HelpMessage is a simple text documentation format described in helpmessage(5) that can be converted to POD (Perl’s Plain Old Documentation) and that is more compact and more readable than POD. It is meant to be embedded inside scripts and to serve both as a usage message if printed almost as is and as a standard manual page generated by the standard POD tools.

User visible changes are described in NEWS. The project is available online at Gitorious.


  • helpm2pod(1) is the main script: it converts a HelpMessage to POD syntax so that a standard manual page can be generated.

  • helpm2man(1) calls helpm2pod and pod2man to build a manual page.

  • helpm2text(1) can be used to format a message to be displayed.

  • helpmselect(1) selects some sections from a HelpMessage.

  • gitparseopt2helpm(1) reuses a parsing specification to git-rev-parse(1) to document the available options or to create a minimalistic HelpMessage.

  • helpm4sh(1) extracts a HelpMessage from here documents or comments in shell scripts (or in awk scripts).


  • POSIX sh

  • New awk (the AWK scripts are fairly portable)

  • sed with Extended Regular Expressions (GNU and BSD option -r)

  • getopt (the extended GNU version preferably)

  • pod2man

Credits & License

HelpMessage was written by G.raud Meyer.

HelpMessage is free software; you can redistribute and/or modify if under the terms of the GNU General Public License version 2 as published by the Free Software Foundation. The full text of the license can be found in the root of the project sources, in the file COPYING. Otherwise see