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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Phillip Helbig <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 2 Oct 1997 08:47:59 GMT
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (184 lines)
To start off, something completely different.  Old FORTRAN programmers
probably do it anyway, but everyone here should limit their lines to 72
characters, which allow them to be quoted with `> ' up to four times
(more should never be necessary) without violating the God-given 80
character width limit.

Patrick Daly wrote:

> I am very much in favour of standardizing the LaTeX support for
> journals, having supplied two such macro packages, one as an add-on to
> improve an existing (2.09) mess that calls itself the official macro
> package for the major journal in my field, and the other for which I was
> commissioned to produce the official package. Of course the latter was
> much more enjoyable because I had a free hand.

I was familiar with the books by Kopka in German, and when I started
working in Britain and used the change as an opportunity to upgrade from
LaTeX2.09 to LaTeX2e (simulataneous with a VAX-->ALPHA and VMS 5.5-->7.1
upgrade, FORTRAN77-->Fortran95 and so on) I went out and bought the
Kopka and Daly book (as well as the Companion and Graphics Companion and
the 2e version of Lamport) and was delighted with the new features at my
fingertips.  Anticipating the possibility of writing for more than one
journal in the future, I was keen on being able to write exactly the
same LaTeX text regardless of destination.  Then I noticed how many
macro packages are still at 2.09, which is bad enough in itself but if
one wants to solve the problem of incompatibility by the use of
meta-macros or whatever, it is even worse since such things work much
better in LaTeX2e.  Thus my anger which started this discussion.
Especially in a time when several journals are talking about electronic
publishing, I notice a very large need to put first things first.

> The problem of non-standardization is enormous, but more the fault of
> the article.sty/cls that did not provide enough models for the necessary
> input commands.

Right, some extension is necessary, which is possible as everyone who
has ever customised a sty/cls knows; it would just be nice if everyone
did it in the same way.

> Perhaps one should take AMS-LaTeX as a model since the AMS has always
> been a keen supporter TeX/LaTeX and can be considered to have sufficient
> practical experience with author-supplied copy in LaTeX(2e).

I'm not familiar with AMS-LaTeX; if it's good why not, but one should be
careful not to exclude any needed features just because they are
currently not part of AMS-LaTeX.

> > > Fortunately, this problem can ALREADY be solved by the use of Patrick
> > > Daly's natbib.sty and custom-bib package.  Since this is IDEALLY suited
> > > to the problem of variation in citations and references, it should
> > > actually be REQUIRED by all journals and publishers who use LaTeX at
> > > all.
> > hear, hear. natbib/custom-bib are awesome contributions to the LaTeX
> > world
> These are beautiful words to hear! They make the whole gigantic effort,
> especially for custom-bib, well worthwhile. (I am a native English
> speaker, so I have no problems with "awesome"; it is not the same as
> "awful" at all!)
> The journal packages that I supply contain natbib coding (rather a
> subset of it)  included in the .cls files themselves. This may sound
> perverse, but as the author of natbib, I can take this liberty.

Nice to have a big cheese join into the discussion!

> One point of non-standard interfacing that all journal packages must
> solve somehow is the entry of the authors' names and affiliation. The
> standard LaTeX syntax
> [...]
> I myself have a package (not make public) that also can be used as a
> module, that allows both the above syntax as well as
>         \author{First Author}
>         \affil{Affiliation One}
>         \author{Second Author}
>         \author{Third Author}
>         \affil{Affiliation Two}
> Depending on the number of affiliations, you either get the standard
> block-type author-affil listing, or the footnote style. By adding
> optional markers, you force the footnote method, as
>         \author[1]{First Author}
>         \author[2]{Second Author}
>         \author[1,*]{Third Author}
>         \affil[1]{Affiliation One}
>         \affil[2]{Affiliation Two}
>         \affil[*]{On leave from Affiliation Two}
> I think this is a flexible input syntax. What is really printed depends
> on the programmer, of course.

Most journals implement this in some fashion.  Ideally, one would have
(as in all other cases) the same input text and the way it looks would
be determined by the cls one uses.

> I agree with Sebastian that PostScript is an interim solution. I have
> not yet worked with PDF but from what I hear of it, it is the better way
> of the future. I am currently working as production editor on an 18
> chapter book, of 500 pages, with dozens of PostScript figures. I assure
> you, the printing of these figures, sent to me by various contributers
> from multitudes of software, are often a real headache. As PostScript
> figures are used more and more, it is becoming clear how much trouble
> they can cause. Usually because the generating application abuses
> PostScript terribly.

Sounds to me like things would be much better if applications stuck to
standard PostScript.  Is that too much to ask?  What's to stop
applications from abusing the PDF format?

> Summing up, I am willing to participate in this standardization project.

Very nice to hear.  Many of the movers and shakers in the LaTeX world
are on this list, so it seems the logical place to concentrate effort,
at least initially.  The question is, where do we go from here?  After
preaching to the choir, we must first get everyone to agree to abide by
a future standard, and then implement that standard, both as quickly as

If some sort of web site is necessary for this (and let's face it, like
it or not a web site is almost essential these days) I would be willing
to host it on my web server (,
expanding the stuff in  I would suggest that
as many people as possible read the manifesto

and send suggestions for improvement to

   [log in to unmask]

which I will incorporate into the constantly-updated manifesto.  After
some version is agreed upon, some suitable representative, for example
Patrick Daly, should approach simultaneously all the journals,
publishers etc with the manifesto and a list of those supporting it,
complete with scientific affiliation and, for some of us, degree of
LaTeX expertise (for example, authors of books, those that work
professionally with LaTeX other than as an author, etc).  It would at
least look nice if Lamport would lend his name to the project, at least
as a moral supporter and signer of the manifesto.

Of course, if anyone has any suggestions to improve this plan of attack,
they are more than welcome.

I myself have done a bit of LaTeX programming, or hacking as it was
better called with 2.09, primarily to customise the book.sty for my
master's thesis

but of course there are many others who have much more expertise,
especially with the internals of LaTeX2e.  In other words, I would be
happy to contribute as a programmer, but fear that there are others who
can do the job better, and I keep hearing rumours about similar projects
on various backburners, so perhaps much of the work has already been
done.  As initiator of this discussion and the preliminary web pages, I
would be happy to continue to be involved in some sense, perhaps as
liaison to publishers in Britain (as opposed to Germany, where many of
the gurus are).  (On the other hand, I'm actually from Germany and have
only been working in Britain since the beginning of the year, so that
there might be better people for this function in Britain who are more
familiar with the scene.)  If this `standardised journal macros' project
needs its own mailing list, again I would be happy to set this up,
unless someone else can do it much more easily (a mailing list isn't
that much effort, though).

First there needs to be perhaps a bit more discussion as to what is
actually needed and then some about the plan of attack.



Phillip Helbig                          Email ... [log in to unmask]
Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories   Tel. ..... +44 1477 571 321 (ext. 297)
Jodrell Bank                            Fax ................. +44 1477 571 618
Macclesfield                            Telex ................. 36149 JODREL G
UK-Cheshire SK11 9DL                    Web ....

My opinions are not necessarily those of NRAL or the University of Manchester.