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Michael John Downes <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 8 Oct 1997 10:30:58 -0400
text/plain (73 lines)
> > Many journals these days work from author-created tex files, and a
> > substantial portion of the authoring community uses amstex.
> I don't know of any converter myself, but do you have any idea why
> they still use amstex.

In the community of mathematician/authors? Inertia. AMS-TeX was heavily
promoted by the AMS in the mid-80s to facilitate electronic submission
of math-intensive documents to the AMS publishing program. Once an
author gets a working TeX system going it's easier for them to stick
with it than to go through the upheaval of switching to a different
system. Thus I'd guess the people who started using AMS-TeX have
typically stayed with it for five years or more. And many of those in
the author population don't pay as much attention to recent developments
in the TeX world as we do. I dare say there are even a few authors out
there who discovered AMS-TeX only two or three years ago and are right
now converting their acquaintances to the use of AMS-TeX from the yet
more primitive typesetting systems (troff? T3? Word Perfect?) they were
using before.

Circa 1990 with the release of AMS-LaTeX 1.0, LaTeX got enough
mathematical functionality to rival AMS-TeX and mathematicians
(physicists, statisticians, ...) began to be lured from AMS-TeX by the
other features LaTeX provides---automatic numbering, for example.
But I would estimate that the penetration of LaTeX among the people who
submit articles and books to the AMS has grown something like this:

1991  1992  1993  1994  1995  1996  1997
 5%    10%   15%   20%   30%   40%   55%? 60%?

which leaves still quite a few AMS-TeX users out there.

> In particular if you (or someone else) put the
> work in to make a converter and then openly advertised submission
> requirements as
> `Submit articles in latex or amstex, in the latter case we will convert
> your document to latex in house before processing it.'
> Then at least some of those authors may think it worth the trouble to
> code it up in latex to start with.

The AMS has begun promoting LaTeX more strongly than AMS-TeX in the last
year or so because the five primary AMS journals are published on the
WWW in HTML form now and LaTeX documents convert more easily than AMS-TeX.

> `LaTeX-like' engines such as latex2html or ScientificWord, or do you
> `just' want something that will allow documents (or sections of
> documents) marked up in amstex to be processed directly by LaTeX.

We've already done this to a certain extent in order to process the
table of contents for journals that contain a mixture of LaTeX and
AMS-TeX documents. (The titles often contain math ...)

The amstex-to-latex converter used by the AMS inhouse is written in
Omnimark and doesn't attempt to work miracles. Author-defined macros
that take delimited arguments typically have to be cleaned up by hand.
And the issues of automatic numbering and cross-referencing are rather
intractable. The converter does what it can with the relatively easy
parts and leaves the rest. For example, if a document has 10 theorems
the converter does

  \newtheorem*{theorem1}{Theorem 1}
  \newtheorem*{theorem2}{Theorem 2}
  \newtheorem*{theorem3}{Theorem 3}

rather than try to deal with all the potential pitfalls of unusual
numbering schemes.

Michael Downes
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