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Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
Frank Mittelbach <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 21 Jun 1997 14:39:44 +0200
Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>
text/plain (131 lines)
Mark Steinberger writes:

 > Many publishers already rely on authors to do the initial stages of
 > typesetting.
 > I suspect that the percentage of such publications is on the
 > increase, and that the trend will accelerate.

and even worse it looks as if the design is given more and more into
the hands of the authors as well (to save costs) not to speak of not
doing any copy-editing anymore, etc.

but only a small fraction of authors is trained in those skills, why
should they? and the result is that the publications get as good as
the software is (or rather as bad).

 > At least in mathematics, authors currently work in TeX (and if one is
 > lucky, latex). Authors may well be willing to learn a new system, but
 > only if they are given a good reason to do so.

right. and that is why i'm not thinking that switching LaTeX from TeX
to a successor just because it is better for the maintainers of LaTeX
(or mostly so, ie not having very visible advantages) will work at all.

 > Is there an adequate reason to move away from TeX? If not, then
 > authoring tools should be TeX-based.

depends on what criteria you put on and how you rate them.

 - if you are writing in english only, are satisfied with doing page
   breaking mainy manually, don't have figures or only occasionally,
   no multicolumn typesetting, etc, then TeX is fine as is

 - if you care about having a single system serving also the none
   english writers adequately, if you want high-quality automated page
   layout including multicolumns and figures then no, TeX isn't
   adequate (but there also isn't yet a real alternative in sight)

 - if you want multi-lingual typesetting (two languages are enough)
   then no, TeX isn't adequate

these are only some of the points but perhaps the most important
ones. Now most of these point might not appear very beneficial to you
as you personally do not seem to need them. perhaps that's true
enough, but if you take away the brought common basis and instead
replace it with many isolated versions of LaTeX then sooner or later
LaTeX will lose its importance and the maintenance will decline etc.

Even MS word is nowadays starting to bring together the different
versions for all the different markets as more and more
exchangeability becomes the driving factor.

btw, clearly author tools can and should be TeX based and all of the
current independent projects for successors of TeX, ie e-TeX, Omega,
pdftex are TeX based. In fact, if you use LaTeX on top of either of
them you will see no difference at all (or nearly none)

so in my eyes there are good reasons to move away from TeX as it is
but not many of them have a high visibility to the user (as seen from
his/her private direct needs). therefore such a move would only be
sensible if you could directly offer enormous benefits that directly
appeal to a critical mass of users.

as i said previously i see a good vehicle in the pdftex development,
unfortunately i don't see much in what is offered by either Omega or
e-tex. not because what they offer is not equally important (it is in
fact probably even more) but it is not something the majority of users
feel they need.

this is like the situation with latex209 to latex2e. at the end of 209
we had several incompatible versions all over the world and
maintenance and further development of packages and so on was greatly
hampered by that fact. Same for portability and exchangeability of
documents. But the portability problem was only noticed by those that
needed it (and a large majority did not) and the maintenance and
development problem was noticed but not rationalized. only because 2e
was otherwise successful it was also able to silently put in things
that were beneficial as a whole to the community.


if the page breaking algorithm in a successor would be very much
improved or allow for improved logic (implemented in LaTeX, say) then
that might be a selling point but unfortunately that is one area where
it might take a very long time to see any further functionality.


if you look at Omega right now then mainly this addresses a new
market: eastern europe, asia, ...

in itself very very important both to for the eventual survival of TeX
based systems as it would broaden the interest enormously as well as
in fact for the user of western european languages. but because 2e in
its present form already supports those languages somehow the
advantages are not that visible and who cares about the fact that
Vladimir complains that his TeX logs are all ^^xy ... the average
English or German writing LaTeX users? why should he? Me as a German
i'm already experiencing the same problem as Vladimir but it is
minimal as only the umlauts appear strangely.

and who sees that omega address multi-lingual typesetting properly, eg
the hyphenation and lowercase table problem we talked about on this
list not long ago and again it came from those people with their
strange languages (pardon me Vladimir, this is hypothetical talk) does
it concerns us?


if you look at e-tex then it address several of the more technical
problems LaTeX development has struggled with (and i love using it for
debugging code with its extended tracing facilities) and it would be
very welcome to be able to use most of the other features as well in
the kernel. but would a user care to switch to a new latex just
because we internally implement things more elegantly (perhaps
introducing a lot of bugs in the first place)?

yes its mark mechanism could lead to visible enhancements but is this
enough for getting enough people to change?


right now in my opinion non of the systems in itself have the power to
establish itself other than in a niche market of the already niche
market TeX, although either of the systems would be to the advantage
of the community if a more or less complete switch would be made.

enough for now