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David Kastrup <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 6 Jan 2003 09:55:00 +0100
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        Richard Walker <[log in to unmask]> writes:

> I for one consider a change like this to be inevitable.
> (I just didn't want to be the first one to say so.)
> But the question then arises:  why e-TeX?  Why not Omega, an
> e-TeX/Omega hybrid, . . . ?

Because functionality present in e-TeX is desperately needed for
implementing more versatile output routines than the present, was
explicitly requested by LaTeX project team members and implemented
for their sake.

> We could argue about which is `closest' to TeX (passes the TRIP test
> and/or some other measures) but for LaTeX, why not go as far away as
> possible?

Because we'll never get anywhere with that approach.  If we are
refusing to deal with reality unless we get the perfect TeX engine,
it will be another 10 years before LaTeX3 will see the light, and
then nobody will be interested in it anymore.

Instead of refusing to step forward until we can go as far as
possible, we should concentrate on going as far as necessary, and
e-TeX _is_ necessary and available.

In contrast, Omega is a moving target and widely undocumented.  The
features specific to Omega are rather orthogonal to most of the
problems the LaTeX3 project is tackling.

One can very well develop a lot of functionality and implement it
without needing Omega, even if Omega is at a later time going to be
the engine of choice.

But e-TeX's functionality is necessary for doing quite a few tasks
reliably, and e-TeX is not only available now, it has been so for a
number of years.

> If we are calling it LaTeX 3 and even _considering_ changing the
> underlying program, why not pick one (whether it exists right now or
> _could_ exist once we decide exactly what we want) that addresses
> most/all of the issues raised by all the years of experience with
> the current LaTeX implementation?

Because we can't just let serious work stall or be crippled because
of pipe dreams to come.

The current ignorance of e-TeX is not merely hampering ongoing LaTeX3
efforts, it is also crippling people working on LaTeX2e packages.
Even if LaTeX3 will be released in 10 years only, it is a shame not
being able to work with e-TeX before.

I am not talking about what users will be forced to use once LaTeX3
comes out.  I am talking about what engine should be available to
LaTeX2e users and upwards.

In addition, one can't find out what additional primitives the core
would warrant if one never gets into a serious state, and one can't
get into a serious state if one choses to wait all the time for
non-existent features.

I can tell you a dozen good reasons why it would be an excessively
bad idea to declare Omega the default TeX engine for LaTeX now.  I
can't give you a single reason why e-TeX should not be declared the
default TeX engine for LaTeX _now_.

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum