specified by the @setfilename command. The shortened version of the original file continues to have the name specified by @setfilename.

At one stage in writing this document, for example, the Info file was saved as the file `test-texinfo' and that file looked like this:

Info file: test-texinfo,    -*-Text-*-
produced by texinfo-format-buffer
from file: new-texinfo-manual.texinfo

test-texinfo-1: 102
test-texinfo-2: 50422
test-texinfo-3: 101300
Tag table:
Node: overview^?104
Node: info file^?1271
Node: printed manual^?4853
Node: conventions^?6855

(But `test-texinfo' had far more nodes than are shown here.) Each of the split-off, indirect files, `test-texinfo-1', `test-texinfo-2', and `test-texinfo-3', is listed in this file after the line that says `Indirect:'. The tag table is listed after the line that says `Tag table:'.

In the list of indirect files, the number following the file name records the cumulative number of bytes in the preceding indirect files, not counting the file list itself, the tag table, or the permissions text in each file. In the tag table, the number following the node name records the location of the beginning of the node, in bytes from the beginning of the (unsplit) output.

If you are using texinfo-format-buffer to create Info files, you may want to run the Info-validate command. (The makeinfo command does such a good job on its own, you do not need Info-validate.) However, you cannot run the M-x Info-validate node-checking command on indirect files. For information on how to prevent files from being split and how to validate the structure of the nodes, see section 20.20.1 Running Info-validate.

20.1.9 Generating HTML

As an alternative to the normal Info format output you can use the `--html' option to generate output in HTML format, for installation on a web site (for example). In this release, HTML output from makeinfo is monolithic, splitting the output by chapter or node is not supported. We hope to implement this feature soon.

The HTML output file is named according to @setfilename, but with any `.info' extension replaced with `.html'.

Texinfo input marked up with the @ifhtml command will produce output only with the `--html' option supplied. Input marked up with the @html is passed literally to the output (suppressing the normal escaping of input `<', `>' and `&' characters which have special significance in HTML).

The `--footnote-style' option is currently ignored for HTML output; footnotes are hyperlinked at the end of the output file.

The HTML generated is mostly standard (i.e., HTML 2.0, RFC1866). The exception is that HTML 3.2 tables are generated from the @multitable command, but tagged to degrade as well as possible in browsers without table support. Please report output from an error-free run of makeinfo which violates the HTML 3.2 DTD as a bug.

Navigation bars are inserted at the start of nodes, similarly to Info output. The `--no-headers' option will suppress this if used with `--no-split'. Header <link> elements in split output can support info-like navigation with browsers like Lynx and Emacs W3 which implement this HTML 1.0 feature. You still won't normally get the multi-file regexp and index search facilities provided by Info readers. Otherwise, hyperlinks are generated from Texinfo commands where appropriate. `@xref' commands to other documents are generated assuming the other document is available in HTML form too, and `.html' is appended to the `@xref' Info file name. This presumably will often not work.

20.2 Installing an Info File

Info files are usually kept in the `info' directory. You can read Info files using the standalone Info program or the Info reader built into Emacs. (See Info file `info', node `Top', for an introduction to Info.)

20.2.1 The Directory File `dir'

For Info to work, the `info' directory must contain a file that serves as a top level directory for the Info system. By convention, this file is called `dir'. (You can find the location of this file within Emacs by typing C-h i to enter Info and then typing C-x C-f to see the pathname to the `info' directory.)

The `dir' file is itself an Info file. It contains the top level menu for all the Info files in the system. The menu looks like this:

* Menu:
* Info:    (info).     Documentation browsing system.
* Emacs:   (emacs).    The extensible, self-documenting
                       text editor.
* Texinfo: (texinfo).  With one source file, make
                       either a printed manual using
                       TeX or an Info file.

Each of these menu entries points to the `Top' node of the Info file that is named in parentheses. (The menu entry does not need to specify the `Top' node, since Info goes to the `Top' node if no node name is mentioned. See section 7.6 Referring to Other Info Files.)

Thus, the `Info' entry points to the `Top' node of the `info' file and the `Emacs' entry points to the `Top' node of the `emacs' file.

In each of the Info files, the `Up' pointer of the `Top' node refers back to the dir file. For example, the line for the `Top' node of the Emacs manual looks like this in Info:

File: emacs  Node: Top, Up: (DIR), Next: Distrib

In this case, the `dir' file name is written in upper case letters--it can be written in either upper or lower case. This is not true in general, it is a special case for `dir'.

20.2.2 Listing a New Info File

To add a new Info file to your system, you must write a menu entry to add to the menu in the `dir' file in the `info' directory. For example, if you were adding documentation for GDB, you would write the following new entry:

* GDB: (gdb).           The source-level C debugger.

The first part of the menu entry is the menu entry name, followed by a colon. The second part is the name of the Info file, in parentheses, followed by a period. The third part is the description.

The name of an Info file often has a `.info' extension. Thus, the Info file for GDB might be called either `gdb' or `gdb.info'. The Info reader programs automatically try the file name both with and without `.info'(11); so it is better to avoid clutter and not to write `.info' explicitly in the menu entry. For example, the GDB menu entry should use just `gdb' for the file name, not `gdb.info'.

20.2.3 Info Files in Other Directories

If an Info file is not in the `info' directory, there are three ways to specify its location:

  1. Write the pathname in the `dir' file as the second part of the menu.
  2. If you are using Emacs, list the name of the file in a second `dir' file, in its directory; and then add the name of that directory to the Info-directory-list variable in your personal or site initialization file. This variable tells Emacs where to look for `dir' files (the files must be named `dir'). Emacs merges the files named `dir' from each of the listed directories. (In Emacs version 18, you can set the Info-directory variable to the name of only one directory.)
  3. Specify the Info directory name in the INFOPATH environment variable in your `.profile' or `.cshrc' initialization file. (Only you and others who set this environment variable will be able to find Info files whose location is specified this way.)

