Interpreting utility syntax

Here are the main principles at work:

  • When utilities have many options, the options may appear grouped together in the syntax like this:
    utilname [-abcd]

    which means that the options -a, -b, -c, and -d are supported.

  • Options, option arguments, and operands enclosed in brackets ([ and ]) are optional and can be omitted. Note that the [ and ] symbols should never be included in the actual command.
  • Arguments separated by | are mutually exclusive. Sometimes mutually exclusive arguments that relate to modes of operation are indicated with multiple syntax lines representing the different forms of the command.
  • A trailing ellipsis mark () after options or operands indicates that the preceding item may be repeated. If the preceding item is optional, the ellipsis indicates that the item may occur zero or more times, e.g.:
    utility [filename...]

    If the item is mandatory, the ellipsis indicates it may occur one or more times, e.g.:

    utility filename...