Linux Documentation Project (LDP) FAQ

Rahul Sundaram

February 2003

Revision History
Revision 1.02003-02-24
Initial Release, reviewed by LDP

An introductory FAQ for users who come across the LDP and do not yet understand what it all means.

Legal Notice
Q: What is the LDP?
Q: What is a Guide?
Q: What is a HOWTO?
Q: What is a man page?
Q: What is a FAQ?
Q: Where do I get all these documents?
Q: How are the documents licensed?
Q: Are all the topics in the LDP related to Linux?
Q: Who contributes to the LDP?
Q: Why should I contribute?
Q: How do I contribute?
Q: In what format do I have to write the documentation?
Q: How do I submit documentation?

Q: What is the LDP?

A: The LDP is a loosely knit team of volunteers who provide documenation for many aspects of Linux. There are several forms of documentation: Guides, HOWTOs, man pages and FAQs.

Q: What is a Guide?

A: A guide is typically a longer book with broader coverage of a subject. For instance, Network Administration or User Guide. The intent is to understand the whole subject, as opposed to performing only one task. If you want to have a broader look at some aspect of Linux then the guides should be very handy.

Q: What is a HOWTO?

A: HOWTO's are usually step by step guides which describe in detail how to perform a specific task.For example, the Linux installation HOWTO helps you install Linux on the system but it does not cover how to set up a web server so that you can focus on a particular task.

Q: What is a man page?

A: man (Manual) pages are the standard form of help available for many linux applications and utilities. They can be viewed using the man command.

Q: What is a FAQ?

A: A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is a list of questions, usually available in a mailing list to avoid answering repetitive questions asked by new users. For example, the Linux FAQ answers questions like, "What is linux?" and, "How is Linux pronounced?"

Q: Where do I get all these documents?

A: Most of the Linux distributions include the LDP documents so there is high chance that they are already available with you if you have installed Linux. The latest versions are available at http://www.tldp.org.

Q: How are the documents licensed?

A: LDP only has documents available under a open source license like the GNU Free Documentation License which means that you are allowed to distribute, modify and do whatsoever you want to do as long as you do not change the copyright and licensing terms.

Q: Are all the topics in the LDP related to Linux?

A: Not essentially. There are several other applications, langauges and operating systems which are covered at the LDP. The LDP accepts the document if it is of any interested to general Linux users. For example, the Linux+Windows HOWTO explains in detail how your Linux system can coexist along with Windows.

Q: Who contributes to the LDP?

A: Application developers who usually provide help files along with their programs often submit their documentation to the LDP. Increasingly, new users are solving their Linux issues and documenting their work to help others in the community.

Q: Why should I contribute?

A: Authors who want to help others by providing some documentation can do so through the LDP. The documents should under a open source license such as the GNU free documentation license which ensures that everyone is benefited through your documents. Here are some of the major benefits when you contribute through the LDP:

  • The LDP hosts the documents and ensures that it is available in all the formats including text, html and pdf so it can be viewed in a platform independant manner.

  • The LDP documents are usually available as part of many distributions and hence your documents reaches a wide community of Linux users.

  • Many of the Linux users who read your document may give you comments,suggestions or even provide additional content which ensures that the document is reliable and updated whenever neccessary.

  • You may be providing some crucial help to users who come across the same issues that you solved on your own.

  • It is a form of contribution to the Linux and open source community which depends on volunteers for its growth.

  • You may also publish any of the LDP's documents including your own and get monitary benefits from the whole process.

Q: How do I contribute?

A: If you know a particular topic well, first search the LDP's website (http://www.tldp.org) for related documentation. If something is already available, you can contact the author through email, which will probably be available within the document, and coordinate your work together. There are also some unmaintained documents that you can take care of.If the topic is an entirely new one, subscribe to the Discussion mailing list at and and propose the topic to your peers first, to gather feedback. After the feedback and draft are complete, the doc could be submitted, as per the instructions in the Author Guide, advising LDP that these steps were taken. This avoids having someone come back later and tell you that this subject was not acceptable (which is rarely the case). Contact the HOWTO coordinator listed at the LDP's website if you require any expert help. When you follow the above steps you are ensured the following benefits:

  • If any other person is interested in contributing you may team up.

  • The topic you wish to cover may already be available as part of some other documentation that you are not aware of and repetitive work may be avoided.

  • You may recieve guidance in the form of help, tools and other resources which will speed up your writing.

Since the LDP is a informal organisation of volunteers you do not need any kind of membership to contribute. Everyone is encouraged to help in whatever way they can.

Q: In what format do I have to write the documentation?

A: The source files for LDP documentation are created using SGML or XML markup, usually with either DocBook XML (v4.2 or v4.1.2) or SGML (v4.2, v4.1, and v3.x). There is an older standard called Linuxdoc SGML, which is not as robust. If you do not know any of these then you can write in plain text initially and submit the documentation, which can be converted to markup. Future updates would be done in either DocBook or Linuxdoc. SGML and XML markup are easy enough to learn if you are interested in maintaining the documentation over a long period. You may request help from volunteers in the mailing list to convert your documentation into DocBook for the first time, or refer to the Author's Guide for information on using these tools on your system.

Q: How do I submit documentation?

A: The LDP Author HOWTO provides all the details you would like to know including links to other resources and tools. Please go to www.tldp.org to have a look. The email address to submit English language documentation is . For those who want to write in languages other than English, email the discussion list to know what languages are available, and also to solicit the help of volunteers for any translation or review help.