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man uses a sophisticated method of finding manual page files, based on the invocation options and environment variables, the /etc/man.config configuration file, and some built in conventions and heuristics.
So obviously, the manfiles aren't all in a single directory tree. So is there a nice terse command I can use to be able to grep through all manual page files as defined by these settings?
I'll write a script if I have to, but I'd like to avoid it so I can do it on whatever box I'm faced with. My linux/bash skillz are getting better all the time, but they aren't yet good enough to figure this one out.
You could use nroff -man to process them too. Thing is, parsing thousands of man pages will take quite some time. You'll probably want to build an index and search that with your tool. If you do that, you'll need some sort of index update job. This is a similar approach to updatedb/locate.