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LATEX-L  June 1997

LATEX-L June 1997

Subject:

Re: The LaTeX, e-TeX, NTS & Omega projects: a composite response

From:

Chris Rowley <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Mailing list for the LaTeX3 project <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 17 Jun 1997 18:35:53 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

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text/plain (101 lines)

Philip Taylor (RHBNC) wrote --

> It is intended that e-TeX will be updated once a year, with no
> feature being removed from a later version unless there is are
> overwhleming reasons so to do. On that basis I would argue that it
> is "frozen" enough, since LaTeX comes out twice as frequently.
>

I may be pesimistic but there seems to be an emormous difference
between updating LaTeX regularly (a monolithic process complete with a
`reasonable' installation routine) and updating the source code for
e-TeX regularly, which then has to be compiled and debugged and
... for each system. But we shall see.

This is not intended to justify updating LaTeX: other than bug-fixes
(suitably defined:-) this is planned not to continue much longer.


>
> >> Thus there appears to be no need to "support the new primitives in LaTeX".
>
> I agree completely with Chris that there is "no need"; but it seems to me
> that the question is not one of need but of philosophy. The philosophy
> of LaTeX is to conceal the TeX typesetting system from the user, making
> it hard (indeed, sometimes impossible) to achieve things in the "TeX"
> manner, and forcing the user to achieve the same thing in "the LaTeX manner".

This sounds as if LaTeX absolutely prevents the use of all TeX primitives
just on principle. It does not; of course, many people think that it
should. Therefore the existence of new primitives does not necessarily
mean that a new bit of LaTeX is needed, or even desirable.

> It is therefore surely not sensible to make an exception to this, and
> effectively to say "we have hidden as much of TeX from you, the user, as
> we possibly could;

Wrong premise.

> however, please feel free to use any and all of the new
> e-TeX primitives", as if they were in some way different. The new primitives
> are there primarily to help people such as the LaTeX team: \protected,
> \unexpanded and their ilk are not for Joe User, they are for format writers.

True: that is why I clearly suggested that they be used, at first, in
experimental packages.

Joerg is of course correct that some, such as \protected, are directly
applicable to areas that are not so easy to make full use of via
packages; nevertheless experiments could still be done this way.

>
> So although I agree with Chris that there is _no need_ for LaTeX to take
> advantage of the e-TeX primitives, and that Joe User can use any and all
> that he/she chooses, it doesn't somehow square with the LaTeX philosophy.
> Chris?

Hallo!?? See Sebastian on the problems of philosophy.

>
> It also had a _very_ silly name! (which is better than having no-name
> at all...).

Ooooh, now who's lowering the tone:-)!

> With a sufficient overlap, this is not as bad as you make it seem.
> If you were to release an e-TeX specific LaTeX on date D, but
> continue supporting the older LaTeX until D' (D' >> D), this would
> allow people adequate time to replace their ancient TeX 3.14s with
> e-TeX 3.14159... I would have thought an overlap of one year
> would have been adequate, ^^^

A typo?? I assume you meant `ten'?

> although I appreciate it would mean extra
> work for the LaTeX team; on the other hand, e-TeX is intended to
> _reduce_ the load on the LaTeX team, by making many complex tasks
> in TeX much simpler, so the load might balance out in the end...

Err, a small confusion between "the load on TeX" and "the load on the
team"; we very much appreciate how much simpler and faster lots of
things might be if we used e-TeX but the work involved in changing and,
especially, debugging will be very large. Those parts of LaTeX are
now both robust and stable, so the strategy called "it ain't broke"
seems optimal. This should not prevent experiments using the e-TeX
extras.

> Are there still features missing that you would like to see (other than
> 16/32-bit/Unicode/OTPs/etc)?

Er, of course: but I assume you mean "other than what We have decided
not to do (or cannot do whilst remaining compatible)". The answer to
this question needs more information than I have about what is
feasible. Without this restriction I think (as Phil knows) that there
is a very short answer to the question: what "is needed" by a highly
automated, high quality typesetting system for complex structured
documents:

  high quality research into models and methods to support ...


chris

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