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The Linux web browser/file manager/universal document viewer Konqueror (from which Safari’s KHTML originates) has a nice protocol handler for man pages. If you type “man:bash” then you get a nice HTML version of the bash man page, complete with cross links to other man pages. I always found this tremendously useful and it seems like a fun thing to try to do with Safari as well.

After a bit of research I learned that Safari uses the Netscape Plugin API ( so I checked that out. But that API only discusses registering plugins based on mime type, not protocol family. Looking further, I found that I probably want to write a subclass of NSURLProtocol. But what I don’t get is how my subclass gets integrated into Safari. Can somebody sketch this out for me?

By the way, generating HTML versions of man pages is easily accomplished using rman ( ).


P.S. Please don’t suggest a cgi-based solution. I understand that that would be possible. I’m interested in the general problem of extending Safari with custom protocol handlers.

I think plugins only can be registered based on mime type. The standard mime type for man pages is application/x-troff-man.

Protocol handlers are part of LaunchServices, so you’d have to add your man: protocol there and set Safari as the helper application.

Here’s a page describing how to register an application as a protocol handler. Still not sure if it can work for a plugin.

No totally what you wanted, but there is a man page URL scheme registered with the terminal. For example:


Create a subclass of NSURLProtocol and register it within the application code. Use an InputManager to get this to work within Safari. The code below works. You’ll want to change up the unix command to output a better format. CAUTION: The code does not check the string being passed to unix, so it is definitely a security risk. – Kitzel Hoover ( )

@interface KHManURLProtocol : NSURLProtocol {}

@implementation KHManURLProtocol


Does someone have s simple example how to use above code?

Personally I really like Bwana, does an excellent job of just what was stated above, works seamlessly with Safari and Firefox. Also the output is great. —- Thanks everybody for the responses.

Bwana is a decent solution for the problem. It looks like they register their app as the handler for the man: protocol. When they get a request they generate a temp file with the html markup and then use appescript to point safari to the temp file. It works nicely, but it’s a bit circuitous. I’d still like to know how to do it in a plugin. I’ll have to take a closer look at Kitzel’s code to see if it’s what I need.

I implemented the above code into my existing Safari add-on, Sogudi ( ). It uses man2html and looks pretty slick. – Kitzel Hoover