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Michael John Downes <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 10 Jun 1997 18:44:53 -0400
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Some other thoughts on automatic numbering.

The automatic numbering and cross-referencing features of LaTeX are
immensely helpful to the author during the process of writing. However,
when a document is sent to the publisher, the numbering of its elements
is fixed, and continued use of the automatic numbering mechanisms
consumes system resources needlessly and can become actually dangerous
during the production process: If there are any mistakes in the
production, such as running a document only twice that needs to be run
three times, the document might be printed with wrong numbering.

I am inclined to think, therefore, that the ideal submission process
should involve a step where all the automatic numbers are replaced by
their explicit values from the .aux file. (In particular, what the
publisher ought to be given is the set of all document numbers *except*
page numbers---if not for that exception, it would just about suffice to
submit the .aux file along with the document file and add \nofiles to
the document preamble.)

This is best done (imho) by expanding the syntax of all the
automatically numbered elements to include two mandatory arguments:
label and number. If the number arg is left empty, generate an automatic
number; if the label arg is left empty (or if it is equal to "-" or "/"
or some such convention), leave the element unnumbered (obviating the
need for * form of eqnarray and the like); otherwise use the given
number arg.

The presence of the explicit element numbers has obvious pleasant
ramifications for document navigation, for those who may still be using
ordinary text editors to work on LaTeX documents instead of Scientific
Workplace, LyX, emacs+AUC-TeX, or the like.

It is not too extremely rare for the author to add or remove elements
from a document after it is submitted to a publisher, in a way that
changes element numbers. But it is after all not that frequent either
(most changes don't affect numbering), and in any case recycling the
document through the automatic numbering mechanisms and substituting the
new numbers wouldn't be too difficult.

The missing piece: a portable program to plug in the explicit numbers at
the right place (or erase them) on demand. If the syntax is chosen
carefully I dare say a sed script will suffice for all practical
purposes, and sed is available for a lot of platforms these days. Perl, awk,
and emacs-lisp versions wouldn't be too hard to supply either, to give
people a choice.

I haven't looked at AUC-TeX lately, for all I know it already provides
in-document number updating (in the form of a comment?), does anyone
know what the current situation is?

Michael Downes
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