For example, to reach a test file in the `/home/bob/info' directory, you could add an entry like this to the menu in the standard `dir' file:

* Test: (/home/bob/info/info-test).  Bob's own test file.

In this case, the absolute file name of the `info-test' file is written as the second part of the menu entry.

Alternatively, you could write the following in your `.emacs' file:

(require 'info)
(setq Info-directory-list
      (cons (expand-file-name "/home/bob/info") Info-directory-list))

This tells Emacs to merge the `dir' file from the `/home/bob/info' directory with the system `dir' file. Info will list the `/home/bob/info/info-test' file as a menu entry in the `/home/bob/info/dir' file. Emacs does the merging only when M-x info is first run, so if you want to set Info-directory-list in an Emacs session where you've already run info, you must (setq Info-dir-contents nil) to force Emacs to recompose the `dir' file.

Finally, you can tell Info where to look by setting the INFOPATH environment variable in your shell startup file, such as `.cshrc', `.profile' or `autoexec.bat'. If you use a Bourne-compatible shell such as sh or bash for your shell command interpreter, you set the INFOPATH environment variable in the `.profile' initialization file; but if you use csh or tcsh, you set the variable in the `.cshrc' initialization file. On MS-DOS/MS-Windows systems, you must set INFOPATH in your `autoexec.bat' file or in the Registry. Each type of shell uses a different syntax.

The `.' indicates the current directory as usual. Emacs uses the INFOPATH environment variable to initialize the value of Emacs's own Info-directory-list variable. The stand-alone Info reader merges any files named `dir' in any directory listed in the @env{INFOPATH} variable into a single menu presented to you in the node called `(dir)Top'.

However you set @env{INFOPATH}, if its last character is a colon(13), this is replaced by the default (compiled-in) path. This gives you a way to augment the default path with new directories without having to list all the standard places. For example (using sh syntax):


will search `/local/info' first, then the standard directories. Leading or doubled colons are not treated specially.

When you create your own `dir' file for use with Info-directory-list or @env{INFOPATH}, it's easiest to start by copying an existing `dir' file and replace all the text after the `* Menu:' with your desired entries. That way, the punctuation and special CTRL-_ characters that Info needs will be present.

20.2.4 Installing Info Directory Files

When you install an Info file onto your system, you can use the program install-info to update the Info directory file `dir'. Normally the makefile for the package runs install-info, just after copying the Info file into its proper installed location.

In order for the Info file to work with install-info, you should use the commands @dircategory and @direntry...@end direntry in the Texinfo source file. Use @direntry to specify the menu entries to add to the Info directory file, and use @dircategory to specify which part of the Info directory to put it in. Here is how these commands are used in this manual:

@dircategory Texinfo documentation system
* Texinfo: (texinfo).           The GNU documentation format.
* install-info: (texinfo)Invoking install-info. ...
@end direntry

Here's what this produces in the Info file:

INFO-DIR-SECTION Texinfo documentation system
* Texinfo: (texinfo).           The GNU documentation format.
* install-info: (texinfo)Invoking install-info. ...

The install-info program sees these lines in the Info file, and that is how it knows what to do.

Always use the @direntry and @dircategory commands near the beginning of the Texinfo input, before the first @node command. If you use them later on in the input, install-info will not notice them.

If you use @dircategory more than once in the Texinfo source, each usage specifies the `current' category; any subsequent @direntry commands will add to that category.

Here are some recommended @dircategory categories: `GNU packages', `GNU programming tools', `GNU programming documentation', `GNU Emacs Lisp', `GNU libraries', `Linux', `TeX', `Individual utilities'. The idea is to include the `invoking' node for every program installed by a package under `Individual utilities', and an entry for the manual as a whole in the appropriate other category.

20.2.5 Invoking install-info

install-info inserts menu entries from an Info file into the top-level `dir' file in the Info system (see the previous sections for an explanation of how the `dir' file works). It's most often run as part of software installation, or when constructing a `dir' file for all manuals on a system. Synopsis:

install-info [option]... [info-file [dir-file]]

If info-file or dir-file are not specified, the options (described below) that define them must be. There are no compile-time defaults, and standard input is never used. install-info can read only one Info file and write only one `dir' file per invocation.

If dir-file (however specified) does not exist, install-info creates it if possible (with no entries).

If any input file is compressed with gzip (see section `Invoking gzip' in Gzip), install-info automatically uncompresses it for reading. And if dir-file is compressed, install-info also automatically leaves it compressed after writing any changes. If dir-file itself does not exist, install-info tries to open `dir-file.gz'.


Delete the entries in info-file from dir-file. The file name in the entry in dir-file must be info-file (except for an optional `.info' in either one). Don't insert any new entries.
-d name
Specify file name of the Info directory file. This is equivalent to using the dir-file argument.
-e text
Insert text as an Info directory entry; text should have the form of an Info menu item line plus zero or more extra lines starting with whitespace. If you specify more than one entry, they are all added. If you don't specify any entries, they are determined from information in the Info file itself.
Display a usage message listing basic usage and all available options, then exit successfully.
-i file
Specify Info file to install in the directory. Equivalent to using the info-file argument.
-D dir
Specify the directory where `dir' resides. Equivalent to `--dir-file=dir/dir'.
Same as `--entry=text'. An Info directory entry is actually a menu item.
Suppress warnings.
Same as `--delete'.
-s sec
Put this file's entries in section sec of the directory. If you specify more than one section, all the entries are added in each of the sections. If you don't specify any sections, they are determined from information in the Info file itself.
Display version information and exit successfully.

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