# Groff update on the Mac?

I’m not sure when this happened, but apparently a recent update to the Mac system software also updated groff, the GNU version of the venerable Unix typesetting program, troff. In doing so, the update overwrote one of groff’s configuration files and screwed up my printing of file folder labels and address labels.

The configuration file is /usr/share/groff/1.19.2/font/devps/DESC. This is the file that controls certain settings when groff is creating PostScript output (the default). As far as I can tell, only one line of the file was changed—the line that sets the default paper size. Instead of

papersize letter


it was

papersize a4


which caused my address and file folder labels to print too high on the label sheets because A4 paper is taller than letter-sized paper. I changed it to papersize letter, and everything went back to normal.

Back in my Linux days, updating groff was something I’d do deliberately, and I usually remembered to check the default paper size after the update. One of the few disadvantages of the Mac is that you don’t always know what’s being updated when you move from, say, 10.5.4 to 10.5.5.

Groff’s lead developers are based in Europe, so it’s natural for groff to ship with a default paper size of A4. You’d think, though, that Apple would customize the configuration file for its US users. Now that I think of it, I can’t actually remember ever changing that line from A4 to letter before today. Maybe Apple did customize in the past and just forgot to do it in the most recent update. Or maybe I’m just getting old and can’t remember what I’ve done anymore.

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