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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Marcel Oliver <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 24 Nov 1998 12:58:13 +0100
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (166 lines)
Sebastian Rahtz wrote:
> Marcel Oliver writes:
>  > - Be sure that a document that I prepare will be accepted by a
>  >   reasonable publisher in my field for direct electronic submission,
>  >   and will not be retyped or otherwise mangled in unpredictable ways.
>  >
>  > - Allow my documents to be translated into other formats (HTML, XML or
>  >   whatever else may come along) with the least amount of losses.
> if you want to make publishers happy, why don't you *author* in XML?
> this publisher, at least, does not much want your LaTeX files, however
> clean...

Sorry, I think the discussion is going in circles.  What's the point
to improve LaTeX if I should author in XML?  I don't give a damm what
typesetting system I use, as long as it is widely available, at least
as powerful as LaTeX is, and it doesn't cost me any more effort to
author documents (after a reasonable initial learning period).

So should we improve LaTeX?  Just as a backend to an XML based system
it wouldn't be worth doing anything more than removing a few quirks from
the TeX engine.  So what are we doing here???

>  > Comments: this may seem rather trivial, but other than the AMS I
>  > haven't seen a publisher who didn't screw up on vanilla amsmath stuff
>  > (this includes Elsevier a couple of years ago, I suspect this may have
>  > improved by now) and even this year one publisher (not the big one
> these days we'd have it retyped :-}

Why can the AMS get my files on paper without retyping, and a huge
big-budget operation like Elsevier can't?

>  > Humanities?  Maybe this is not so critical here as few publishers
>  > would consider accepting LaTeX anyway?
>  >
> grr. speaking as a humanities person, I deny the assertion! anyway, at
> the risk of repeating myself, you misunderstand what publishers
> are. the average publisher is NOT a typesetter, and does not give a
> damn how you prepare your MSS, since it'll be between you and some
> other agency. well, thats my observation of the trade, anyway
>  > LaTeX document. E.g., should things like \enlargethispage be legal in
>  > such documents? The answer is not clear to me. One could either
>  > explicitly discourage people to use them, or to expect any production
>  > class to ignore any visual mark-up and provide the functionality with
>  > different macros.
> gracious. i'd be shocked at a production system which did not catch
> \enlargethispage... not that I understand why you, as an author, would
> ever use it....

Because I produce production versions for personal use, too.
Personally, I think the \enlargethispage stuff is a big pain, I try
to avoid it, but I guess sometimes it just happens that a thing like
this gets left in a file.

>  > - Mark-up of tables (I think this is an area where LaTeX is really
>  >   deficient, both in functionality and in the necessity of visual
>  >   mark-up even for many trivial tables).
> hurrah! sound point
>  > - Guidelines for including graphics (psfrag???)
> aaargh! and you expect me to translate your psfrag stuff to XML???

Never used it, but I think from an author's perspective it may
appear useful.  So this is exactly what we need: Some
classification of stuff that can be used and others that can't
without severe portability problems.  I don't think such problems
are obvious to everyone, and should be documented.

> ...
>  > Sebastian Rahtz wrote:
> ..
>  > > I want a reliable batch-oriented page makeup system, no more, no
>  > > less. I want to store my text in XML, and have LaTeX produce beautiful
>  > > pages when I give it a style sheet
>  >
>  > Are you speaking for yourself, or for Elsevier? While I could see that
> not officially, but yes, for Elsevier
>  > XML/MathML may make sense for me in certain circumstances, because I
>  > may want to reuse the logical structure, I don't see why this should
>  > matter for a publisher whose job it is to get the thing on paper, and
>  > possibly into an online repository (PDF?).
> publishers who do not want to consider electronic publication of
> material are, IMHO, on the track to failure. publishers exist to sell
> your work, NOT get things on paper!!!

But paper is the only thing you can do better than I can.  I can run
a web-site with no problem and publish my stuff in whatever format I
The only thing I cannot do is printing large quantities of paper
and shipping them to every library in the world.

>  > There does not seem to be a
>  > widely available user interface for XML, so currently, it also does
>  > not seem realistic to expect authors to submit XML. So what's the
> agreed. not quite yet. give it 6 months or a year.

That would be great.  I am looking forward to finding this on my
next Redhat CD.

>  > problem with LaTeX (apart from the ones that we discussed, and seem
>  > very much fixable)? It should be much preferable to, say, Word's .doc
>  > format or rtf???
> no. converting RTF to XML is a problem whose parameters you can
> determine  in advance. ie, the authors markup will be about 50%
> useable, the rest you can junk. a LaTeX file is a converter's
> nightmare, since almost anything can happen. maybe it takes 5 minutes,
> maybe it takes 5 hours. you cannot run a business on those lines, IMO.

Why don't you make the converter free software?  Then you can go and
tell everyone to check first if a file is convertable before submitting
it.  You should get a much better quota than 50% this way.

Or is this one of the cases where "big" companies prefer to use
undocumented and proprietary formats just for their own monetary

Also, I don't buy your argument about the impossibility of converting
LaTeX into other formats.  A clean LaTeX file (i.e. no TeX which is
not explicitly part of LaTeX) and a conservative choice of packages
(which is what this discussion is all about) should allow very close
to 100% conversion.

Also, I still don't understand either the current or the envisioned
production process of your organization.  To me it seems that (at least
at some point in the past) either TeX or LaTeX has been the back-end
(I may be wrong here, but some things looked very TeX-like).  So what's
the point of going via XML as an intermediate format?  Why not let
people submit in clean LaTeX for those who prefer to write clean LaTeX,
and typesetting it directly, and let others submit their RTF or XML or
whatever, and feed it to whatever backend?

And, repeating myself here, I believe that a publisher cannot "add
to papers in my field (applied analysis) by storing or distributing
publications in any format which is much more explicitly marked up
(I guess that's what XML is supposed to do) than LaTeX.  This is simply
due to the nature of the material, and no publisher's vision for the
future can change this.  Also, I have enough faith in my collegues
that, should the need arise for strongly marked up electronic
of results, they will be much less conservative about using it
(on their own web-sites!) than any of the large publishing houses.

So the final question:  Why do small publishing operations (professional
societies and university presses) who are closer to the scientific
community and whose journal subscriptions are usually cheaper, use
LaTeX more readily than the large multinational presses?  Can we
conclude that LaTeX is doing the job pretty well after all?


PS: Sorry Sebastian, as you are probably the only one connected to
"big business" listening in here.  I actually appreciate very much
hearing your opinion on the matter.

I am just not sure that even the goals for the LaTeX project from all
the potentially interested sides are on the table to permit a sound
technical discussion.  I think it is in everybody's interest that
whatever future typesetting system is acceptable both to authors
and publishers.  But if publishers are neither very forthcoming in what
they need, nor really listening to the author's needs, then at some
point one just has to say "screw them and let them find somebody
cheap in the third world to retype all the manuscipts".